With working parents in the home and a busy lifestyle, it's tempting to buy prepackaged foods for the kids' lunches to save time. For optimal health over a lifetime, strive to keep healthy lunchboxes a priority. With some thought and preparation, it doesn't take too much time to pack a nutritious lunch. Let your child help and she will get started on a lifetime of healthy eating habits.
Instead a packing a bologna sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise, try some healthier options. Use whole-grain pita pocket or bread. The label should list whole wheat, whole rye, or some other whole grain first. Add some heart-healthy cuts of meat such as turkey or sliced chicken breast. Instead of mayonnaise use fat-free, creamy salad dressing. Spread a brown rice cake with low-sugar peanut butter. Sprinkle with some cinnamon for extra flavor. Pack low-sugar jerky or a slice of smoked salmon for a break from sandwiches.
Additional Protein Choices
Pack a banana and a carton of low-fat yogurt for dipping. String cheese is a healthy choice for lunch, but look for a low-sodium option. Spread peanut butter on celery sticks and top with raisins or chopped nuts. Nuts, in controlled portions, are a wise part of a healthy lunch. They contain protein, fiber, vitamins and are a good source of mono and polyunsaturated fats. Fill a rice or whole-grain tortilla with hummus, feta cheese, salsa or a sliced hard-boiled egg.
Fruit, Vegetables and Snacks
Pack at least one fruit or vegetable. Dried fruit is easy to add to a lunch. Choose dried apricots, apples or blueberries because they typically don't have added sugar. Kids love grapes; red grapes are the healthier option. Give kids their favorite raw vegetables with a cup of light ranch dressing for dipping. Put sliced tomatoes in a covered dish with some salad dressing. The supermarket has individual packaged veggies to add to a lunch when parents are pressed for time.
Snacks and Treats
With so many low-fat and baked chips and crackers available, try to find one your child likes. Add bean dip for dipping and a little extra protein. Low-fat and low-sugar graham crackers are better than fatty, packaged cupcakes or cookies. Vanilla wafers are another low-fat option. Popcorn is a surprising and fun treat for lunch -- sprinkle it with a dash of dry dressing and seasoning mix for a taste treat. Squeezable yogurt is a treat some kids love because of the attractive packaging, but buy the healthier low-fat varieties.
Water is the best beverage for your child's lunch. Soda is too sugary and full of empty calories for a child on a daily basis and should be reserved as a special treat. Beware of fruit juices that may have as much sugar content as a soda, and don't be fooled by so-called "vitamin" drinks. They are full of sugar. A child can have a carton of 1- or 2-percent milk for lunch, but limit chocolate milk, which is also full of sugar. Make lemonade at home so you can control the sugar content.
Like This Article? Let Us Know!
- American Heart Association: Help Children Develop Healthy Habits
- American Dietetic Association: Easy, Tasty (and Healthy) Snacks
- Harvard School of Public Health: Carbohydrates
- American Dietetic Association: Does the Fat in Nuts Make Them Unhealthy?
- American Dietetic Association: Making the Grade at Lunchtime
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images