Although many of us from an older generation used to “pack” our lunches, that no longer works. Parents and children can easily overlook the need for healthy school lunches. Despite attempts to improve the nutritional content, the school cafeteria with its sloppy joes, pizza, and heavily breaded chicken wings may not be appropriate for overweight children or children with food and diet sensitivities. It is time to come to terms with the fact that raising healthy children means that they will not eat lunch from the school cafeteria, but instead will have to bring lunch from home. Here are some suggestions on how even the busiest parents can do it.
Having the right containers will help a lot. Make sure you have an insulated lunch box so foods meant to be cold don’t end up hot at lunchtime and vice versa. Four small containers and a wide-mouth thermos usually do the job. It is a good idea to buy two sets of containers to avoid having to wash them every night.
It is best to encourage your child to drink water with the wide-mouth thermos. Of course, sodas and soft drinks should be avoided at all costs. Even juices are not necessarily good nutrition. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that juice consumption contributes to cavities and gastrointestinal problems in children. Milk can be a common food allergy and create sensitivity in many children.
Protein sources like baked chicken, turkey, or fish cubes are great. You can serve them in small portions and use them randomly over the course of several weeks. Boiled eggs can also be used. The beans stored in the thermos and served with organic tortilla chips are another idea, as well as the stew and the chili.
The best sandwich options include using high-grain whole wheat bread and almond butter instead of peanut butter. Another alternative is a healthy wrap with whole wheat tortillas with baked turkey or chicken and lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
Many children don’t consider lunch complete without cookies or potato chips. These should be avoided. They should only be an occasional treat and not a staple. Side dishes can include tasty and crisp veggies – the greener the better. Fruit is healthy too, but it can be an important source of sugar. Try to serve only one serving of fruit for every five servings of vegetables.
Organically grown foods have been shown to be higher in nutrients and vitamins than foods grown with pesticides. Although organic food is more expensive, the prices are now falling, although you pay more, you get more in return.
And no one knows better than your own child what they are going to eat, so let them help you prepare your lunches. Children like to participate, this will help them learn what is healthy and they will be more likely to enjoy their meals. Every Sunday, ask them to help you choose the menu for the week and you can both start pre-packing those options that can be frozen or stored for a few days.
A balanced diet is more than a healthy recommendation. It is the cornerstone of your child’s growth and well-being. Remember, it is your responsibility and not the school cafeteria to provide you with the proper food.