Release Date: 8/5/2014
Pack healthy lunches for your kids when they head back to school
Make school lunches happy with creative planning.
When students head back to school during this month of August, parents will be back to packing lunches. It’s easy for parents to give in to their children’s lunch requests or pack whatever is easiest to get out the door quickly, but with a little extra thought at the grocery store and a little effort, parents can prepare healthier lunches for their children and themselves.
“If you have the right foods in your home, serving healthier meals will be much easier,” said Lisa Galati, registered dietitian. “It starts with investing time for grocery shopping at least once a week and having healthy food choices in your home. I like to think of my home as a ‘healthy environment’ when it comes to food choices.”
“This doesn’t mean you have to serve your children only foods they don’t like,” said Heidi McClintock, registered dietitian. “Parents just need to know all the healthy food choices available to them.”
Galati and McClintock like to share these healthy school lunch ideas1:
- Variation: use different kinds of bread, like whole wheat, multi-grain or flax bread, or try bagels, dinner rolls or fajita wraps (at least half your grains should be whole grain); choose different kinds of proteins, like meat, beans, nuts or dairy
- Let them “build” their sandwich: supply a burrito or a pita pocket along with cut or chopped vegetables, lean meat and sauce and let them put it together themselves; add a piece of fruit and a glass of milk and you have a balanced meal
- Dips: kids love to dip their foods, so give them easy-to-carry fruits and vegetables along with a healthy dip like low fat yogurt and sour cream, hummus or tzatziki
- Fruit for dessert: your child’s favorite fruit would be the best choice for a sweet dessert; for variety, try fruit cups that do not contain syrup/sugar
- Trail mix: choose the nuts, whole grain cereals (with little or no added sugar) and dried fruits your children will eat, mix them up and serve small portions with a meal or as a snack
- Kiddie size yogurts: a great source of protein and calcium, choose one with active live bacterial cultures (probiotics) for the most health benefit
- Water or milk: these are the best drink choices for children, if you do give your kids juice boxes make sure they are 100% fruit juice
“One of the biggest traps is sugar,” said McClintock. “That’s why milk and water are the best drink choices.”
When parents do allow their children to have sweets, they should make sure to serve smaller portions. Sweets should not be used as a reward for good behavior since that gives the impression the sweets are better than other foods. Instead, sweets should be limited to special treats that are not served every day and they should never replace a meal.
“Parents can also make healthier foods more appealing to kids,” said McClintock. “Allow you children to be creative by adding smiley faces to their healthy foods or cut it up into fun shapes. You can also encourage kids to create their own snacks by providing them the ingredients and letting them invent their own combinations.”
”Parent’s should also make the school lunch a healthy balance of nutrients the body needs to grow and stay active,” said Galati. “You should aim to include meat or protein, grain or starch, fruit, a vegetable, a dairy source and a small portion of a good quality fat.”
For information, please call our Health Access Line at 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.
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