During the school year, we look at the menu on Sunday and Patrick is allowed to pack 2 times weekly, if he chooses to. In the beginning of 1st grade, it was more fun to pack (he had his new lunch bag). However, buying was becoming the norm since he enjoyed the lunches and we were enjoying him eating the good nutrition. To help him learn about nutrition, we make it Patrick’s responsibility to pack his own lunch the night before. We help him, of course, and point out the healthy options available to choose.
Thoughts for packing lunches: (Focus on providing 1-2 oz of lean meat + 1-2 servings of a whole grain + fruit and vegetable + calcium source)
- Wrap it! (or choose 100% whole wheat bread, pita)
- Use a flour tortilla or Flat Out Wrap (higher in fiber) with low fat and reduced sodium deli meat or baked/roasted chicken leftover from dinner with low fat cheese
- 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter with smidge of jelly
- One fried egg with low fat cheese
- Fat free refried beans with low fat cheese and salsa
- Can you add shredded carrots and add to the wrap? Can you pack any veggies into the sandwich (spinach, onion, bell pepper strips)?
- Raw veggies with low fat dip (we like the Hill Valley Ranch dip mixed in with low fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt)
- Fresh seasonal fruit, ½ banana, 1 Tbsp raisins/Craisins, or Natural applesauce/fruit cup in its own juices
- If not up for a sandwich or wrap, consider:
- Greek yogurt with fresh fruit or 1 Tbsp raisins/Craisins and 1-2 Tbsp Bear Naked Granola
- 1 oz almonds/mixed nuts + 1 Tbsp raisins + granola/whole grain cereal
- Low fat soup in a thermos with low fat cheese and crackers (aim for > 2 g fiber per serving)
- Beans with rice and low fat cheese, salsa
- Hardboiled egg with baked chips and salsa on the side
- Plain oatmeal with fresh or dried fruit/granola/smidge brown sugar (try Splenda’s brown sugar) or honey/crushed walnuts or almonds in a thermos
- Hummus with fresh veggies and/or whole wheat crackers
- Is there a microwave available to bring leftovers of a favorite meal?
- Include a calcium source:
- Have your child purchase the low fat milk at school. Balance is important and allowing chocolate milk occasionally is fine.
- Yogurt (suggestions from a fellow RD: http://www.raisehealthyeaters.com/2010/08/8-of-the-best-yogurts-for-kids/ )
- Low fat cheese
- Beverages: water, 100% juice ( 4 oz is the recommended serving size for juices and one a day is just fine) or low fat/fat free milk
- Allowing a small dessert/small amount of chips/small piece of candy at times is reasonable. Moderation – Occasional – Miniature Size
- Keep in mind refrigeration
- Ice packs
- Can you freeze the drink or yogurt?
- Insulated lunch box/bag.
- Add some love: Add a surprise note to your child’s lunch – it was fun writing something to Patrick since he was learning how to read. We will see what we come up with for this year’s lunch notes!
In the event your child will buy this school year, remember there are changes coming! Send them to school with a good breakfast (consider including protein at breakfast) and have a healthy supper planned. I am frequently reminded from clients and patients that even though the school lunch program may not be perfect today, it does allow some children without the resources to have one or more (warm) meal(s) a day. Some children may not have the option for such meals at home.
With the school lunch encourage your child to:
- Try the fruits and vegetables. It can take up to 8-10 exposures to like new foods!
- Drink the low fat milk. Besides calcium, it is a good source of protein.
- If a salad bar is available, choose fresh veggies and fruit and look for hard boiled eggs, meats, beans. Choose low fat salad dressings (or bring packets to school).
- If possible, allow your child to pack one day a week
- Support the efforts of the school to provide healthy choices and adopt these eating ideas in your own home!
It is a fact that there is a dilemma about the National School Lunch Program here in our nation. But, it is improving. I hope these ideas may help you with planning for your child and his/her lunches. What other ideas do you have when planning for your child’s lunch?