Packing a Healthier Lunch Box
It is "back to school" season and with that comes the dreaded lunch box packing. I know I dread it sometimes because packing five lunches a day can get tedious. It would be easy to resort to prepackaged individual food items, but that is usually the least healthy option. Here are some tips to packing a healthier lunch box for your children.
Think of the five food groups and what foods stick with your stomach and keep you feeling full longer. Kids need lots of filling foods to help them concentrate in school. Protein takes longer to digest so it is a good choice. Whole grains, meats, dairy, eggs, nuts and legumes are all good protein options. Protein should always be included in a lunch box. Fruits and vegetables also provide your child with the nutrients they need to get them through the day as well as fiber which tends to stick with you as well. Sweets should not be standard lunch box fare. Keep these to the occasional treat.
If you make sure that your child has something from each of the four major food groups each day then you are well on your way to packing a healthier lunch box. Something else to consider is the brand of food you are including. Let's take a look at yogurt for example. Many yogurts, especially the kid yogurts, have artificial coloring (this can make children hyper) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in them. These things make what is normally considered healthy - unhealthy. Read labels and pick a yogurt that does not have these ingredients, as well as one that has less sugar and your lunch will be healthier.
Try to include foods that are very close to their true source. Rather than including strawberry fruit leather, include real strawberries. Instead of processed string cheese, include a piece of cheese freshly cut from a larger block. Instead of buying a juice box, include freshly squeezed lemonade as a treat. Rather than an individual box of flavored milk, pour fresh milk into a thermos. The less processed the food is, the better it will be for your child.
I know it takes time to pack lunches each week, so I like to prepare on the weekends. I can buy a bag of carrots or a large cucumber and peel and slice it quickly and divide it up into small bags or containers and they become my own version of convenience foods to grab each morning. It takes about five minutes and is much healthier (and cheaper) than adding an individual bag of teddy grahams. There are healthier crackers and chips on the market and sometimes I will buy a big bag and divide it up into smaller bags for lunch boxes. Can you tell that baggies are my friend? They help me pack healthier lunches every day.
Leftovers also work well in my kid's lunch boxes. If we are having a meal that is a favorite of someone I will purposely set aside the amount needed to fill their thermos. A thermos is a very good investment for packing healthier lunches. You can keep things hot or cold until lunch time and it really broadens the scope of what you can send with your child. Packing lunches might get boring, but it doesn't have to be unhealthy. Avoid those prepackaged foods at the grocery store and use these tips to pack a healthier lunch.