It’s back-to-school season — and while the kids embark on a year of new discoveries, parents can help fuel them by making lunch healthy and enjoyable. Forget the same old PB&J sandwiches and potato chips. Here are some ideas for healthy lunches to help introduce nutritious variety to your child’s diet.
The essential building blocks of a healthful lunch — fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and low-fat meats, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov – don’t have to be boring.
Some kids enjoy the same flavors and textures on an ongoing basis, says the American Heart Association (AHA), but many prefer greater variety in their foods. Packing a sandwich and carrot sticks every day can quickly bore kids. Instead, says the AHA, re-think classics such as the sandwich by adding a few creative twists:
The AHA and HealthyWomen.org suggest including foods such as salads and dips that your child can partly assemble for themselves. These interactive foods can provide an added level of engagement with and enjoyment of healthful foods. Some ideas include:
LetsMove.gov agrees that children – especially older kids and teens – should be given some opportunity to choose their favorite healthy lunch foods. This helps kids learn how to choose nutritious foods and gives them more responsibility for their well-being. (Of course, it also helps ensure kids like – and will eat – their lunches.)
LetsMove suggests going grocery shopping with kids, focusing their attention on healthful choices. Trips to farmers markets — or even planting a small backyard garden — are other ways to help kids familiarize themselves with healthy food choices.
Food safety is an equally important component of healthful lunches, and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends the following steps for ensuring your child’s food is free of harmful pathogens:
Preparing healthful school lunches can be a fun learning experience for parents and kids, alike. With a little creativity, kids can enjoy a variety of nutritious lunch foods to fuel their learning.