Healthy Lunch, Happy Kids
By Michelle Dudash, RDN, Cordon Bleu-certified chef
Author of michelledudash.com
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – back-to-school season! This is a critical time that kids should have lunches and snacks to keep them energized and primed for learning. Here are some simple and creative tips for packing a healthy lunch your kids are sure to enjoy.
It’s all about presentation. Give them the fuel they need, but still make lunch fun simply by adding color and texture. For example, spread nut-free Sunbutter (made with sunflower seeds) on a piece of 100% whole-grain bread and sprinkle with sliced grapes. Roll tightly like sushi and cut into thick slices. Serve with colorful hard-boiled eggs or other healthy snacks for a complete lunch.
Model “green” behavior for your kids by investing in a set of reusable serving containers to accommodate sandwiches/wraps, dips and fruits and veggies (all forms count). Don’t forget a thermos for packing low-sodium canned soups or leftovers.
Rely on nutritious and delicious canned proteins to pull together quick and flavorful lunches. Add drained and rinsed beans to salads for extra fiber. Fold canned tuna, chicken, or salmon into a whole-wheat tortilla for a tasty wrap. And instead of chips, consider roasting canned chickpeas for a wholesome, satisfying snack.
Branch out from the traditional PB & J and explore creative finger foods. Did you know that two heaping spoonfuls of hummus a day gets you to the USDA-recommended 1 1/2 cups of legumes per week? Try serving it with crackers or pita and carrots and see what they think!
For many kids, a meal is not complete without a sweet treat, and most kids love fruit. Drained canned fruit in natural juices is a delicious lunchbox addition. As a bonus, no peeling or slicing is required and canned fruit retains its color without browning, which may make it more appealing to kids.
Whether eating a packed lunch or one purchased from the cafeteria, kids need a variety of foods, particularly nutritious fruits, vegetables and lean proteins to ensure they have the energy and attention span necessary for learning. And it doesn’t hurt to add a little fun to their lunchtime routine!