Being a parent often requires a non-stop juggling routine that begins with morning carpool and ends with bedtime stories. In the rush to get your children to school, it’s important not to forget the value of preparing them a healthy lunch.
It isn’t as time consuming as it seems. LetsMove.gov, an initiative by First Lady Michelle Obama, offers good advice on healthy eating for children. But you can also follow these easy tips:
Switch white bread for whole grain: If sandwiches are a staple in your child’s lunch, the easiest way to make a change is to substitute whole grain bread for white. There are many varieties out there to please even the pickiest eater. You can also substitute flour tortillas with wheat ones and white pita with whole grain. Fill them with proteins like turkey slices and cheese. If your child prefers warm food in a thermos, you can fill it with brown rice, whole grain pasta and even oatmeal.
Pack a rainbow: Fruits and vegetables are great sources of nutrition. Make fruits and vegetables more interesting. Pack green and purple grapes or colorful berries, dried apricots, mangos, cut red and orange peppers into strips and send them with a fun dipping sauce like hummus or yogurt and send oranges already peeled and sliced. The prettier the presentation, the higher the chances are your child will reach for it.
Water, water, water: Juice may seem harmless, especially since the labels read things like “packed with fruit.” But juice adds a lot of unnecessary sugar and calories to your child’s diet. Consider rethinking what they drink and send a bottle of water along with, or instead of, the juice box. Not only does drinking water eliminate extra sugar from their diet, but it also keeps children from getting dehydrated throughout the day. Low-fat milk is also a good idea since it provides calcium and protein.
Think about temperature: Would you eat warm yogurt or cold rice? The temperature inside your child’s lunchbox is just as important as what is inside. Keep hot foods warm by sending them in a thermos, it helps if you first fill it with boiling water for two minutes to retain some heat. Keep cold items like cheese or hardboiled eggs cool by using ice packs. You can also use a refillable water bottle filled with ice cubes to keep things fresh, plus it will provide drinking water at the same time!
Plan ahead: Making a healthy lunch does take some thought, but the morning rush, when everyone’s trying to get out the door, isn’t the best time to get creative. Try to make a routine of packing some items the night before. Cutting up fruit, pre-making sandwiches, boiling whole grain pasta are all time-saving steps. Another good habit is to make weekly shopping lists (PDF), so you’re not stuck searching the cupboard for last-minute – and unhealthy – options.