We all want our kids to eat well at school. Food is important fuel for healthy minds and healthy bodies. We want our children to be focused in class so they can learn their math and science and history. We also want them to have enough energy to play with their friends during lunch and recess and P.E.
Unfortunately, the food served in food cafeterias is less than healthy. Sure, it’s supposed to meet government standards for certain nutrients, but I’ve been in those school kitchens – it’s mostly refined, white carbs, fatty protein (think breaded chicken, hamburgers, mac & cheese, pizza), very few fruits and veggies, and chocolate milk (really, who’s going to pick plain milk when chocolate is being offered?).
Just as bad are some of the things parents pack in their kids’ lunch boxes. Sandwiches on white bread, cookies, fruit punch, Lunchables, candy, soda, fruit snacks. For the same amount of time it takes to make an unhealthy lunch, it’s just as easy to make a healthy, colorful one that your kids will love.
The Basic Rules to making a health lunch:
Step 1: Choose something from each category (see below)
Step 2: Be mindful of portion sizes – kids really don’t eat as much as you think at lunch, as they’d rather run off and play with their friends
Step 3: Include as many colors as possible in every lunch
Whole Grains: Whole-grain bread, whole-grain english muffin, whole-wheat pita bread, whole-wheat tortilla, corn tortillas, whole-grain crackers, brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, whole-grain cereal, sweet potato, corn
Fruits & Veggies: apple, pear, berries, tangerines, kiwi, watermelon, grapes, mango, peach, nectarine, apricot,dried fruit, 100% fruit leather, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, bell pepper, jicama, green beans, sugar snap peas
Healthy Protein: yogurt, cottage cheese, light string cheese, light shredded cheese, nuts (if allowed), almond butter, peanut butter (if allowed), turkey breast, chicken breast, hard-boiled egg, edamame, beans, tofu, tuna, shrimp, sunflower seeds
Healthy Fat: nuts (raw or dry-roasted, unsalted) or nut butter, avocado, ground flax seeds, olives, olive oil, olive oil spread
Hydration: Water, unsweetened tea (green or black), nonfat milk, 100% juice
Some great suggestions (kid-tested, mother-approved):
Buffalo wing Quesadilla – Cook 2 Morningstar buffalo wings and chop them. Add to a whole-wheat tortilla with light mozzarella cheese and some salsa verde; cook until melted. Serve with any fruit.
Neuvo-Elvis sandwich – Slice a whole wheat English muffin and spread almond butter and slices of banana.
Pita bread pizza – top a whole-wheat pita bread with marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese (add some sliced tomatoes or olives, too); Serve with a piece of fruit (in season).
Try these out and let me know what you think.