School Lunch Packing Begins Again0
By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
Making a child’s school lunch is easy for about the first two months of school. Then the challenge begins on how to make the lunch “exciting” and healthy at the same time. Because children consume 35-50% of their daily calories in school, healthy lunches are doubly important. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), one in three American children and teens are overweight, even obese; triple the rate in 1963. Later in life this can translate to high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. So here are a few budget-friendly ideas from the AHA for making children a healthy lunch and keeping them happy.
Make a smarter sandwich using different breads like 100% whole wheat tortilla wraps or whole wheat pita pockets. In addition to lettuce and tomato, try shredded carrot or zucchini and thinly sliced cucumbers, peppers or apple or pear, especially on a turkey or chicken sandwich. Children’s tastes are more sophisticated nowadays, so many will enjoy avocado or hummus as a swap for cheese or mayo. Dinner leftovers are also good, with grilled chicken being very versatile.
Speaking of leftovers, last night’s dinner can appear in a lunch thermos the next day. Think about giving your child leftover vegetable or bean soup or a veggie-filled chili made with lean beef or ground chicken. Kids love spaghetti or curly pasta salad, which can be loaded with diced vegetables for a tasty lunch. Snacks or treats after lunch doesn’t always mean it has to be candy or cookies. Kids love to “dunk” their snacks. Having apple and pear slices to dip into low-fat plain yogurt or peanut butter works nicely. Cortland, Empire and Ginger Gold apples brown at a slower rate than other apples, so they are more appealing later in the day. Try to avoid packing sugary drinks like “power” drinks, soda or juices with added sugar to your child’s lunch box or home meals. Water or school-purchased milk is a great option to reduce sugar in the diet. Substitute crunchy cut veggies or fruit for the fried, fatty chips.
Try to get your child involved in coming up with lunch ideas, too. If they help to pack their lunches, they’re more likely to eat that lunch! On nights you have a bit more time, like a Sunday night, have them choose which piece of fruit or what type of whole grain bread they want and let them assemble their lunch. Make this a weekly routine as another great way to spend family time together.