Although some school systems are making efforts to make school lunches healthier, most are still very far from offering nutritious options to our kids. Making homemade lunches everyday can be a challenge, but the reward is great: you are giving your child all the right fuel to get through those long school days.
Here are some healthy ideas to pack in your child’s lunchbox.
- Trail mix (not the candy-filled kind): Find ones that include nuts and dried fruits which contain fiber, Omega 3 & 6, calcium, magnesium. (Trader Joes has some great options).
- Organic fruit: It is best to leave the fruit whole for optimal freshness. Great fruits to include are apples, grapes, plums, peaches and nectarines.
- Sandwiches: Make your sandwiches on 100% whole grain bread for increased nutrient value. Good toppings are natural peanut butter & organic jelly or hummus with vegetables. **
- Hearty Soups: invest in a good thermos to keep the soup hot. Homemade vegetable, minestrone (beans contain a lot of protein and fiber) or chicken soup are great options. If you don’t have the time to make your own, there are some great low-sodium, organic canned or boxed soups available at the store. Add some whole grain crackers on the side for dunking and to get in some extra fiber.
**I would avoid most lunch meats, tuna and adding mayonnaise for safety unless your child’s lunch is stored in a refrigerator. A recent study published in Pediatrics showed that more than 90% of the items in lunches sent to preschools were kept at unsafe temperatures.**
While packing your child’s lunch, try to make it eco-friendly as well. So many stores are now selling reusable containers for your child’s lunchbox. They make bento-box style cases in BPA-free plastics and even some in stainless steel. Instead of juice boxes or plastic water bottles, pack your child’s drink in a reusable container like a Kleen Kanteen. They now even make reusable cloth sandwich bags so you aren’t constantly using plastic sandwich bags. In addition to being eco-friendly a lot of these options come in a variety of patterns and colors so your child will not only be helping the environment but will also be very stylish!