6 Smart Tips For Packing A Healthy Sack Lunch

The school lunch period provides kids and teens a break from classroom learning but this mealtime is still very important to their success as a student. A healthy lunch is important for school aged children, providing them the nutrients that they need to fuel their brains and growing bodies. In fact, studies show that well-nourished children perform better in school and are better able to concentrate and remember what they learn. As a parent, packing a healthy lunch for your child may seem challenging at times. Here are 6 smart tips to help you pack a nutrient punch into your child’s sack lunch: 

1) Include servings from at least 3 of the 5 food groups. (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy):

Eating a wide variety of food groups helps to ensure that your child gets the nutrients that they need for health and to fuel their body and brain throughout the entire school day.

2) Include nutrient-rich choices from each food group:

-Fruits and vegetables- Include brightly colored fruits and vegetables. For example, add spinach leaves or romaine lettuce to a sandwich instead of ice berg lettuce.

-Whole grains- Whole grain products are made from the entire grain kernel, where refined grains have removed parts that include important nutrients.  Whole grains are a good source of fiber and other key nutrients (iron, antioxidants, B vitamins). Rather than selecting bread based on color, (brown bread is not necessarily whole grain), check the ingredient list and choose those made with whole grain or whole wheat flour.

-Lean proteins- When it comes to deli meats, choose turkey or chicken breast, ham or roast beef instead of higher fat choices like salami and bologna. Other great choices include tuna, peanut butter or hummus.

-Dairy- Pack your child low-fat or fat-free dairy foods. These products contain the same important nutrients (vitamin D, calcium, protein, etc.) as the full-fat products but without the fat. 

3) Aim for variety:

Try not to pack the same thing every day, even though your child may be content eating peanut butter and jelly 5 days a week. Each food provides a unique nutrient package so variety is key to ensure that your child isn’t missing out on important nutrients.

4) Get your kids involved:

Allow your children to help with grocery shopping and selecting or preparing foods for their lunch. This will increase the chance that it will get eaten rather than traded or tossed in the garbage. Packing a healthy lunch is important but foods are only nutritious if they are eaten. In addition to getting them involved, regularly communicate with them about their lunches to find out if they are eating them, what they like and don’t like, etc.

5) Think about your child’s drink:

Avoid empty calorie drinks that provide added sugar but little to no nutrients such as soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks or energy drinks. Instead pack low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice or bottled water.

6) Don’t forget about food safety:

To prevent foodborne illness, pack your child’s lunch in an insulated lunch bag and include an ice pack to maintain the proper temperature of perishable foods.  You can also freeze lunch box items such as bottled water, juice boxes or yogurt tubes to help keep items cold. Also keep their lunch in the refrigerator until they leave for school. 

For a healthy and delicious snack idea, try this recipe for Nutty Tuna Salad Pitas.

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