How to pack a nutritious school lunch

It’s back-to-school season! While most thoughts are about school supplies and clothes, don’t forget about the second-most important meal of the day: lunch. Here’s how to pack one full of nutrition and make it appealing so you child will be sure to eat it.

Mom handing daughter lunch

Step 1: Brainstorm

Keep your child’s likes and dislikes in mind. Packing a food he or she doesn’t like most likely will get it tossed. This is especially true with fruits and vegetables; lunch at school is not the right time to introduce a new food or include something less favored.

Step 2: Get creative with bread

Instead of white bread, use whole-grain. Instead of wheat, try oat, multi-grain or potato. Pitas and wraps make a nice alternative as well and can be stuffed with grilled chicken or other lean meat and veggies.

Step 3: Dress it up

For sandwiches or wraps that usually include mayo, try making your own dressing with plain Greek yogurt. Substitute straight yogurt for mayo or give it more flavor by adding Dijon or honey mustard. Greek yogurt is thick like mayonnaise but has no fat and is an excellent source of protein. Experiment a little with the flavor, making sure not to spice it up too much for your child’s taste.

appleStep 4: Include healthy sides

Baked chips make a tasty alternative to fried. Whole-grain snack crackers add fiber while cheese sticks add calcium to your child’s lunch. Fresh fruit such as grapes, apples, berries and bananas are nutritious add-ins to your child’s lunch. Nuts and raisins are popular and healthy finger-foods for kids.

Remember PB & J

Don’t underestimate the value of an old favorite: peanut butter and jelly. Peanut butter is high in protein and a good source of energy for the afternoon. Mix it up a little, too — honey is a tasty and nutritious alternative to jelly and can be mixed right into the peanut butter to keep it from crystallizing on the bread. Include crisp apple slices on the side for a balanced and delicious school lunch.

Step 5: Top it off with a treat

Dessert doesn’t have to be packaged junk food to provide the reward factor in the brown bag. Homemade oatmeal cookies or granola bars can make a healthy, appealing desert. A small piece of candy is a great treat that won’t hurt the appetite if your little tyke decides “dessert first!”

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