Healthy foods can help children do their best in school, but getting kids to eat good-for-you foods can sometimes be a trick.
The SheKnows editors, along with Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension Family and Consumer Science Agent, suggest these tips to jazz up a lunch while also keeping nutritional value in place.
Tips for healthy brown bag lunches
- Include an apple, orange, pear, kiwi, mango, star fruit, banana, a box of raisins or grapes rather than a fruit roll up or fruit chews.
- Send non-fat 1 percent milk in place of 2 percent. Also consider soy or rice milk.
- Send vegetables with dip, or mix chopped vegetables with cream cheese and place on a bagel.
- Use whole grain bread when possible. Try pita bread, wraps, tortillas and bagels. Variety can make a difference. Leftover waffles with cream cheese, peanut butter or egg salad are a new change.
- Try macaroni salads, ants on a log (peanut butter on celery topped with raisins), salsa and chips, or meat and cheese.
- Cut leftover chicken into strips and pack with dippers of ranch dressing, barbecue sauce or mustard sauce.
- Pack baked chips, pretzels, air-popped popcorn or dry cereal.
- Limit sweets to once or twice a week. Help your children get used to eating fruit.
- Small treats can be more fulfilling if they’re fun. Think about putting in a fortune cookie or send 3-7 alphabet cookies that spell out a word — and let your child figure out the puzzle!
- Send boxes or packets of 100 percent juice. Check labels carefully, since some are only 10 percent juice with added sugar.
- Is your child tired of juice? For a change and added nutrition, send a yogurt drink.
- Place an ice pack in the lunch box. Keeping foods cold will reduce the chance of food-borne illness and will help keep foods fresh.
- Alternatively, freeze pudding, yogurt or applesauce to keep it fresh — while also helping keep other foods cool.
- Provide hand wipes and remind kids to use them before eating.
- Remember to include one food item with protein (meat, cheese or egg), one carbohydrate item (roll, bread, pita, crackers) and at least one fruit and one vegetable for each lunch.
- To make your job easier, let your children give menu ideas and help with shopping for lunches.