In the rush going back to school, it’s difficult to find the time to pack school lunches, let alone nutrient-dense meals your kids will enjoy. However, lunch is an important part of your child’s day, giving him or her the energy to focus at school. Planning quick, delicious, easy, and nutritious lunches is essential. With a few tips from Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group Galleria, you can master the school lunch.
Pack in the Protein
Protein is especially important for school lunches since it gives kids an energy boost before heading back to class. Sugar-free peanut butter, brown rice and black beans, lean meats, and garbanzo beans are all healthy, protein-rich options. Pack a peanut butter sandwich or a burrito with beans and rice (on whole wheat bread or a whole wheat tortilla) for a main course. As a side, include hummus (made from garbanzo beans) with carrots and celery.
Go Halfsies with Fruits and Veggies
About half of your child’s lunch plate should consist of fruits and vegetables. Layer sliced banana in your child’s peanut butter sandwich, try some kale chips for a snack, and pack berries and yogurt for dessert. Encourage your child to try different fruits and vegetables by including your son or daughter when you shop for groceries and pack lunch. Let your child choose a new fruit or veggie to try every week. Avoid canned or dried fruits and vegetables, which often have added sugar and sodium. Instead, opt for fresh produce.
Keep your Grains Whole
From tortillas to bread, crackers to cookies, grains are in many of our everyday staples. Be sure that any grains you pack in your child’s lunch are whole grains. Look for the words “100 percent Whole Wheat” or 100 percent Whole Grains.” Keep in mind that foods labeled “multigrain” do not necessarily mean that it’s a good source of whole grain. Whole grains have more nutrients, especially fiber, a fundamental part of a healthy diet.
Though it might seem old-fashioned, drinking milk still matters! Dairy is a great source of calcium and protein. Make sure to choose low fat or fat-free dairy products, including milk, yogurt, and cheese, for your child’s lunch. If your family doesn’t include dairy in your diet, find a nutrient-rich substitute, like soy milk.
Don’t Butter it Up
Even if your child’s lunch is bursting with protein, whole grains, fat-free dairy, fruits, and veggies, it can still fall short. Don’t pack fatty, sugary, or salty sauces or gravies. Cheese dips, caramel sauces, and other unhealthy lunchtime accessories only add fat to your meal. Stick to hummus, sugar-free peanut butter, and yogurt for dipping fruits and veggies. Try shaved parmesan or light salad dressings to complement veggie side dishes. Don’t use mayonnaise, butter, margarine, or other fatty condiments. A small amount of an olive-oil based spread can be a healthier substitute.
With a little practice and planning ahead, nutritious, scrumptious school lunches can be a breeze! For more tips and personalized nutrition, visit the perfect pediatrician or nutritionist for your child at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group.