The holidays are in full swing! It’s a perfect time to reconfigure those school lunches! As a Coborn’s Dietitian, I work with families daily to find simple tricks for making meal times easier, including lunches. I’ve taken some of my favorite tips as well as some of my favorite lunch ideas and have them right here in this post to share with you! The best part is that these school lunch ideas are also great for you, as the adult, to bring to work. Here are my 5 best tips for packing healthier lunches:
1.) Sandwiches are fine, but not always the most fun…
In my lunch box every day growing up, I had the same thing…Every. Single. Day. It got old after a while! (Although I greatly appreciate the effort of my parents to make me a lunch!) I’m sure you hear your kids asking for something different, too! Sandwiches are always the stereotypical meal for bagged lunches. Instead of a simple sandwich on slices of bread, try out some whole wheat tortilla shells, wraps, English muffins, or even whole grain crackers. The most important thing is that we are getting in some whole grains. Why whole grains? Whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains (such as white breads) for a few reasons. Number 1- the fiber. Fiber is a nutrient that needs more attention! Fiber is good for our digestive system, but it’s also has shown benefits for preventing heart disease and improving blood glucose control.
Whether you’re looking at breads, pastas, tortillas, or cereals, here’s a tip to knowing if an item is in fact, 100% whole grain:
The first ingredient must be whole wheat flour (or whole oat, whole brown rice, whole corn, etc.). The only exception is if water comes before that). Just remember, that even if the bread is brown and there are seeds and nuts, it’s not necessarily whole grain. Flip over the package and look at the ingredients list!
2.) Watch for the added sugars. Added sugars sneak into so many foods!
Those easy to grab fruit cups or dried fruit can be easy to toss in the lunches. But they are also the biggest contributors to added sugar. To get little to no added sugar, choose canned fruit or fruit cups in 100% juice. Those that sit in light syrup or heavy syrup are just sitting in sugar water. For dried fruit, look at the ingredient list. Raisins are typically pretty good, and the only ingredient is raisins. However, it’s those crasins and other dried fruit that have added sugar in the ingredient list.
3.) Go beyond deli meat to for good sources of protein.
Mix up your lunchboxes to provide a variety of protein sources. Other sources of protein are beans, peanut butter, hummus, and even dairy products such as milk and yogurt. Maybe you can do a tex-mex lunch box and include beans or lean ground beef. Try adding hummus as the spread on veggie wraps instead of mayo. Even doing a greek yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and whole grain granola adds protein to the meal. One of my all-time favorites to get in some protein is with peanut butter! I love a simple whole wheat tortilla with a spread of peanut butter and sliced bananas. Sometimes I even add a few dark chocolate chips! Whichever way you add in protein, just be sure you and your kiddos are getting in good variety! Tip- when choosing deli meats, choose lower sodium options and watch the portion size. A portion of deli meat is 2 oz. Check out our Kitchen at the Coborn’s in Isanti for Kretschmar Master’s Cut Deli Meats. These are approved by the American Heart Association and can be a more nutritious choice than other pre-packaged meats.
4.) Fill Up on the Fruits and Veggies
We always are recommending that we fill half our plates with fruits and vegetables- do the same with the lunch boxes! All forms matter when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Fresh may be the most convenient when it vegetables, but for fruits, remember canned (in 100% juice), fresh, or dried (with no added sugar) can all be good options! The simplest way to add veggies to meals is by adding in lettuce and tomatoes, or even some avocados (which are actually, fruits) to a sandwich. Often, kids don’t like to eat veggies by themselves. All in all, once you’ve packed a lunch, see if ½ your meal is fruits and vegetables.
5.) Oh, Good Ole Juice Boxes….
I sit in a hard position when it comes to juices. As a dietitian, yes, they can be a serving of fruit if it is 100% juice. However, it is only recommended for kids to have 4oz of juice per day. I don’t know about you, but I can’t ever find a 4oz juice box! Too much juice, even if it’s 100% juice, adds up to lots of sugar and unfortunately the kids are filling up on liquids rather than whole fruits and vegetables. If you’re finding that there is too much juice in your kid’s diet, be sure your child has water or low-fat milk at lunch. Juice consumption might be more easily managed at home. I always recommend that kids have water with them throughout the day to stay hydrated. If their school allows a water bottle, even a fun, new water bottle might be able to help encourage more water throughout the day.
Now that you’ve read through my rant on my 5 best tips for lunches, I have provided a PDF below of some great ideas for lunches that that balanced in nutrition and fun for the kids! This is easy to print and is a great resource to hand on the fridge or even on the inside of a cupboard.
Be sure to check out our Dietitian’s Corner, which holds numerous nutrition resources, fun recipes, and more! You can even request an appointment with one of our dietitians! You can click on the link below to find examples of healthy lunch ideas and how to build a better lunch box. Build A Better Lunch Box
Happy & Healthy Eating,
Amy Peick, RD, LD
Supermarket Registered Dietitian
PTC_therapy November 29th, 2017
Posted In: General