How to pack your kids a healthy lunch they’ll eat!

Shining Mountain Health & Wellness

School is back in session and so is the lunchroom. Some kids will eat the school lunch. It does make life easier. But some will not. I remember when my daughter would eat the school lunch … those were the days! But slowly, year by year, she ate it less and less and I had to pack her lunch more and more until I packed her lunch daily. That was by 4th grade. We want our children to be healthy, grow, learn and be satisfied.

So, what should we make our kids for lunch? Let’s take a look at what they need: Protein for growth and development, muscle building and tissue repair. Whole grains for energy and fiber, good digestion and keeping us satisfied. Fruit for vitamins and minerals used for growth and development, antioxidants, nature’s candy. Vegetables for vitamins, minerals, fiber, low calorie, filling, disease fighting. Dairy for healthy bones and teeth.

Your children might not like everything, but it’s important to give them a variety to provide all the nutrients they need. Sitting down with your kids and creating a list of foods they like, shopping together and helping to pack lunch are some great ways to get them involved. The more involved they are, the more likely they will be to eat their lunch. Mixing and matching meal ideas is a good way to get started. Try to incorporate various items together. Think about the different food groups and then create a list.

Here are some meal ideas … they can be mixed and matched according to your child’s preference or what you have on-hand. Use these ideas or make up your own, or your children make up their own!

Main Items

  • Tuna Salad with celery on whole wheat bread.
  • Rotisserie chicken with cherry tomatoes and broccoli on whole grain penne pasta.
  • Turkey slices and cheddar with lettuce and tomato on whole wheat bun
  • Hummus spread on whole grain tortilla topped with cucumber slices and shredded carrots and rolled up.
  • Natural peanut butter or almond butter with slivers of apples or banana on whole wheat bread.
  • Macaroni and cheese made with whole grain pasta, cheddar and green chilis.
  • Don’t forget leftovers from the night before!

Sides and snacks

  • Fruit like grapes, berries, apple slices, cuties, raisins, bananas, unsweetened apple sauce.
  • Veggies like carrot sticks, pepper strips, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas.
  • Whole grains like wheat thins, mini whole grain bagels, whole wheat bread.
  • Dairy like Greek yogurt, cheese sticks, sliced pepper jack or cheddar cheese.
  • Protein like nuts or peanut butter, hummus or a boiled egg.

Fun Food Ideas (one serving)

  • Sweet potato chips
  • Whole grain pretzels
  • Granola bars
  • Nuts and raisins
  • Popcorn
  • Chex mix
  • Gold Fish made with whole grain
  • Beverages should be mostly water, milk or 100 percent juice (keep to one serving). Try putting fruit like lemons, limes or berries in their water for flavor. No sugar sweetened beverages should be included.

Whatever you provide your children, they may or may not eat. Just take a deep breath and try again. Go for a variety, have them help shop, prep or pack, provide options and don’t fight about it. When you find things your children like, start making a list. Know that because you are giving your children healthy foods, you are helping them grow and develop into our future healthy adults!

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