how to pack a healthy school lunch!
When my son started school, keeping his diet healthy was important to me. As a dietitian and working with school aged children, I see how much peers and being away from parents can influence a child’s eating habits. For the last 5 years, I was in charge of what he ate for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Now that he has started team sports, in which other parents provide the team with snacks, and school is back in session, I started noticing more convenience foods entering into his diet. This included items such as small bags of chips, candy, cookies, pop tarts, and boxed fruit drinks. This was concerning for me because I see the stress and issues that children and parents face when their child becomes overweight, but I decided that I still can make an influence on his choices. First, I keep those team snacks to 1-2 per week. Secondly, we look at the school lunch menu together and discuss healthy choices for school lunch. When some meals are less healthy, we pack his lunch. However, one of the common mistakes I see when working with parents is that sometimes the lunches they pack are unhealthy, as well. Here are some of the foods I pack to keep my son’s lunch up to par. Hopefully this will help!
- No conveniently packed chips, pretzels, pudding, cookies, juice boxes. These provide little nutritional value and juice boxes only add extra sugar.
- Make the lunch balanced,it should contain each of the following:
- Whole grains
- Beverages to pack: bottled water, milk (I buy the shelf stable milk that comes in a box at the store or have my son buy milk at school), flavored water.
- Fruit: banana, mandarin oranges packed in their own juice, fresh apple, pear, or peach, grapes, small box of raisins, applesauce with no added sugar. Avoid canned fruit in syrup.
- Vegetables: baby carrots, cut veggie sticks, cucumbers with low fat veggie dip
- Whole grains: Sandwich using 100% whole wheat bread, wraps using 100% whole wheat tortilla, whole wheat crackers (ex. Triscuits), whole wheat pita bread
- Dairy-string cheese, 2% sliced cheese for sandwich or wraps, low sugar and low fat yogurt or smoothie, milk.
- Protein-peanut butter, nuts, lean meats (turkey, ham, chicken, roast beef), beans (edamame, garbanzos, hummus)
Shannon Burkett has worked at Dayton Children’s for 4 years and covers hematology and oncology. She graduated with a bachelor degree in elementary education from Purdue University in 2000 and graduated in 2004 from Loyola University of Chicago, where she studied Nutrition and Dietetics. Shannon is passionate about running and cooking.Shannon is also a licensed teacher and is currently working on jer masters in education. She is married and has two boys whom she adores!