By Sadé Meeks, MS, RD
If you feel pressure to provide your child with healthy, quality foods, you should know that you are not alone. Because many parents have felt this pressure at least once, I have a few tips on how to alleviate that load, specifically for when it comes to packing school lunch. Before I get into the tips, I want to make a
DISCLAIMER. There’s no such thing as “perfect” in feeding. Healthy eating is about the big picture, rather than each and everything you or your child decides to eat. The big picture starts with including the basic food groups in most meals and snacks.
- Vegetables – Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a member of the Vegetable Group.
- Fruit – Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the Fruit Group.
- Grains – Grains can be categorized as whole or refined. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm. At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains.
- Protein – All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the Protein Foods Group.
- Dairy – All fluid milk products and many foods made from milk that retain their calcium content, such as yogurt and cheese, are part of the Dairy Group. Calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage) is also included. Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, are not part of the Dairy Group.
Tips for Packing Lunch:
- Include a Variety. One of the easiest ways to determine if there’s variety in your packed lunch is by observing the different colors. Colors can be a great indicator of certain nutrients. For example, most red produce contain lycopene, orange- carotene, and blue –anthocyanins.
- Have fun. Simple knife skills can turn a boring piece of fruit into a fun shape, like a star. However you don’t always have to use knife skills. You can turn a boring celery stick into ants on a log with some raisins.
- Include Raw Ingredients. You can save some time cooking by including 1-2 servings of raw fruits and vegetable in each lunch box.
- Try another preparation method. Children can get bored with simple sandwiches, but there’s always more than one way to do something; preparing a sandwich is no different. For instance, build sandwich kabobs, an open face sandwich, or wrap it in a tortilla.
- Don’t Forget the Snacks. Quality, nutritious snacks are a great way to ensure your child is getting the nutrients they need. In fact, Messy Monkeys is the perfect example of adding extra whole grains to you little one’s lunch with a nutritious and tasty snack.