While Jamie Oliver may have brought the issues with school lunches into the American consciousness, parents can be in even more control of their children’s lunches by packing those boxes themselves.
Children who eat a healthy diet have been found to concentrate more and perform better in school. A nutritious lunch is one in which fiber, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are all represented. Even though incorporating vegetables into meals can be the most challenging aspect, integrating them into something like a tuna salad sandwich with finely chopped red peppers can be quite successful.
Keep sandwiches appealing by using different breads, like pitas, tortillas, and foccacia. Instead of using processed lunch meats, use leftover chicken. Keep things interesting by sending hot soup or a cold fruit smoothie in a thermos one day and then thinly sliced veggies with hummus for dipping the next. Keep it simple by focusing on the three main requirements for a packed lunch – a main dish, a vegetable, and something sweet (like yogurt or fruit). Keep it fun by focusing on the cute factor – cut sandwiches into fourths, make pin wheel wraps, slice up an apple and rub it with lemon juice to keep it from browning, or use skewers (with rounded edges) for meats, cheeses, and veggies. Economize by creating your own trail mix that your child can snack on at their midmorning break. Remember that a lot of extra calories are consumed in drinks, so focus on water or milk. If your child still wants the occasional juice box, make sure it’s 100% juice, and stay away from soda and punch.
A good rule of thumb for healthy lunch box ideas is to consider what your grandmother, or even your great-grandmother, would have packed for her children. Steer clear of processed foods and high-sugar snacks. With a little bit of planning, preparation, and creativity, your children can have lunches that will be interesting, fun, and most importantly, nourishing.