School lunches: Add variety by soliciting the help of your children

Explore these easy tips for packing your child’s school lunch.

Packing school lunches can quickly become monotonous. To keep this from happening, enlist the help of your children. You can make packing lunches part of your school-aged child’s chore list, with some guidance to ensure proper nutrition, of course! Or do what one smart mom did: sit your kids down and ask them to list all the foods they would eat for their lunches, not restricting the list to just typical “lunch” foods. This resulted in more choices for mom and less worry that the lunch wouldn’t be eaten. The information was posted on the inside of a cupboard door and is updated by the kids from time to time.

Some choices from your kids may include:

  • A bowl of cereal
  • Turkey wrapped in lettuce,
  • Tuna and crackers,
  • Bean and cheese burrito with salsa
  • Cottage cheese with peaches
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Baby carrots
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Pear slices
  • Peeled hard-boiled egg
  • Cheese cubes or sticks

This list can jump start your imagination. Don’t forget about left-overs; many schools have a microwave in the cafeteria for students to access. Your child’s dinnertime favorite can be the next school day’s lunch.

Don’t pack too much food; this encourages children to overeat and to waste by opening containers taking a bite or two and throwing some of everything away. Your child will let you know immediately if they aren’t getting enough to eat and you can add as needed. Keep your child’s lunch safe by packing it in an insulated lunch box with an ice pack and remind kids to wash their hands before eating. For information on keeping lunches safe, try the United States Department of Agriculture website.  Eating time is limited, so any prep you can do (such as peeling hard-boiled eggs, etc.) the night before, the better.

Concerned about a balanced meal? Your child needs food from each food group: grain, dairy, protein, fruit and vegetable. Visit MyPlate for more information on recommended foods per day and also for appropriate serving sizes for your child.

Planning with your child, packing your child’s school lunch, or helping your child pack his or her own lunch, are great opportunities for discussions about healthy food choices. This once monotonous chore can be turned around to become parent/child time, so along with everyone learning to make healthy food choices, you’ve carved out time for your family to really connect during the busy school year.

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