Your child’s lunch should include at least three different food groups. A sandwich with an apple and milk is the standard, but you don’t have to stick to that formula; instead, tailor the lunch to the child’s habits. Does your child like the reliability of eating the same thing every day? Or does she need a lot of variety? Especially during the school year, it’s important that kids eat a nutritious lunch to keep up their energy and concentration, so be sure to pack things you know your child likes to eat. Also, get your child involved in meal preparation, as kids show more interest in eating their own creations.
The sandwich is the go-to school lunch, and when made with whole grain or whole wheat bread and healthy fillings like vegetables, lean meats, tuna, or peanut butter and jelly, it can be healthy too. If your child is tired of the same old meat, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, spice things up with a quick egg salad with some chopped celery or shredded carrot for a nutritious boost. Or, wrap up some chicken, shredded cheese, and diced vegetables in a tortilla. If sandwiches have gotten old, move on to whole wheat pita slices, hummus, and sliced vegetables, or low-fat, low-sugar yogurt, wheat crackers, and some fruit. If your child needs an extra energy snack, pack in some trail mix of almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit like raisins or cranberries.
Days when your child is at home are the prime time to get them involved in food preparation and teach him proper nutrition. Make or buy some whole wheat pizza dough and make pizza at home! Provide an array of nutritious toppings like bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini and leaner meats, and bake your pizzas together. Healthy foods reminiscent of fast food items are also usually a hit; make some sweet potato oven fries by cutting sweet potatoes into wedges. Coat them in olive oil, about two teaspoons per sweet potato, toss with some salt and pepper, and bake at 450 degrees on a foil-lined baking sheet until brown, 20-30 minutes. Serve with a sandwich or healthy homemade lean burgers. Leftovers make great school lunches.
What your child drinks is just as important as what she eats. Drinking too much soda and juice from concentrate leads to too much sugar intake. Instead, provide the option of milk, water, or 100% fruit juice. Water is important for staying hydrated, and milk is an essential source of calcium and vitamin D. If your child insists on soda, instead mix some 100% juice with seltzer water for a refreshing, low-sugar substitute.