How many parents can honestly say they are satisfied with the lunches the school systems provide for their children? If you are honest with yourself, you will see that the choices of healthy foods are limited in many states around the nation and while some states make an effort to avoid foods high in saturated fats and processed sugar, their lunches are still not what you would consider healthy by any stretch of the imagination.
Those that do provide nutritious lunches don’t always serve up what most kids will eat. Lunch trays are returned with most of the food still on the plates. One thing you can be sure of is that the United States is not known for giving our kids the healthiest of school lunches. If you are thinking of packing your children’s lunch boxes this year, here are a few tips on how to pack a healthy lunch they will actually enjoy – and better yet – eat!
Protein Is a Must
When it comes to a food group which must be included in every lunch, protein takes the lead. Proteins are necessary for the building of healthy muscles, bones, cartilage, blood, and skin. Always keep in mind that your child is growing, and so protein is going to be an absolute must in every lunch box. However, the choice of protein must also be limited to healthy choices like organic turkey breast and such things as low-fat cheeses and organic peanut butter.
Unfortunately, the problem with peanut butter just might be that most kids will expect jelly, and unless you use fruit spreads with no added sugars, including high fructose corn syrup, you might find a half-eaten sandwich when your child returns home at the end of the day.
Your Choice of Grains Matters
Speaking of sandwiches, the type of bread you include is also important. Most kids like soft bread and it would be a rare child who would choose a heavy whole grain bread. However, there are workarounds for this as well. Honey wheat bread is ideal for those kids who don’t have gluten intolerance and for those who do, rice crackers work nicely to complement any lunch meat or nut spread.
If you reference the countries that serve the healthiest lunches mentioned above, you will find that rice is a common denominator in most of those nations. Brown rice is best, but any rice product is better than wheat if gluten is an issue.
Health Is Your Main Concern
It is also important to note what not to pack. You are doing your child no favors by packing fruit snacks or fruit rolls because of the preservatives and sugars involved. A piece of fresh fruit works nicely and when it comes to beverages, most juices without added sugar work best. If you are going to include milk, forget the flavored syrup! Also, don’t forget to pack your child’s lunch box with an ice pack so that any perishables stay fresh. Remember, bacteria grows quickly at certain temperatures so that is also a must.
The point is, you can pack a healthy lunch your child will enjoy and as the old saying goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Healthy lunches promote healthy growth and that, after all, is your main concern as a parent.