Back to school means back to packing school lunches. Children need a healthy lunch with the right calories and nutrients to help them learn, grow, and play. Not only do we want to pack our kids a healthy lunch, we want them to eat it, too! Sometimes we need some new ideas to keep lunch interesting. Here are some tips for packing a school lunch:
Plan ahead. Just a little planning time to get the right foods on the grocery list, in the cart, and in the fridge is the right place to start.
Plan together. Sit down with your child weekly to talk about lunch menu options. Allow your child to help plan the menu. He will be more excited about lunch and more likely to eat it.
Try something new. We all tend to get tired of the same foods every day. Change up the menu. Look up some new ideas together.
Try a different shape. Food that looks fun is more fun to eat. Try cutting a sandwich in a different direction or use cookie cutters. Sliced cheese and fruit (especially melon) will also cut nicely with cookie cutters.
Build in some color. Research shows the more colorful the food, the more appetizing it is. One of the easiest and healthiest ways to do this is with fresh vegetables and fruits. See if you can ‘pack a rainbow’ of color in your child’s lunch throughout the week.
Use MyPlate for your Lunch Bag! This fact sheet from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach gives a variety of ideas from every food group! Aim for at least 4 out of the 5 food groups for health and variety.
Rethink the drink. Water and low-fat milk are the best options for lunch. Sugary drinks are considered ‘empty calories.’ Calories but no nutrients.
Invest in “cool” lunch packs. Ice packs, insulated thermoses and insulated lunch bags allow for more varied menu options by keeping food at the right temperature.
Pack the night before. If you’re pressed for time, mornings can run more smoothly when there is less to do. Pack lunches in the evening right after dinner clean up. Or you could even try prepping lunches for the week on Sunday and refrigerate or freeze for later use.
For more ideas on packing a healthy and safe lunch, check out What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag!
Iowa State University Extension
Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County
Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County