Parents across the country are preparing to wake the kids early, pack school lunches, and get their children off to school. While the task of packing lunches day after day can be daunting, packing a healthy school lunch doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. By following these five simple tips you can make lunch time a nutritious and tasty break in the school day for your child.
Tip 1: Plan Ahead on the Weekend
You can pack a well-balanced school lunch in a jiffy by doing a little preparation over the weekend. When you get home from the grocery store, wash, peel, and chop fresh fruits and veggies and place them in reusable, sealable plastic containers for an easy snack, paired with yogurt dip or hummus. You can also pack dinner leftovers for a nutritious lunch the next day!
Tip 2: Pack 5 for 5! Incorporate All Food Groups
Homemade lunches can be just as healthy as school lunches by setting your own nutrition guidelines for packing. There are plenty of great choices within each food group that provide kids with the nutrients they need.
Tip 3: Rethink Their Drink or Be Sure to Pack Milk Money!
Milk – whether it’s white, chocolate or even strawberry – is packed with nine essential nutrients important for kids’ health. These nutrients include calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein, which help build healthy bodies and strong bones in growing children. Research shows that milk is often missing from lunches brought from home. It’s easy to purchase milk from the school cafeteria, but it’s difficult to replace the nutrient package found in milk without adding extra calories or cost.
Tip 4: Get the Kids Involved
While in the produce section at the store, talk to your kids about the importance of making half your plate fruits and vegetables, or bring up the bone-building benefits of milk, cheese and yogurt found in the dairy case. Encourage kids to get involved in the packing process with foods they like! Kids are more likely to eat their lunch if they have selected healthy foods themselves.
Tip 5: Keep it Safe
Even though today’s lunch boxes do more to keep food safe, it still pays to be cautious when packing lunches. Make sure hot foods stay hot and cold foods stay cold. Choose lunch containers that are insulated and be sure to pack a freezable cold pack for foods that need refrigeration. You can even freeze a yogurt tube to make it perfectly thawed by lunch time! If your child is taking hot soup or pasta for lunch, use an insulated bottle.
MilkMeansMore.org features plenty of recipes that are nutritious and good tasting for kids and adults! One easy packed-lunch strategy is to make extra portions of dinner that can be set aside for lunch later in the week. It’s time to get packing!