Back-to-school shopping is either largely done – or being done in earnest this weekend – and kids and parents are looking forward, or not, to the coming school year. Parents are arranging schedules for after-school activities, and they’re beginning to think about the daily ritual of packing their kids a healthy lunch.
“The goal is to send the kids off to school with a lunch they may actually eat, rather than swap for something less healthy, or worse yet, toss,” Patricia Salzer, a registered dietitian and health and wellness consultant for Univera Healthcare, said in a news release.
Salzer offers three simple tips for parents: Focus on health, taste and safety.
• Fresh Fruit: “It’s nature’s fast food,” Salzer said. Dried fruit such as raisins is OK, too.
• Vegetables: Baby carrots and cucumbers.
• Protein: Peanut butter, hard cooked eggs and lean deli meats.
• Grains: Whole-wheat bread or crackers, tortillas and pita bread.
• Dairy: Fat-free milk, low-fat cheese sticks and low-sugar yogurt.
“Parents can use a knife or cookie cutter to turn sandwiches and vegetables like cucumbers into fun shapes, making these nutritious foods more desirable to their children,” Salzer said.
• Add healthy foods into items that kids already love. Use apples or bananas when making muffins. Pack slices of pizza topped with vegetables into your child’s lunch. Slip diced apples into that chicken salad sandwich.
• Create healthy trail mix. Mix dry, whole-wheat cereal with raisins, nuts (if there are no allergy or choking problems), pretzels or even a few chocolate chips.
• Place an ice pack in your child’s lunch bag or keep the lunch in the cooler to keep the food at a safe temperature.
• Remind your kids to wash their hands before eating.
“Parents also should ask their child what healthy foods they would like in their lunch,” Salzer added. “The more involved kids are in the lunch planning and grocery shopping, the more likely they are to eat the foods they helped select.”