To help parents and caregivers faced with the ever-challenging task of preparing healthful school lunches that kids will actually eat, registered dietitian Sarah Wally offers a few tips:
• Include all food groups. A balanced lunch is a healthful lunch. Follow the MyPlate meal- planning model and pack a serving or two from each of the following categories: grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy and protein. Vegetables and fruits should account for roughly half of the meal.
• Keep foods safe. Making sure hot foods stay hot and cool foods stay cool is imperative to keep food-borne illness at bay. Insulated thermoses are a great option for storing soups or warm pasta. Adding a frozen juice box to your kid’s lunch bag creates an instant ice pack to keep cool items chilled and it will defrost just in time to enjoy at lunch. As a bonus, just 4 ounces of 100 percent juice counts as a serving (half a cup) of fruit.
• Get the kids involved. Asking your children to help plan their weekly lunches lets them feel important and in control. Share with them your criteria for a healthy lunch and then give them some options to choose from. Kids will enjoy a break from repetitious lunches and learn a bit about creating healthful meals.
• Use lunchtime as a way to connect. A handwritten note can be a surprising, sentimental way to reconnect with your kids. Use a napkin to write a few words of encouragement before that after-lunch test or important soccer game. It can make their day.
Recipe for a healthful lunchbox
• Choose whole-grain breads and crackers for added fiber.
• Pack 100 percent juice, providing vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds called phytonutrients.
• Stick to low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
• Help your kids to “eat the rainbow” by offering a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
For more information, log on to www.fruitjuicefacts.org.