It's the start of a new school year. Northside Hospital dietitians want to equip parents with tips on packing a lunchbox of healthy foods your kids will enjoy, and that will keep them full throughout the day and provide them with nutrients.
The more color in the lunchbox the better!
Color makes food seem more interesting and increases the variety of nutrients lunch offers. Choose at least one food from each group below to build a balanced lunch.
Whole grains are a great way to increase the fiber content of you meal, keeping your child’s belly fuller longer. Options to incorporate a whole grain: whole grain bread or pasta, wild rice, quinoa, crackers or even popcorn.
Protein can be from an animal source or plant based. Protein is important for children because it provides nutrients such as iron, B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. Great choices for protein: chicken, canned tuna, edamame, beans, turkey, and ground meat.
Dairy or calcium-containing foods
Dairy is a wonderful source of calcium to support bone growth and development. Sources of dairy: yogurt, cheese, and milk.
For children not able to tolerate dairy, other sources of calcium are spinach, fortified soy, enriched grains and other green leafy vegetables.
Fruit is a vitamin-packed way to give your child a sweet fix in their lunchbox. Fruit cups are a good option when packed in water. Vary fruit from week to week, and shop seasonally for the most nutritious choices.
Vegetables make a crunchy (healthy) snack, sandwich topper or an ingredient within a dish. If your child does not like vegetables on their own, try adding them to other foods - adding lettuce on a sandwich, chopped tomato in a pasta salad, or finely diced celery within chicken salad.
You also can try different dips to make vegetables more appealing: carrots with ranch dip, sliced peppers with hummus.
Send a snack.
If your kid needs a snack during the day, try fruit with peanut butter, or a nutrition bar high in natural ingredients like oats and dried fruits and low in added sugar.
Children should have no more than 25 grams of added sugar in a day, so avoid serving sodas and sugar-sweetened fruit juices.