Mrs. Q: Things got away from me and I meant to put this guest blog post up while I was still in school. Thankfully these suggestions can be incorporated very easily into lunches made at home over the summer. And now without further delay…
Better (not boring) Bagged Lunches (now at home!)
I grew up eating bagged lunch every day, save for a few days in elementary school when I begged my mom to let me buy pizza for lunch. I believe that packing my lunch, among many other healthy habits I learned while growing up, led me to have a career as a Registered Dietitian.
One healthy tip I like to stress with my clients is for them to pack their own lunch as much as possible instead of going out for lunch, since you’ll always eat healthier and more portion controlled when you have control over what goes into your lunch. The same holds true for students and school lunches. Unless they’re attending one of the few schools that has made healthier school lunches a priority, they’re likely faced with salt and sugar stuffed lunches with few nutrients to get their minds and bodies through the school day.
Sending your child to school armed with a healthy lunch in hand can be the best way to ensure she’s getting the nutrients she needs for a better brain and body. The best lunches will have a combination of good grains (whole wheat bread, tortillas, pita pockets, pasta), protein (yogurt, peanut butter, lean meat, beans, hummus) and a fresh fruit or veggie. Don’t forget to pack a frozen drink or ice pack to keep cold foods chilled.
Bagged lunches don’t have to be made up of soggy sandwiches and lackluster leftovers. Here are some fun (and nutritious!) bagged lunch ideas to pack with your kids and make them long for lunch:
· Fruity yogurt parfait: In a Tupperware container, layer reduced fat yogurt with fresh berries. Pack a snack back of whole grain cereal on the side so your child can sprinkle it on top of the parfait and scoop it up with a spoon.
· Veggie platter: Pack a sectioned Tupperware container with veggie sticks like cucumbers and bell peppers, whole wheat pita chips, hummus, feta cheese, and grapes so your little one can dip into this Mediterranean-style meal (and eat with his fingers, too!).
· Roll-ups: With a long carrot stick in the center, roll two layers each of low sodium deli turkey with reduced fat cheese and a whole wheat tortilla on the outside. Your child will have fun eating this sandwich roll-up with a surprise crunch from the carrot in the center.
· Sweet sandwich: If PB&J is getting boring, try another sweet sandwich filler by using fresh berries. Spread a roll or bread slices with light cream cheese or Laughing Cow Light cheese and top with strawberry slices or pitted cherries (pictured here) for a sweet treat. This sandwich might be a best bet in schools that have outlawed peanut products.
· Personal pizza: If your kid is a fan of cold pizza, why not pack some for lunch? Top a whole wheat Sandwich Thin or pita pocket with some pizza sauce, light shredded cheese, veggies and beans.
· Pasta salad surprise: Packing pasta salad is a great way to use up leftover pasta, veggies, beans or lean meat. Toss all of the above ingredients together with some Italian dressing for a quick and tasty pasta salad meal.
Try packing lunch in the evening with your child so you can still send him or her off to school with a healthy lunch, even on the busiest of mornings. Don’t forget to throw in some snacks and beverages to keep those tiny tummies satisfied all day.
Janel Ovrut MS RD LDN is a Boston-based Registered Dietitian who is passionate about helping others make healthy changes, one bite at a time. You can read her blog Eat Well with Janel or follow her on Twitter.