5 steps for packing a healthy lunch for your kids

Yet another school year will be upon us before we know it. And each year, we hear again that kids who eat more balanced and nutritious meals are better prepared to learn and thrive in school, as well as in social situations, than those who do not. While schools now offer balanced school lunches, some kids may not like the options and therefore wind up with a more unbalanced meal despite new USDA regulations. So how can you pack a healthy lunch that your child will actually eat?

Get the kids involved

First, invite your kids to help pack their lunch. Often they will be more accepting of healthy snacks if they can assist in preparation.

Make it fun

Celery with peanut butter and raisins can be transformed into ants on a log. Have your kids make their own turkey sandwich, and cut it into different shapes to make it more pleasing. Fun-to-eat finger foods include low-fat string cheese, sliced berries or grapes, apple slices with peanut butter, vegetables and dip, crackers with sliced low-fat cheese, etc. Try encouraging different colors of the rainbow — the more, the better!

Don’t forget about drinks

One of the best things to pack is a small bottle of water or a carton of low-fat milk. Most kids need about three servings of low-fat milk or milk products per day, so why not have one at lunch? Not only will it add to their daily requirement for calcium and vitamin D, but the added protein will help keep them satisfied longer during the afternoon. If you’re going to pack juice, aim for 100 percent fruit juice. If you can, pack the actual whole piece of fruit versus the juice.

Watch your budget

For budget-friendly ideas, look for fruits and vegetables that are in season. Adding berries or melon to a lunch at the very end of August or beginning of September would be a nice treat, however mid-January would not be a nice treat for your wallet. Pack things in reusable containers so you do not have to keep a constant supply of plastic bags on hand.

Pack the lunch in a reusable lunch bag or box

By doing this, you won’t need to continually purchase the brown bag. Another benefit to a resuable, insulated lunchbox is food safety. While the weather remains hot in the first few weeks of school, it is particularly important to remember to pack lunches with a cooler or ice pack. Even during the winter months, dairy products, meats, etc., should be kept cool. So not only is brown bagging not the most economical way to pack lunch, it is not the safest, nor the best for the environment. The reusable bag helps keep your child safe, and also decreases waste, helping out with the idea of reduce, reuse and recycle.

So here is to a great school year, full of healthy lunches!

The Christiana Care Department of Family & Community Medicine and ShopRite, as part of the Diabetes Prevention & Care Project, funded by a grant from the Ammon Foundation, is offering a combination of lectures, table displays and tours at all ShopRite store locations throughout Delaware. The free monthly sessions are designed to educate people about making healthy food choices in an ideal classroom setting: the supermarket.

Each month focuses on a certain subject, with topics for the sessions ranging from watching your cholesterol to gluten-free shopping. The August topic is “Back to School Basics – Pack a Healthy Lunch.” The table display will be offered  between 5:30 – 7:30 pm on Aug. 6 at ShopRite Brandywine Commons-202, August 13 at ShopRite Christiana Crossing-Wilmington, August 14 at ShopRite First State Plaza-Stanton, August 20 at ShopRite Newark-Chestnut Plaza, and August 27 at ShopRite Governors Square-Bear.