Back-to-school season means back to the routine of packing your kids’ lunch boxes every morning, and back to having snacks ready for them after school. To keep your kids healthy, feeling great and happy with the meals they’re eating, you’ll need to “think outside the lunch box” when it comes to packing your kids’ lunches this year.
Pediatrician and author Mary Ellen Renna suggests that parents look for healthy, high protein alternatives to the standard beef or bologna sandwich. Instead, try packing lean turkey–or your child’s favorite vegetables–with low fat cheese (like mozzarella), served on a whole wheat bun. Beans are also a great source of protein, fiber and nutrition–but with minimal saturated fat. You can make a great bean dip out of black, pinto or garbanzo beans in your food processor and combine it with some pita triangles, carrots and green peppers for a healthy lunch-to-go.
Nuts and seeds are portable, healthy snacks that are perfect for lunch boxes. They are loaded with protein and packed with energy. In fact, ounce for ounce, pumpkin seeds have almost as much protein as beef or chicken, and they have more good fats and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
What your child drinks with lunch each day is just as important as what he or she eats. Send your child with either water, low-fat milk or a fruit juice box – but make sure that the juice is made from 100% juice with no added sugar. Many juices contain only minimal amounts of real fruit juice and sometimes add unnecessary extra sugar, so read the labels carefully. Juice boxes are a great way to keep your child’s lunch cold throughout the day–freeze a juice box the night before, use it as an ice pack, and, by lunchtime, it will be perfectly defrosted and ready to drink.
Here are some great-tasting lunch and snack recipes that will appeal to a wide variety of taste buds!
Chicken Salad Wraps
- 1½ cups cooked chicken breast
- 1 cup carrots, shredded
- 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 cup fresh tomato, chopped
- 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
- 2 teaspoons garlic herb seasoning
- ¼ cup reduced fat mayonnaise
- 16 large green leaf lettuce leaves, removed from head
Combine all ingredients except lettuce leaves and mix well. Place equal amount of salad mixture on each lettuce leaf. Roll from one end of the lettuce leaf to the middle. Fold in the sides and continue to roll until wrapped.
Fruit and Applesauce Dip
- 1 cup no-sugar-added applesauce
- 1 cup low-fat strawberry yogurt
Slices of your favorite fruits such as strawberries, apples, bananas, pears, kiwi, pineapple or grapes.
Combine the applesauce and yogurt in a bowl and mix until well blended. Pour into plastic container and wrap up some fruit slices, too.
Bookworm Apple Bark
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- 2½ tablespoons golden or black raisins
- 1½ tablespoons dried sweetened cranberries
Cut apple into four quarters, starting at the stem. Remove the core by cutting away to leave a flat surface on the apple quarter. Be careful not to cut too much of the edible portion of the apple away. Drop and slightly spread the peanut butter on apple quarters. Mix together the raisins and dried cranberries then sprinkle on peanut butter.