So, it is getting to be that time again - back to school! The kids are buying new notebooks, pencils, back packs and lunch boxes. Hold up. Lunch boxes? Right, back to school means that you have got to start making lunches, that is, if you don’t want your kids to eat fatty cafeteria slop. If your kids are lucky enough to go to one of the schools currently undergoing health improvements in their cafeteria, making lunch everyday may be less important, but you will most certainly have to pack lunches for field trips, at the very least. Here are a few suggestions that will meet your requirements for healthy food and theirs for something fun and tasty.
Sandwiches have been the main staple of every kid’s lunch since, well, Wonderbread was invented. What we have learned since then of course is that white bread is pretty awful for you. Make sandwiches using whole wheat bread with no high fructose corn syrup and all natural peanut butter and jelly, omega-3 loaded mayo, mustard and tuna, mustard and a lean deli meat, or get creative - peanut butter and banana, scrambled egg white with ketchup and cheese, or an imitation vegetarian chicken patty. Imitation will appeal to your kids but in reality you know that it’s lean, fiber filled, protein rich tofu. Shhhh!
Variety is the spice of life and is more likely to keep your kid from trading his or her sandwich for something fattier and “more interesting.” Make a different sandwich each day of the week, or at least go every other day. Sandwiches are not the problem, ingredients are. Be sure whatever kind of sandwiches you make for your kids that you use all natural ingredients with no added sugars, and go light on things like mayo.
Kids need more calories than adults do, so don’t be afraid to include side dishes, especially healthy ones! Fruits and vegetables are the ultimate preference of course, and if your child isn’t big into those, here are two basics that no kid can refuse: apples and caramel sauce. Just be sure that the caramel sauce that you include is a small serving, and that it is a no fat, no high fructose corn syrup, low sugar caramel sauce. Natural peanut butter is preferable, if your kids like apples and peanut butter.
If you include carrots and dip in your kid’s lunch, rather than buying a pre-made dip high in fat and laden with chemicals, buy a packet of dry vegetable soup mix, and mix it with plain Greek yogurt to make a low fat, high protein dip for the carrots. It tastes great and is much healthier. If you feel the need to include something a little more “fun,” try peanut butter and raisins on a celery stick, low-fat yogurt, trail mix, and no fat pretzels or popcorn before turning to chips. Even baked chips are pretty high in fat and chemicals.
Dessert is a tricky one, because your kids are going to want it, regardless of whether you want them to have it or not. Pudding and Jell-O are naturally low in fat and calories, and kids love snack packs. A baggie of sweet cereal - make sure it’s a small one - is also a good sweet treat to end their meal. Stay away from candy bars and cookies, cakes, that sort of thing. If you want to send something special, find a low-fat recipe for cookies or cake online and send a small piece of cake or 1 or 2 cookies along. It is not bad to let your kids have treats, portion is the problem. Including a whole sleeve of Oreos because it is easy is irresponsible on your part.
2 % (or lower) Milk, low-fat chocolate milk, water, or low sugar juice are your best options. The ones you’ll want to steer clear of are: soda, diet soda and Kool-Aid. No regular juices, as they are high in sugar. No sports drinks, they are also high in sugar. No no no no - absolutely under no circumstances - energy drinks. Kids should stay away from them altogether. The caffeine in them is “off the charts” and in no way healthy for really anyone – especially kids. Drinks are tricky, because they hide so well how many calories they contain. This is a place to be strict. The best choice here is water.