How to Pack Nutrient-Rich Lunches

The lunch bell rings…what is your child eating to refuel his/her body at lunch? There are a variety of less healthy choices in the lunch room such as fried food and vending machine goodies. However, taking a few minutes to pack your child a nutrient-rich lunch could improve his/her mental acuity as well as energy at school. It’s all about what you pack!

Brown-Bag Lunch Basics:

  • Include a grain. Whole grains provide B vitamins, fiber and are a complex source of energy for kids. At lunch, this could be 100% whole wheat bread for a sandwich, whole wheat crackers/pretzels or even a whole grain cereal as a snack.
  • Include a protein. Protein slows down digestion and thus will help your child stay full longer. Animal sources like turkey, chicken and tuna are a rich source of lean protein and can be used on a sandwich, in a pita or rolled up in a wrap. However, if your child is not a big fan of meat, you can also get protein from peanut butter, hummus and low-fat dairy like yogurt.
  • Include a vegetable. Color makes lunch more appealing to kids. Include baby carrots and low-fat ranch, celery and peanut butter or hummus or even baby grape tomatoes as a vegetable source at lunch!
  • Include a fruit. Fruit is also a colorful, nutrient-rich choice for lunch time. Sliced apples dipped in peanut butter, strawberries in a yogurt dipping sauce, a snack bag full of grapes or even a box of raisins will provide your child with a variety of vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting antioxidants.
  • Include a dairy. Low-fat dairy is the best dietary source of calcium which helps build strong bones in growing children. Low-fat yogurt in a parfait, cottage cheese and fruit, a string cheese or even a carton of low-fat milk will provide your child with one serving of dairy. The goal is to get 2-3 servings per day.

And remember…to keep your child’s lunch fresh and safe, pack it in a lunch box/bag with ice packs instead of a simple paper bag. This will reduce the chance of food borne illness.

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