Healthy Brown-Bag Lunches Your Kids Will Love!

Tools

Story Updated: Sep 19, 2012

With the stresses of another new school year, packing a healthy lunch for your kids can feel as tough as a final exam. But don't give up and reach for the PB&J just yet. There are plenty of healthy school lunch ideas to tempt young taste buds.

The keys to any healthy school lunch are portion size and variety, says Jill Kammerer, a registered dietician at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Fla. Because portion size varies by age, weight and activity level, Kammerer suggests visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Choose My Plate site for suggested menu plans and calorie requirements. Once you know how much your children should be eating, try these tips to find a good mix of lunch choices they won't trade with their friends.

Stay Balanced

A healthy lunch should have a mix of protein (meat, beans or nuts), vegetables or salad, fruit or 100 percent fruit juice, whole grains (rice, pasta or bread) and dairy or vitamin D-fortified soy products.

Get Your Child's Input

Ask your child to help plan her lunches for the week, or take her grocery shopping and encourage her to pick something new. Suggest themes, such as Spanish-food week. "If they feel involved, they're more likely to eat it," Kammerer says.

Make Healthy Swaps

Create your own nutritionally superior versions of packaged meals. For instance, instead of buying prepackaged deli lunches -- which are both pricey and high in sodium and preservatives -- go to the deli counter and get slices of lean roast beef or turkey and low-fat cheese. Add whole-wheat crackers, and your kids can make their own mini-sandwiches!

Try Variations of Old Favorites

Take a break from peanut butter in the classic PB&J and use almond or cashew butter instead. Both of these are equally high in protein, and almond butter is also rich in vitamin E. Or put your child's favorite lean cold cuts and cheese in a tortilla for a quick wrap; slice it, and you have fun-to-eat pinwheels. Spread tomato sauce in a pita pocket and add shredded low-fat mozzarella and veggies for a lunch pizza.

Watch for Added Sugars

Fruit cups are often packed in sugary syrup, and fruit strips are usually "fruit" in name only. For healthy school lunches, choose fresh fruit or fruit cups in natural juices to keep.

Go Fresh

"Get them used to things that are fresh," Kammerer says. "The younger you start, the better." Let your kids dip raw vegetables into reduced-fat sour cream jazzed up with spices, or have them choose fresh fruits and nuts for a homemade trail mix.

Make Them "App"-y

Kids love to nibble, so a lunch of appetizers should be a hit. Try baked pita chips with hummus or fresh salsa, cheese cubes and frozen grapes.

Pack Smart Sweets

Flavored gelatin, low-fat pudding, a homemade oatmeal-raisin cookie or graham crackers will all satisfy your kids' sweet tooth without an excess of fat and calories (save the cupcakes for class parties!). But, adds Kammerer, "If your child is overweight, fruit needs to be the dessert."

Have Fun with Presentation

Divided plastic containers can help if you have an eater who doesn't want certain foods to touch. Colorful plastic wrap instead of a resealable plastic bag is sure to bring a smile. And be sure to add a riddle or an "I Love You" note once in a while -- it's a perfect no-calorie surprise!

Add a comment

Name:

Comment: 250 Characters Left

WBNG and its affiliated companies are not responsible for the content of comments posted or for anything arising out of use of the above comments or other interaction among the users. We reserve the right to screen, refuse to post, remove or edit user-generated content at any time and for any or no reason in our absolute and sole discretion without prior notice, although we have no duty to do so or to monitor any Public Forum.

Featured Professional

Women’s Healthcare

Broome Obstetrics & Gynecology, P.C.

Thank you for allowing us to participate in your health care needs. Working together, our physicians, midwives, and nurse practitioners provide exceptional and compassionate care. Our new office in Binghamton, NY provides you with a stress-free setting. From our state of the art ultrasound equipment, to our in office surgical services, we offer a full range of modern and convenient treatment options. This combination of clinical expertise, technological advances and human caring makes this practice unique in Binghamton NY and its surrounding communities.



We believe the reason so many women choose Broome Obstetrics and Gynecology is because we strive to provide the finest, most up-to-date medical care available. Our aim is to take advantage of latest advances in both medical procedures and equipment while treating our patients with the respect, compassion
and dignity they deserve.



We offer full gynecological services including yearly exams, family planning, obstetrics and major and minor surgery. Our physcians are also trained in minimally invasive surgical procedures, including the new technology of Robotic Surgery using the da Vinci Surgical System. Our obstetrical care includes office and hospital visits, delivery and postpartum care. We also provide other services including urogynecology, ultrasound, bone density scans and fertility counseling and treatment. We provide care at both Our Lady of Lourdes and United Health Services Wilson hospital. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.



Video Segments:

Dr. Kondrup - Minimal Invasive Surgeries



Dr. Kondrup - Endometriosis



Dr. Kondrup - Genetic Predispositions



Midwife Wendi Gallagher CNM

Thank you for allowing us to participate in your health care needs. Working together, our physicians, midwives, and nurse practitioners provide exceptional and compassionate care. Our new office in Binghamton, NY provides you with a stress-free setting. From our state of the art ultrasound equipment, to our in office surgical services, we offer a full range of modern and convenient treatment options. This combination of clinical expertise, technological advances and human caring makes this practice unique in Binghamton NY and its surrounding communities.



We believe the reason so many women choose Broome Obstetrics and Gynecology is because we strive to provide the finest, most up-to-date medical care available. Our aim is to take advantage of latest advances in both medical procedures and equipment while treating our patients with the respect, compassion
and dignity they deserve.



We offer full gynecological services including yearly exams, family planning, obstetrics and major and minor surgery. Our physcians are also trained in minimally invasive surgical procedures, including the new technology of Robotic Surgery using the da Vinci Surgical System. Our obstetrical care includes office and hospital visits, delivery and postpartum care. We also provide other services including urogynecology, ultrasound, bone density scans and fertility counseling and treatment. We provide care at both Our Lady of Lourdes and United Health Services Wilson hospital. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.



Video Segments:

Dr. Kondrup - Minimal Invasive Surgeries



Dr. Kondrup - Endometriosis



Dr. Kondrup - Genetic Predispositions



Midwife Wendi Gallagher CNM