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

Family Audiology

Family Audiology PLLC

Family Audiology is the only AudigyCertified provider in the area. This certificate is one that we are particularly proud of, as our membership in Audigy Group places us as one of the top 250 private hearing care practices in the nation, all of whom adhere to the same set of patient care standards Family Audiology stands for.

Family Audiology’s vision is to become the most respected and sought after hearing provider in Greater Binghamton. We will earn our customers’ loyalty through enthusiasm, integrity, and teamwork; providing the most innovative technology and superior, competent care.

We offer comprehensive, diagnostic evaluations and specialized tests and treatments for patients of all ages that are challenged by hearing loss.

Click HERE for your guide to financing your hearing aid.

Family Audiology is a privately owned business whose audiologists’ diagnose, treat, and manage individuals with hearing loss or balance problems. Kristi and Jaime have academic and clinical training which provides the foundation for patient management from birth through adulthood. Evaluation is used for appropriate patient treatment of hearing and balance problems by combining a complete history with the assessment of a variety of specialized auditory and vestibular tests. Based on the diagnosis, a variety of treatment options will be presented as part of a comprehensive rehabilitative program. This may include dispensing and fitting hearing aids, performing additional hearing tests, referring patients for medical treatment, and providing hearing rehabilitation services.

The professional environment at Family Audiology is designed to make the patient comfortable. If your hearing loss will benefit from a hearing aid, you will be shown everything you need to know about hearing aids…if you need consultation, you and your loved ones will have explanations which will help you understand…if you are unsure whether or not you need a hearing aid, you will be provided the help you need to be comfortable with your decision.

Sometime in your life you have probably seen someone who is missing out on the little sounds of life…the ticking of a clock, the ringing of a phone, the lower (or higher) tones of voices. It’s not about what you are hearing; it’s about what you are missing, and what you don’t know you are missing!

Family Audiology cares about what you are missing!

Family Audiology is the only AudigyCertified provider in the area. This certificate is one that we are particularly proud of, as our membership in Audigy Group places us as one of the top 250 private hearing care practices in the nation, all of whom adhere to the same set of patient care standards Family Audiology stands for.