With summer vacation winding down, the team of nutritionists at MARTIN’S Food Markets is offering several ways for families to think outside of the lunchbox and start the new school year off on a healthier note. Soon many parents will be faced with the daily task of packing a lunch that tastes great and provides needed nutrition and energy to last through the school day.
Involve your child in planning their lunch meals from grocery shopping to meal preparation like washing fruits and vegetables, mixing ingredients together, and portioning out snacks into plastic baggies. Check out these ideas from MARTIN’S nutritionists on ways to pack a healthy lunch that won’t be traded in the cafeteria:
- For sandwiches, choose whole grain, raisin or cinnamon bread, a mini bagel, a tortilla wrap or a pita instead of plain white sandwich bread. If you’re unsure, check the ingredient list for “whole grains.” For added fun, cut your child’s sandwiches into fun shapes with large cookie cutters.
- Select sliced lean or low-fat brands of lunch meat like turkey, chicken, lean ham or lean roast beef in place of fatty luncheon meats.
- For children who don’t like sandwiches, low-fat cheeses paired with whole grain crackers can be a healthy alternative, while still providing similar nutrition content.
- Toast whole grain waffles and spread with almond butter and fruit-spread (jam with no added sugar), cut in half and put in plastic zip top bags while warm. By lunch or snack-time, they will be a perfect texture to eat.
- Make lunches as bright and colorful as possible using plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Cut up fresh veggies and pair with low-fat ranch dressing, peanut butter or any nut butter, sunflower seed butter, veggie dip, low-fat plain Greek yogurt, or hummus. Try threading grapes, blueberries, orange segments and other fruit favorites on a plastic coffee stirrer. Make veggie kabobs with cucumber chunks, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper wedges, and other veggies.
- Have kids make their own trail mix, and limit the chocolate chips, preferably dark chocolate, to one tablespoon per baggie. Mix: whole grain cereal, dried fruits like raisins, dried cranberries, or dry mango-pieces, sunflower or pumpkin seeds (or nuts), and whole grain pretzels.
- Make your own portion-sized snacks. For a healthier snack that satisfies salty, crunchy cravings, replace potato chips with a baggie of low-fat microwave popcorn or consider corn or whole grain chips and salsa.
- Introduce a new food every week. When you and your child are grocery shopping, have them agree to pick out one new fruit or vegetable to try for that week. Think kiwis, honey crisp apples and mango slices, or butternut squash, eggplant and jicama.
- Keep your kids guessing by changing up the lunchbox routine. The same meals can get boring for kids. Try rotating the types of protein, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains you use so it keeps them interested.
Be sure to add an insulated lunch bag and ice pack to your school supply list. Packing your child’s lunch in one of these will help to keep foods cool all morning. Or place a frozen water bottle into the insulated bag in the morning and it will not only keep the food cold, but will be thawed to drink at lunchtime!
For more healthy tips visit www.martinsfood.com/healthyideas.