By Kristi Winkels, RDN, LD
Another school year is beginning and, for many parents, so is the daily lunch packing ritual. It can be tough to come up with nutritious lunch options that kids love! Here are 5 tips to inspire your lunch packing creativity for the new school year:
Use the My Plate method to plan a balanced lunch. Include a serving of fruit, vegetable, whole grain, protein, and dairy for a meal that is nutrient dense and keeps your child satisfied for the rest of the day.
Try mixing fruits and veggies together in one container. This way, the sweet flavor of the fruit rubs off on the less sweet veggies. Baby carrots mixed with grapes or raisins or celery sticks with apple slices are just two combinations to try. Also try offering hummus or a Greek yogurt-based dip to inspire the less than enthusiastic vegetable eaters.
Get creative with presentation. Cutting a vegetable or sandwich differently can make a surprising difference. Try cutting a sandwich into four pieces – either squares or “strips” - or use cookie cutters to cut into fun shapes. Cut vegetables into different shapes, too! Try carrot coins or cucumber wedges.
Invest in fun lunch containers. A Bento box style lunch container keeps foods separate but in one container making it easy for kids to open. An insulated food jar keeps heated leftovers such as soup, stews, and casseroles warm for lunch. Be sure to include an ice pack to keep cold foods safe to avoid food poisoning.
Involve your kids in the planning and packing. This gives them a vested interest in lunch making it more likely that they will eat it. Plan out lunches for the week and encourage them to pack their own lunches (with your help, if needed). When grocery shopping, encourage them to pick out a new fruit or vegetable to include in their lunches. Parents can be good role models by packing their lunch, too!