A nutritious meal is one that is filled with fresh foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and lean protein. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to get those things at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Here are some healthy ideas for packing lunch that will make them deliciously nutritious.
Fresh Is Best
Always include enough fresh fruits and veggies so your child has plenty for lunch and a mid-morning and afternoon snack. Be sure to use a wide variety to keep your little ones munching their way to 7–9 a day.
Sneak spinach, Napa cabbage or other dark greens into a sandwich instead of iceberg lettuce.
Reduce the Saturated, Trans Fats and Chemicals
Use lunchmeats that are nitrite and nitrate free. White meat turkey is a lean and a healthy choice for sandwiches. For a homemade touch, roast a free-range turkey breast for dinner and make sandwiches with the leftovers. If your children likes salami, ham, roast beef and other red meats, serve them only on occasion because they contain too much saturated fat to be eaten on a daily basis.
Replace cheese with mashed avocado for a creamy texture and healthy fat.
Replace mayonnaise with mashed avocado or brush the bread with extra virgin olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar.
Pack a handful of nuts for a filling snack. Almonds are a nutritious choice.
Pack nut butter sandwiches on whole grain bread. Buy nut butters without added oil or sugar. Try sneaking almond butter into a sandwich by mixing it with peanut butter. Click here for a comparison between the different types of nut butters.
Hummus travels well in small containers and is a tasty main course for lunch. Include fresh vegetables like; broccoli florets, sugar snap peas, or carrots for dipping.
Add Whole Grains
Pass on the protein bars and fried snacks like chips. Instead, pack whole grain versions of crackers, rice cakes, pretzels or your child’s favorite whole grain cereal. Keep in mind that 100% wheat isn’t whole wheat. The ingredient label must read “whole” wheat.
Use whole grain breads instead of white bread. Alternate different shapes and types of bread like pita, wraps, tortillas, artesian loaves, etc. to maintain your child’s interest.
Reduce the Sugar
Don’t let your kids drink their calories. Skip the sweetened juice and sports drinks and pack water, 100% orange juice, soy milk, or rice milk instead. If juice is your child’s preference, orange juice is an excellent choice because it’s packed with Vitamin C and also has folic acid.
Lastly, limit sweets and desserts to one a day. Kids often tear open their lunch and eat the sweet foods first, filling their tummies so they are not hungry for their real lunch. A fresh fruit salad or dried fruit is a satisfying substitute for candy and cookies.