School meals for your children are important. If you think about it, they eat one third of their meals during the school year at school, so the eating habits that they build during that time are important. Many times, lunches that are provided by the school are neither particularly healthy nor nutritious. So, how can you ensure that your child gets a healthy, nutritious lunch during the school year? One way is to pack your child’s lunch, thus ensuring they get a healthy meal. How do you pack a healthy meal? Below are some suggestions and tips on how to do just that.

Pack a Variety
By packing a variety of food choices, you can help ensure that your child will get some of their necessary food intake. What should this variety include?

  • Some variety would include vegetables, fruit, different types of grains, protein and dairy products.
  • Within these categories there are a ton of food options to choose from. This can include in-season fruits, healthy sandwiches and snack vegetables such as carrots or sliced peppers.

Remember, you child needs a certain amount of servings every day of these different types of foods, so try to make sure they get at least some of those during their lunch hour.

Try to Cut Out the Bad
As many of you know, unhealthy foods are all around us. It is hard to find foods that are clear of all the additives that are typically found in food today. One such additive can be sugar, which is considered an empty calorie.

  • An empty calorie is a type of food that technically gives energy but is not nutrient dense. In other words, it is not very nourishing for your body. These foods have very limited benefits for your body and should typically be used sparingly.
  • The problem is that many snacks, or even more “regular” food, have sugar and other additives in them. For example, only one can of Coca-cola has a whopping 8.25 teaspoons of sugar. That is an incredible amount of sugar for a can-sized beverage.
  • What about snack food? A 60 gram Butterfinger candy bar has 7 teaspoons of sugar. Sugar is practically everywhere in our food today.

To start cutting out bad food choices, first try limiting overly-processed foods such as candy bars, sodas and chips that are loaded with sugar and other additives. This can include Snickers, Milky Way and Twix bars. It also includes beverages like Coca-cola, Pepsi and Sprite.

Pack Nutritious Food
Nutritious food is still available. The trick is to pick healthy options within the variety listed above. There are lots of options.

  • Within the grain category there are whole wheat breads, brown rice and oatmeal.
  • In the vegetable section, there is broccoli, tomatoes and avocado.
  • In the fruits category, you have apples, bananas and different kinds of melons.
  • In the protein section, pick leaner cuts of beef, lamb and skinless chicken.
  • For non-meat options, pick different types of beans and seeds.
  • For dairy options, low-fat milk, yogurt and certain cheeses can be great choices.

These are just some of the healthy, nutritious options available for you to use. A simple tip to keep in mind is to try to consume foods that are processed as little as possible, thus cutting down on the additives like sugar.

Unhealthy food options are everywhere. Lunches provided by the school are not always particularly nutritious either. Thankfully, you can start packing your child’s lunch, and by utilizing the general guidelines above, provide them with a healthy and nutritious meal.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Katlyn Lytle Rushing, PA-C