Packing a school lunch can be daunting and tedious. First, of course, it has to have the snacks or food that your child likes, but you also have to make sure it's healthy and will give them the nutrients and vitamins they need to stay focused and have the energy to kick butt on the soccer field.
So how exactly do you do that? How do you know what foods are best to keep your kid working hard and staying focused all day? Worry not, we've gathered all of the information you need to pack the perfect lunch bag–that will make you and your child happy.
Food to focus on
There are three main food groups to focus on while packing your child's lunch: fruits and veggies, grains, and protein. Start out with making a bigger portion of food, which will act as the "lunch" vs the snacks you will pack as well. Some easy and tasty lunch options include:
- Whole grain turkey wrap
- Ham and cheese sandwich
- Peanut butter and banana pinwheels (check if peanuts are allowed at your child's school before sending this one in!)
Adding protein (meats or nuts) will give your child the energy they need to stay focused and perform their best. You can either include fruit and veggies in this main portion (ie, lettuce on a sandwich) or add them as a side. Apples, bananas, sliced pepper with hummus, etc. are all great choices that look and taste delicious (even for a kid!)
For some more lunch ideas, check out The Food Network's article for 45 easy lunches.
Avoid added sugars
Packing fruits and vegetables as snacks will fill your kid up at snack time. Although they might come home and tell you about their classmates with pre-packaged fruit snacks, and you may be tempted to give in, remind yourself that the average fruit snacks have around five teaspoons of added sugar per serving. Packing them in their lunch is essentially sending them to school with a bag of sugar, which of course, will lead to a sugar crash a few hours after lunch. This will make it hard for them to focus and may even tempt them to lay their head down on their desk for a nap. This is easily avoidable by packing snacks you'll both be satisfied with, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, granola bars (bonus points if you make them yourself–here's a recipe!).
Of course, it's important to also keep in mind that kids deserve treats every once in a while, so packing a surprise now and then doesn't hurt—leftover Halloween candy, a bag of chips, etc. Ask them what they like, and make the decision together!
Do it together!
Involving your child in the lunch-making process is a great way to bond with them and help them feel included in the decision-making. Plus, they'll get psyched to pick and choose their favorite food. There's also a sense of pride in bringing a lunch to school that you helped create. They'll know what's in their bag and will look forward to lunchtime every day!
Something else to consider while making lunch is the weather and season. Seasonal vegetables and dishes are great and can help warm up your child after a snow-fort-filled recess. Also, packing soup or stew in a thermos is a great way to get those whole grains into their bellies, with the added benefit of warmth and comfort. On the other hand, if it’s warm out, you might want to pack a frozen yogurt tube or a water bottle filled with ice and water to keep them cool throughout the day. Ice packs are a great way to make sure their food stays cold and fresh.
Keep em’ hydrated
Lastly, you'll want to ensure your child is getting enough water and fluids throughout the day. Running around in gym class and outside during recess can dehydrate the body, so packing enough water is essential. Again, there will be children drinking juice boxes and other sugar-filled drinks, but there are now many alternative options at the grocery store, such as flavored sparkling water! Send them with a big water bottle they can refill at the water fountain, and they'll be good to go!
Want to ensure your child is getting the water and nutrients they need and that their health is on track? The FitTrack Dara scale is the perfect health tool for families. Not only can you store up to 8 user profiles on one scale, but you can also track important metrics like hydration levels, BMI, BMR, and more!