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Tips for a Healthy Lunchbox

When you are in a hurry of getting your kids off to school, lunch often gets lost. You might prefer giving your child money for lunch rather than preparing and packing a midday meal. But lunch boxes are worth reconsidering because they are far healthier than typical cafeteria meals.
Try these pieces of advice to make sure your child actually eats the healthy lunches you provide …

Make the Grade with Lunch

The healthiest lunchbox must include foods from at least 3 food groups, but that doesn’t mean kids must have the fixed complex of milk, sandwich and a fruit. It’s completely fine to prepare a set of whole-grain crackers, yogurt and hummus or even last night’s leftovers, as well as sandwiches. However, some kids are more comfortable to eat the same foods day in and day out while others balk at it. The key is to respect your child’s eating style and preferences!

Get Kids Involved

Let your children choose their own lunchbox to raise their interest in the meal inside! Also, allowing your children to choose and prepare their own meal of creation make them more involved and less likely to return their lunch box barely touched. For a greater ease in the morning, let your young child help make his own lunch the night before school, you also can guide your child to the appropriate healthy choices and portion of proteins, whole grains… Keep in mind that most elementary school-aged children are allowed to have a mid morning snack, so account for that when considering the amount of food you provide for lunch.

Always Make sure you have healthy choices on hand for your child:

• Fruits
• Whole-grain crackers or breads
• Sliced raw vegetables
• Tuna fish canned in water
• Almond and Peanut butters
• Encourage the kids to make sandwiches with whole-grain baguettes, bagels, tortillas or colorful wraps. Try a veggie burger or a different sandwich fillings, such as feta cheese mixed with tabouli.

How to choose your Lunchbox?

• Consider insulated lunch bags to send foods that must be kept cold, those with rooms for a small freezer pack that allow you to send yogurt, dip for fresh vegetables, and orange juice.

• Use organized and a well split lunchbox to avoid squishing foods.

Practical Lunch Ideas

A sandwich made with low fat meat, chicken breast, or jelly and peanut butter; Vegetables or fruits; and 100% juice or milk is a perfect meal for a growing child lunch. You can boost nutrition and tease a child’s taste buds by combining chopped grapes with diced chicken and mayonnaise for a tasty chicken salad. Add chopped celery, shredded carrots, or water chestnuts to tuna or egg salad. And remember this popular standby: Add a sliced apple or banana to peanut butter sandwiches. To use at least 3 of the food groups, here are some other yummy and easy lunches:

• Tortilla wraps with shredded cheese, chopped chicken, and cut vegetables
• Egg salad, whole-wheat bagel, and fruit
•Whole-grain roll with margarine or butter, carrot sticks and 2 hard boiled eggs.
• Whole-wheat crackers with 250 ml of low-fat yogurt and fruits
• Whole-grain bagel or crackers, 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter and vegetables or fruits
• Whole-grain crackers with 1/2 cup low-fat hummus or cottage cheese and cherry tomatoes
• Stew in a thermos or Bean-based soup, whole-grain roll with margarine or butter and dried fruit

Ease It Up For You Child

• Lunch time is a package of 20 minutes, where children have a little time to make it to the cafeteria, find their seats, eat, and clean up after themselves. However, at some schools, kids eat on the playground, distracted by playing games.
• Younger children will easily discard foods that take time to get ready to eat such as a boiled egg or oranges that need to be peeled, so always use friendly foods for lunch.
• Children with orthodontic devices such as braces often prefer crackers or bread to bagels and bulky rolls, and they do better with foods like applesauce rather than whole apples which are difficult to bite.

What’s to Drink?

• For your child’s lunch, fortified 100% fruit juice and milk are the best drinks.
• Kids less than 9 years require about 3 glasses of milk or yogurt every day, and by their 9th birthday, they require 4 servings/day.
• Dairy products such as Milk are the best for kids to meet their needs and recommendations.
• Providing money for milk or pack containers of milk in the lunchbox to encourage milk at school.
• To make it a treat, offer low-fat chocolate milk.
• If you child refuses to drink milk at school, go for 100% fruit juice fortified with vitamin D and calcium.

Don’t Forget Fun

Every kid has cravings for junk food, so offer healthier alternatives. Pack these fun foods for a healthy treat:
• Baked potato chips
• Nuts or soy nuts
• Fig bars
• Pretzels
• Trail mix or raisins
• Crackers
• Whole-grain cereal
• Sunflower seeds

Christelle Bedrossian
Dietitian-Nutritionist
Beirut, Lebanon

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Dietitian Christelle Bedrossian