The new school year has finally arrived, and you know what that means -- time for parents to start packing lunches again.
And while it’s tempting to quickly throw together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day, it’s important kids are eating a balanced diet.
“The biggest thing is we want to make lunches that A, the kids are going to eat and B, are going to stick with them and help fuel them throughout the day,” said Jennifer Hyland, a registered dietitian for Cleveland Clinic Children’s. “So, my biggest tip for parents is to try to pick something from each of the food groups.”
Hyland said a healthy lunch should include a good protein, grains (preferably whole grains), fruits and veggies, dairy, or a healthy fat.
So, what are some examples?
She said you could make a simple deli sandwich or wrap, pasta salad, and even pack leftovers from dinner.
Another option is putting together a “snack box” which includes deli meat, cheese, crackers, a crunchy veggie, and a fun snack your child can choose.
For younger kids, you should also make sure whatever you’re packing is easy to open or eat.
Hyland said kids don’t get a lot of time at lunch these days.
“The more that we can have things unwrapped, ready to go, smaller things -- especially for little kids,” she said. “You could even use fun food picks to stick in their food and they can eat with that, and it can be quicker, and it can be easier for them.”
She adds it’s also OK to pack snacks like chips and cookies once in a while, but make sure to have nutrient-dense foods too.
As far as drinks go, she said you should avoid anything sugary and give your child water, flavored water or white milk instead.