If you're like most parents, it isn't always easy to know how to pack a school lunch that is healthy, tasty, inexpensive, easy to prepare, and won't be wasted. Here are some healthy school lunch ideas and guidelines to follow to make sure your kids enjoy their school lunches every day:
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- Nutrition experts recommend that kids eat fruits, vegetables and lean proteins like chicken, turkey or beans in their school lunches. It is excellent advice, but you don't have to set impossible standards for yourself, either.
What I mean is if your kids are used to taking bologna and American cheese with mayo on white bread, don't switch to tofu and brown rice cakes in one day. Make changes to healthier foods gradually. Keep the bologna and cheese, but put it on whole wheat bread, or make bologna and cheese rollups instead.
- Choose natural and/or organic foods wherever possible, especially when picking fresh fruits and vegetables. There are so many convenient natural snacks nowadays, from pre-packaged baby carrots and dip to natural cheese crackers, that it's easy to pack a healthy lunch that doesn't take a ton of time to prepare.
- Use whole wheat bread. If your kids don't like whole wheat bread, try a "white" whole wheat bread, which is made with an albino strain of wheat and has the same nutritional profile as regular whole wheat bread. White whole wheat bread not only looks like white bread, it tastes a bit more tender than traditional whole wheat bread, too.
- Skip the sodas, and limit juices. Soda has no nutritional value. And juices, even 100% natural juices, can be high in sugar and calories. Water and milk are better choices. But if the kids really want juice, try alternating between water and juice, or giving them a choice between juice or dessert. If I had a choice between drinking water and having chocolate chip cookies in my lunch, I'm going to pick the cookies. But that's just me.
- Keep it simple. Most young kids prefer plain foods over fancy, less seasoned foods over spicy, and simply prepared foods over fussy. For older kids, add variety to their school lunches by grilling sandwiches. You can use something easy, like an indoor contact grill, such as the George Foreman Grill and wrap the sandwich in foil or an insulated lunch box. chicken paninis are one of my kids' favorite lunch box foods.
- Pack small quantities of a variety of foods in separate containers. This is not only more visually-appealing to kids, it keeps food from getting soggy and can be a great way to get kids to try new foods.
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