A healthy and varied kid lunch box starts with having the essentials on hand. This includes a quality unbreakable thermos (for keeping foods either hot or cold), a thermal lunch bag (to preserve freshness), a freezer pack (to maintain a cool temperature), some plastic cutlery, a reusable drink box and an assortment of storage containers with tight-fitting lids.
Once you have the basics of your kid lunch box assembled you can switch your focus to the kinds of nutritious foods you’ll be packing.
A healthy kid lunch box starts with a balanced meal of carbohydrates, protein and fats.
Above all else, a kid lunch box should contain healthy servings of grains, fruits and vegetables. Where possible, select whole grains over refined flours. The main reason being is that whole grains contain more fiber and nutrients than grains which have been heavily processed.
Kid lunch box staples should always start with complex carbohydrates. When purchasing bread, bagels, pitas, tortillas or even hot dog and hamburger buns choose 100 per cent ‘whole grain’ wheat over enriched white. Remember also that all brown breads are not created equal. Always check the ingredient list to know exactly what you’re buying.
Most kids love deli meats but there’s value in switching to low-fat or fat-free brands of their favorites. With improvements in low-fat versions of deli meats favorites like turkey or chicken breast, ham, roast beef or even bologna may still make your child smile.
Cheese is also a good addition to a kid lunch box but in moderation. Consider low-fat or fat-free cheese. Granted cheese like milk provides calcium but unfortunately it’s also the second leading source of artery-clogging fat in the diets of most children.
If you’re concerned that your child isn’t getting enough calcium in his or her diet consider that calcium is still found in most low-fat dairy products as well as in calcium fortified orange juice.
Like cheese, select fat-free (skim) milk or 1% over 2% or whole. The reason for this is that milk is one of the most common sources of saturated fat in children’s diets.
Vegetables are another must have in a kid lunch box. Never pack a sandwich without adding lettuce or slices of cucumber. If your child balks at the mere mention of veggies you may have to get sneaky and add grated zucchini or carrots to sandwich fillings or blend some into your child’s favorite muffin batter. Another option would be sending along a container of tomato or vegetable juice.
Finally each and every kid lunch box you pack should include at least one helping of fruit whether its fresh seasonal produce or canned unsweetened fruit salad.
When it comes to fruit always offer up new varieties served in different ways. Cubing or slicing up a fruit in a fresh way can make all the difference to a child. Think melon balls instead of melon slices and orange rings (or half moons) instead of orange triangles. Add a yogurt dip and you may have converted a non-fruit lover into one who can’t get enough of her new found favorite.
A healthy kid lunch box is made easy if you routinely stock your kitchen cupboards, bread box and fridge with wholesome foods. When grocery shopping always think about the week ahead and how many school lunches need to be made.