A healthy lunch is composed of at least three food groups, which provide the necessary fuel for learning and play. Ideally, we would find a source of whole grain, lean protein, vegetable and fruit inside every childâ€™s lunch box. This combination provides lasting energy.
From a technical viewpoint, the mixture of long-acting and short-acting carbohydrates from the grain and fruit provide a good foundation for energy, while the fiber from the vegetables can slow digestion and provide a lasting sensation of fullness. Additionally, the lean protein takes a bit longer to digest and can also keep an individual satisfied for longer.
The portion sizes of these foods will vary according to your childâ€™s age and activity level. For example, someone in kindergarten or first grade may only need half a sandwich whereas an athletic high-schooler may need a whole sandwich plus another source of carbohydrates. What you are serving will most likely depend on what you keep in your home. Include your child in the process of making the lunch, so he or she doesnâ€™t come home with a full lunchbox.
When you’re planning lunches for the week, explain what needs to be included with each one and get your child involved. Some suggestions include:
- Long-lasting carbohydrates: Whole wheat bread, bun, tortilla or pita
- Quick-energy carbohydrates: Sliced banana or apple, raisins, honey
- Lean Protein: Peanut butter, crabmeat, chicken, turkey, ham, lean roast beef, tuna, hard-boiled egg
- Veggies: Lettuce, spinach, cucumber, tomato, bell peppers
- Low-Fat Dairy: Shredded cheese, sliced cheese, soft cheese spread, Greek yogurt
- Healthy Spreads: Peanut butter, honey mustard, hummus, black bean dip, light cream cheese, light mayo, avocado
There are a variety of ways to meet the criteria for a healthy lunch using a crisp salad, fresh sandwich, or tasty wrap. Using the staples mentioned above, you could make any of the following:
- Elvisâ€™ Favorite: Peanut butter and banana
- Veggie delight: Sprouts, provolone, & honey mustard
- Mediterranean: Pita with hummus and roasted red bell peppers
- Sweet Nâ€™ Spicy: Jack cheese, thin slices of green apple, mayo
- South of the border: Chicken, black bean dip, tomato and avocado with a squeeze of lime
- Under the sea: Open faced with tuna salad; pack the tuna in a separate container and spread on bread or bun at school
- Tea time: Herbed cream cheese, hard-boiled egg, and cucumber
- Cinnamon Roll: Cream cheese on whole-wheat cinnamon raisin bread
- Turkey and cheese roll-up
- Philly beef and cheese with peppers wrap
- Hawaiian wrap with ham, cheese and pineapple
- Personal pizza wrap with turkey meat balls, shredded cheese and assorted vegetables
- Veggie wrap with hummus and assorted vegetables
- Taco wrap with refried beans, Greek yogurt, shredded cheese and vegetables with guacamole and salsa
Once your entrĂ©e is complete, augment your creation with an assortment of raw vegetables and fresh fruit!
Try not to settle on the same old lunch routine as last year. Remake that lunchbox as a new beginning to fun and creative lunches.