10 Tips For Packing Healthy Lunches and Snacks

You’ve spent a summer on the go, full of fun in the sun and not a care in the world. Now it’s time to hunker down and get back to school business. The summer reading is completed, school supplies are purchased, and new clothes are laid out for the first day. Before you head to the grocery store to stock up on healthy ingredients for school lunches and snacks, be sure to read our helpful tips.

one Count One, Two, Three
Healthy lunches are as easy as one, two, three, as long as you include three food groups to ensure balanced and complex nutrition for growing bodies, according to Ashley Bade, RD, LDN, CNSD, Pediatric Dietitian at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Assemble the perfect sandwich by combining whole grain bread for carbohydrates, lean turkey for protein, and cheese or filler vegetables like cucumber slices, lettuce, or thinly sliced carrots.

two Color Their World
When it comes to creating an enticing color wheel, brown is boring and white is less than wonderful. Start with the bread. Flatbread and tortillas are available in a variety of colors and flavors and can be used to create delicious and healthy roll-up sandwiches. For a rainbow of nutrition, make a fun pasta salad with tri-color rotini, using cherry tomatoes, chopped asparagus, and diced carrots or whatever healthy additions your child prefers.

three Take Shape
Cookie cutters can be used for more than making cookies. Ashley Bade adds a little excitement to so-so sandwiches by turning them into fun shapes like hearts, stars, and animals. These miniature sandwiches are also perfect for tiny fingers that might have trouble managing a full-sized slice. (Visit Lunch Punch at www.thelunchpunch.com for a wide selection of sandwich cutters.)

four Make Food Fun
Packing at least five to eight servings of fruits and veggies into your child’s day can be challenging. “You could just give them plain baby carrots and hope they eat them,” says Bade. “Or try celery sticks with cream cheese and raisins and call them ‘ants on a log’ for more fun.”

five Ditch the Deli
Sometimes a turkey sandwich just won’t cut it. Perk things up with a healthy mixed salad full of lean, clean protein like grilled chicken. Bade recommends alternatives to lunch meats such as tuna, egg, or chicken salad.

six Skip the Prepackaged 
Easier isn’t always better. Prepackaged usually means higher sodium, more sugar, and processed ingredients, not higher nutritional value. Bade suggests alternating applesauce, yogurt, or a fruit cup rather than reaching for the prepackaged snacks and desserts.

seven Give Kids the Power
Take a trip to the grocery store with your kids and have them choose their snack and lunch foods. “It increases their investment in the foods, so they’re more likely to try it,” says Bade. Engaging your child by preparing their lunch with them the night before also helps, says Melody Tortosa, RN, fitness and wellness consultant and co-owner of Wellesley’s The Next Level Studio. Tortosa also suggests giving children options, as long as they’re healthy ones. “Ask your child what they prefer to have for lunch but make the choices healthy. Carrots or celery? An oatmeal cookie or fresh fruit?”

eight Take a Dip
Summer may be over, but let your kids go for a dip at lunch. Cut up apples to dip into yogurt, chop carrots for hummus, and buy whole wheat crackers for tuna salad. All are great ideas for little ones, says Chef Ann Cooper, who’s collaborating with Whole Foods Market on a program to offer parents healthy lunch solutions.

nine New Twists on Old Faves
Bag the old PB&J. Kids will go nuts over other types of spreads, says Cooper, who reaches for almond, sunflower seed, or soy nut butters instead of just peanut. Use all-fruit spreads (no added sugar) on whole wheat for the most bang-for-the-bread.

ten Small Lunches for Small Kids
Don’t try to pack everything into one lunch. Tortosa recommends keeping portions small and manageable so they don’t seem too overwhelming.

For back to school recipes, check out www.wholefoodsmarket.com/backtoschool/recipes.php.

Special thanks to Whole Foods Market in Wellesley for the nutritious food featured in our photo.

© 2010 Elm Bank Media | Beth Furman, Publisher Beth@ElmBankMedia.com

Summer 2024