Dust off the Dora lunchbox, school is back in session. And like every busy parent, you may be thinking, “what else can I pack in my kid’s lunch besides PB & J?” And with the risk for allergies, you may not be able to even pack that! Thankfully, there are lots of other options available.
Unless you’re living in California where Caesar salad is the norm, school lunch may or may not have much to offer. Many schools offer ‘kiddy’ favorites’ like chicken nuggets and burgers and fries, which are not very nutritious and may lead to poor eating habits over time. Below are some new ideas for lunch.
- Beans are an excellent protein source, as well as being high in fiber, folate, zinc and iron. Serve cold black beans in a salad tossed with tomatoes, corn and quinoa, or warm them up and transfer to a thermos with rice.
- Wrap sandwiches. Have your child pick their favorite filler such as hummus, turkey breast or refried beans. Tuck in some fresh spinach, salsa and shredded cheese and voila!
- It’s no wonder fruit is the number one snack among kids. It’s packaged simply and there’s a wide variety to choose from. Pick some seasonal favorites like apples, grapes, peaches or plums.
- Tuna salad. Fish is known to be brain food because of its perfect amino acid profile. Toss white albacore tuna with some light mayo, sweet relish and chopped apples for something different. Serve with whole wheat crackers or pita.
- Trail mix. No time to make a sandwich? No problem. Grab some almonds, Chex or Cheerios, dried fruit and throw it in a baggy. Add a banana and milk money and your job is done.
- Lunchables. Bad choice. These tiny trays of processed meat, cheese and refined crackers are overpriced and over-salted. You’re better off packing whole grain crackers, string cheese and fruit, which is just as simple.
- Mac n’ cheese. While macaroni has some nutritional value, the typical enriched elbows and cheese dust that make up boxed mac n’ cheese served in most cafeterias is little more than refined carbs, fat and salt.
- Granola bars. Disguised as ‘health food’, most granola bars are little more than oatmeal with chocolate coating, a few nuts and a lot of sugar. Don’t fool yourself.
- Juice boxes. Though many juice boxes contain 100% fruit juice, your child is better off eating fruit than drinking the nectar. Juice contributes excess calories and sugar- two things most kids don’t need.
- Soft white, ‘wheat’ bread. Sorry Charlie. All bread is ‘wheat’ bread. Companies are just trying to market this as whole grain, when it really isn’t. Unless the first ingredient reads “100% whole wheat flour”, you’ve got an imposter flanking your lunch meat.