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Healthy Kid Lunches

Friday, May 29, 2015
Healthy Kid Lunches

In the rush of life, it can be hard to remember to make healthy food choices. Packing a healthy lunch for the whole family can be easier with a little bit of planning.

The First Step: Plan

Preparing a quick, healthy lunch may seem impossible on days when there are so many other things to do. The first step toward a healthier lunch is planning for it. As you prepare your grocery list for the week, make sure to add foods that will make it more convenient to pack your family lunches. Try planning out your meals before the week starts so you know exactly what to pack when you're rushing to get out the door.

What to Pack: 3 Tips

A healthy lunch includes a variety of food groups to give you the nutrition and energy you need throughout the day. Doylestown Health nutrition expert Audrey Fleck, MS, RDN, LDN, CFSP, offers three tips for choosing what to pack.

1. Protein First

Protein helps support healthy blood sugar and also contains amino acids (building blocks of protein) which can help with alertness and healthy mood.

Simple options include:

  • Leftover dinner meats, such as grilled chicken cut into strips
  • Greek yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Cheese sticks
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Canned salmon

More protein options

2. Choose Better Carbs

Try to avoid refined carbohydrates (processed and/or enriched white or wheat flour). Refined carbohydrates tend to spike blood sugar very quickly leading to bursts of energy rather than sustained energy needed during the day.

Simple options:

  • Look for sprouted bread (such as the Ezekiel brand). Sprouting grains make nutrients more available for absorption and are easier to digest.
  • Sweet tooth? Fruit contains naturally occurring sugar. Try adding fruits like bananas, grapes, apples or oranges.
  • Salt-lover? Try vegetables like peppers or carrots paired with a dip such as hummus or guacamole.
  • Incorporate whole grains. Try exchanging white bread for whole wheat, or white rice for brown rice.

More whole grain options

3. Balance Check

The most important thing to remember when packing a healthy lunch is to seek balance. Remember to include all of the following for a complete, nutritious meal:

  • 50% of the meal should contain non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, or tomatoes.
  • 25% should contain carbohydrates such as sprouted breads, beans, hummus, potato or grains.
  • 25% should contain protein such as meat, eggs, fish, cheese, nuts or seeds.
  • Small amounts of fat should also be present. Choose healthy fat options like avocados, nuts, seeds or olive oil.

Sample Health Lunch

  • Turkey wraps - Turkey, lettuce and tomato slices in a whole-wheat tortilla
  • Blueberries
  • Baby carrots with a mini guacamole
  • Skim milk

Healthy Kids Lunch Box Ideas

Follow Doylestown Health's board Healthy Kids Lunch Box Ideas on Pinterest.

A Healthy Direction

"If you are packing your child's lunch, you are already taking a step in the right direction," says Fleck. "Providing healthy lunch choices as mentioned above will support your child's growth, development and performance in school."

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