Make Lunches Fun and Healthy This School Year

August 25, 2015

Since school is now back in session, Constance Manion, a clinical and diabetes dietitian with the Certified Diabetes Education Program at Mercy Hospital Ada, has some tips on making school lunches fun and healthy.

"A balanced meal contains protein, fruit and/or vegetables, a carbohydrate and healthy fat,” said Manion. “I recommend having a list of eight to 10 meals that work for your kids and letting them help pick some of the food options, like what type of fruit or whole-grain bread they would like.”

She said it is also important to keep lunches safe by using a frozen ice pack, water bottle or juice box in an insulated lunch box with cold items. To avoid spoilage or leakage, have children purchase milk, chocolate milk or orange juice at school. Also, make sure to wash fruit and vegetables well before packing them in lunches.

Check out these other lunchtime tips from Manion.

Tips for Smarter Sandwiches

  • Instead of bread, try whole-wheat tortilla wraps and whole-wheat pita pockets.
  • Besides lettuce, try shredded carrots or avocado slices with turkey.
  • Buy blocks of low-fat, low-sodium cheeses to save money. Have your child use a cookie cutter to cut cheese into fun shapes.
  • Instead of lunchmeat, try a leftover grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato.

Fun Foods for Lunches

Try these tasty snack ideas:

  • Apple slices to dip into low-fat yogurt mixed with peanut butter
  • Carrot, celery and sweet pepper strips to dip into hummus, fresh salsa, low-fat dressing or homemade bean dip
  • Unsalted sunflower seeds, crushed whole-wheat cereal and sliced banana mixed into low-fat yogurt
  • Celery sticks and peanut butter

'Lunchable' Alternatives

Pre-packaged lunches, like Lunchables, are popular and convenient, but they are expensive and less nutritious. Instead, create your own packable lunch using healthier ingredients. For more fun, pack them into plastic tubs or in colorful plastic wrap. Here are some examples:

  • Cold-cut roll-ups: Roll lean, low-fat turkey, ham or roast beef with low-fat cheese in whole-wheat tortillas.
  • Cold pizza – Use shredded mozzarella cheese with pizza sauce on a flour tortilla, whole-wheat pita, English muffin or mini pizza shell.
  • Cracker sandwiches – Fill whole-grain crackers with low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter and jelly.

This school year, make it your assignment to work with your kids to pack healthier, tasty lunches. For more information, contact Manion at 580-421-1518.

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