School is winding down for the year and often times it gets harder and harder to figure out what to pack for school lunches. Sodas, juice drinks, cookies, hotdogs, and chips- all common school lunch components but none healthy. Over the past years, some schools have improved the nutritional quality of their lunches but it is an area that desperately needs more attention by both schools and parents.
What’s scary is that the obesity rate of young kids to teens is significantly rising and poor lunch options aren’t making things any better. Over 1/3 of our nation’s youth are either overweight or obese. Poor food choices and a lack of physical activity are contributors to this epidemic. So, what can you do as a parent do to help prevent your child from weight control issues?
For starters, making sure that they have a healthy and adequate lunch will put them on the right track. Kids can be awfully picky when it comes to choosing and eating certain foods. In general, there is an overconsumption of high calorie drinks and high fat foods and an underconsumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you are unsure about what your kids may be eating at school, make sure you take a peek at the school menu and consider visiting at lunchtime. You can also inquire about volunteering this year or next to serve the children to get a better understanding to see what they are actually eating.
If your kids are taking lunches from home try to limit the highly processed snacks and give them more fresh food items like fruits and vegetables. If you have healthier foods available at home to make a healthy lunch, you can send your kids to school with the reassurance that they’re getting a nutritious meal.
Follow these 6 tips for packing your kids school lunch:
1. Plan Ahead: Since you can only pack a good lunch if you have the foods available make sure to go shopping at least 1-2 times per week so you will have fresh foods on hand.
2. Get Them Involved: Take your kids grocery shopping with you and ask them to pick out their favorite fruits and vegetables. Allow them to take part in putting together lunches daily so they will get something they enjoy eating and it doesn’t end up wasted in the trash.
3. Avoid High Calorie Drinks: Avoid giving your kids high calorie sugar drinks such as sodas, juices, and energy drinks. Opt for calorie free water or organic low-fat milk.
4. The Main Thing: Sandwiches on 100% whole wheat bread rather than white (natural peanut butter and honey/banana, or natural deli meat sandwich (turkey, ham, chicken, or roast beef loaded with veggies- baby spinach, tomato, mustard) Leftovers from the night before or whole wheat tortillas with minimally processed deli meat, veggies, and low fat cream cheese.
5. Pack Some Color: Skip the highly processed snacks such as candy bars, chips, fruit snacks, muffins, and store bought cookies, cakes, and other desserts. Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables and complement them with natural peanut butter, hummus. Whole wheat crackers, edamame (soybeans), homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit are some healthy options. Air popped popcorn, Greek yogurt, and unsweetened applesauce can provide some additional variety.
6. Gummy Vitamins: Of course you want your kids to eat a variety of foods to get their nutrients but I also want to make my kids are getting all of the vitamins and minerals they need especially Omega 3’s and Vitamin D which is why I have my kids take SmartyPants Gummy Vitamins  and use the specifically formulated Kids Gummy Vitamins  which are an All-In-One Gummy Vitamin  that includes Omega 3’s + Vitamin D. My kids love them which makes it so much easier for them to remember to take.
Keeping tabs on what your kids are eating at lunch is important to make sure they are eating healthy and complete meals. It will help you ensure your kids aren’t skipping the lunch line and heading straight toward the vending machine. Bottom line: aim to nurture their bodies with pure, wholesome foods as close to nature as possible.
Disclosure: I work with the folks at SmartyPants.