The goal every school year is to pack a healthier school lunch but the reality is often busy schedules and picky eaters which means just getting them out the door with any food at all is a miracle!
Simple Swaps Make Big Difference
The trick to pack a healthier school lunch is to start with the kids favourite foods but tweak them or swap out for a healthier version. An example of a simple swap can be to send a cut up apple instead of a cup of apple sauce in their lunch. The added benefit of fiber from the peel, and nutrients from the fresh apple will be greater than those found in the apple sauce.This way kids are getting the foods they like, but they have the nutritional value you are hoping for.
I get that convenience is key and families are busy, but many school lunches I have seen while at my kids school have resembled more of a candy loot bag than a nutritious mid day meal or snack. Kids require proper nutrition to help them learn, concentrate and thrive in school and at after school activities.
Things like chocolate covered ‘bars’, pop, chips, multiple juice boxes, syrup fruit cups, prepackaged lunch boxes, donuts and cake style muffins are OK for a once in a while treat, but theses items on a regular bases are filling the kids with sugar and fats and very little healthy energy.
Check our list and see if you can swap out some of your lunch time staples for a healthier version to pack a healthier school lunch for your kids.
Quick Swaps For Healthier School Lunches
Try these quick swaps and encourage your family to include grains and real fruits and vegetables in their lunch.
IN -> Fruit OUT -> “Fruit Cocktail” Juice Box
Give kids a glass of 100% juice (check the labels carefully) with breakfast in the morning and that is it for the day. With approximately 20 grams of sugar in one juice box, juice of any kind is best limited to one a day. More nutrients are found in the real fruit. Offer sliced apples, melon, grapes, oranges, pears, banana, kiwi, strawberries or watermelon.
IN -> Plain Yogurt with Berries OUT -> Yogurt Tube/Drinks
Buy big containers of plain yogurt, put in single serve container and add frozen raspberries or blueberries before school. Add honey or pure maple syrup for healthier sweetness. By break time there will be a naturally sweetened yogurt with all the calcium and no added artificial colour, flavours or extra sugar.
IN -> Whole Grain Bread OUT -> Packaged Pocket/Containers
Even a slice of whole grain bread with butter is better than processed foods in packages. Find toppings they like such as cheddar cheese, non nut butter, or a slice of nitrate free meat and encourage the switch from white bread and packaged meals to whole grains and protein from home.
IN -> Bars with Grains OUT -> Chocolate Covered Granola
Check that granola bar nutrient list and then compare it to this one. Not all bars are preservative and chemical free and although you may think they are healthy, some contain as much calories, fat and sugar as a chocolate bar. Bake whole grain cookies or muffins with your kids on the weekends – or look for bars (like IronKids Nutrition Snack Bars) that are nut free and contain seeds, barely and grains other than sugary granola. Then stock up! Convenience of a bar that contains nutrients like protein, fiber and vitamins will be the fuel active kids need.
IN -> Water OUT -> Pop
Always. Water IN. Pop OUT.
IN -> Protein OUT -> Bar Muffins, Syrupy Fruit Cups
Try for a few grams of protein in your kids lunch instead of throwing in another packaged convenience food. Slices of cheese, a hard boiled egg, roasted chick peas, hummus for dip, turkey kielbasa or even homemade oatmeal cookies that include hemp and chia seeds, both very high in protein.
A balanced lunch fuels their growing bodies and may help them focus better with less sugar, artificial ingredients and preservatives.
Kids get plenty of ‘treat’ food for desserts, at friends houses and even soccer snacks have turned not so healthy. When sending food to school daily, its worth doing a little extra homework and striving to pack a healthier school lunch.
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