School is officially back in session, and therefore so is lunchbox packing. For many parents, providing little ones with a nutritious lunch is a priority. But with busy schedules, whirlwind mornings and picky eaters, stocking a perfectly balanced meal every day can get tricky.
“Lunch can seem tough without a microwave or refrigerator,” says Ochsner Eat Fit BR Dietitian Savanna Latimer. “However, with an ice pack and a little planning, a nutritious lunch isn’t impossible.”
To create a healthy, balanced meal for kids that they’ll still want to eat (and you’ll have time to make), Latimer offers her top five tips for preparing school lunches:
1. Have your kids help.
My No. 1 tip is to involve your kids in packing their lunch. They’ll be more likely to eat a healthy lunch if they help prepare it or if they have input on what they have packed for lunch.
2. Plan ahead and prep what you can ahead of time.
Try chopping vegetables as soon as you get home from the grocery store. This way, when you are ready to pack lunch, they are already chopped and ready to go. Also, try prepping lunch the night before while cooking dinner so you aren’t scrambling in the morning.
3. Get creative to get veggies in.
At home, it’s easier to sneak veggies into pasta sauces, smoothies and dishes. However, it isn’t impossible to sneak them into a lunchbox. Add veggies to wraps, sandwiches and pasta salads. Make veggie chips by roasting beets, kale or carrots. Making homemade muffins? Try adding carrots or zucchini for extra veggies!
4. Keep it simple with kid-friendly containers.
Bento boxes allow kids to have a variety of nutritious options that are easy to eat. Keep it simple with a main entrée like a wrap, sandwich or pasta salad and add variety with different veggies, dips, whole grain crackers and fruit to the other compartments for a healthy, balanced lunch.
5. Introduce new foods alongside old favorites.
To introduce new foods into your child’s diet, try pairing them with a food you know they like. For example, try a new vegetable with a dip you know your child loves. If they reject the new food, don’t give up. Sometimes it takes 8 to 10 tries before a child accepts a new food.
To learn more about the Latimer and the Ochsner Eat Fit Program, check out Eat Fit on Facebook or visit OchsnerEatFit.com. For more healthy lunchbox ideas, check out this article from the inRegister archives.