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Building a Nutritious Lunchbox

By Paige Brady, August 27, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Paige Brady
To help power an afternoon of learning and growing, experts say a nutritious lunch should include lots of fiber and whole grains, some protein and healthy fat, a veggie and just a bit of natural sugar, like a piece of fresh fruit. Easier said than done, you may be thinking. How do you get them to eat it? Our best advice is to get kids involved in the lunch-making process. They have a vested interest in what goes in their lunch, so put that advantage to good use. Ask them: Would you like grapes or apple slices? How about black bean dip or hummus? Sliced turkey or ham? Carrots or celery? Woven wheat crackers or whole wheat tortilla? Providing nutritious choices sets them up for success. They get control over choosing and you get the piece of mind in knowing that they are more likely to eat the good food you've packed. Another favorite lunch tip is to do the lunch selection and prep work on the weekend, or at least the night before. Anything to avoid morning meltdowns, right?! Now, here's my personal favorite tip: Have your kids choose one main thing that they are going to eat every day for a week. Yes, variety is great but so is sanity. You don't need to turn yourself into a short order cook. Heck, some kids eat the same exact sandwich every single day of the school year. I'm not advocating that. I'm saying that if your kid wants tuna salad, they can eat it for five days in a row and then have something different the next week. Trust me - this makes shopping and packing lunches way easier and I find that food doesn't go to waste. Yeah! Here are just a handful of lunch ideas:
  • Whole wheat tortillas spread with peanut butter sprinkled with raisins or dried cherries, rolled up and cut in two.
  • Hummus and spinach wrap, cherry tomatoes with string cheese, and yogurt.
  • Baked corn chips, black beans, cheese wedges and fresh pico de gallo with jicama sticks.
  • Whole wheat or buckwheat noodles with peanut sauce, sugar snap peas, a pear, almonds and a fortune cookie.
  • Tuna salad with grated carrots, served with crackers or in a pita.
  • Cheese triangles served with pepperoni and whole wheat crackers for stacking.
  • Vegetarian brown rice sushi rolls with soy or ponzu sauce.
  • Smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumbers on mini bagels.
  • Shumai dumplings/potstickers packed cold with ponzu sauce or peanut sauce.
If you want to hear more ideas, you've got to check out the lunch suggestions from over 2,000 readers on The Whole Deal Pack-a-Lunch Contest. Amazing stuff! You can enter your lunch suggestions on that blog post too! The contest ends on September 30th and the details are on that page. (Feel free to comment on this blog post but it won't enter you in the contest.) Looking for more nutrition tips and recipe ideas, check out all of our Back to School resources.

 

8 Comments

Comments

Amy Kayne says ...
I'm very lucky to have a two year old that loves food. Today he had 365 O's, cheese stick, local catalog and peas. His favorite is hummus and spinach on whole wheat pita, cheese stick and grapes.
09/01/2010 1:24:52 PM CDT
noelle segovia says ...
I have a 7 year old son, and yes we are always looking for new ideas for lunch. On a normal basis we will do a sandwich (tuna, peanut butter, or chicken) an apple or orange sliced or dried fruit. I let him pick out some sort of snack( chips, crackers or popcorn) of which W.F. Has a great selection and then I throw in a soy milk! We like to do soup in the winter with baked goods and then the occasional lunch outing from school! The public school system just does not offer proper nutrition choices, so I do my best to make a fun and yummy lunch for my son!
09/07/2010 11:44:46 AM CDT
Danielle says ...
I am always looking for new lunch ideas. While my boys are great eaters and aren't overly picky I don't want lunchbox boredom either. Thank you!!
09/08/2010 8:49:52 AM CDT
Megan Mountcastle says ...
Love these ideas, I think the best tip is to get the lunch done the night before, I like to work on prepping lunch while I'm making dinner. I also agree that it really does set kids up for success when they have a nutritious meal!
09/02/2010 10:29:34 AM CDT
Carrie says ...
I love the back-to-school lunch ideas. I don't have children but I'm using these ideas for my own lunches! Thanks bunches!
09/09/2010 12:40:39 PM CDT
Lisa says ...
I have 5 children ages 10 to 32, yes 32. I have been packing lunches for many many oh my God many years! If you eat at home the way you want them to eat at school, then there is no issue. Peer pressure is what everyone would say, my kids just say I will live a long time.
09/07/2010 9:48:40 AM CDT
Anna says ...
My food allergic 6yo son and I sit down and make a weekly menu before we go grocery shopping. He is one of those kids that repeats a lot of food throughout the week. He gets to make the decisions, Mom and Dad help to guide those decisions. He chooses his morning snack (usually fruit or carrot sticks), his main lunch (usually a sandwich, which we try to switch up by changing the fillers - ham, turkey, soynut butter, soy cheese, etc - and outers - bread, wrap, pita, etc). Lunch must contain either a fruit or a vegetable (apple slices, carrot sticks, grapes, orange slices, etc) and a "treat" (fruit snacks, cookies, Ritz crackers, etc). Afternoon snack is again a fruit or vegetable. They are required to have water bottles at school ,so he has water with snacks and usually 100% juice box at lunch. The menu helps him make healthy decisions that work around his allergies and also help us plan our grocery list and keep the budget in check! Plus, with him making the ultimate decision, it affords him some power over food that he would not otherwise have due to multiple severe food allergies. We hope that it will also prevent him from wanting to trade food (potentially deadly!) with other kids when he gets older.
09/07/2010 10:00:17 AM CDT
Jeanice says ...
How about some suggestions for adults! Packing lunch for myself can be quite trying.
09/07/2010 10:31:25 AM CDT