Packing a good school lunch for your kids can be a science when it comes to packing foods your kids get excited about while also making sure they get all the nutrients they need to keep them powering through the school day. While sending them off with a few dollars or snagging some Lunchables at the grocery might be easier (and the kids might think you're pretty cool), you don't have as much control over what your kids eat — plus, it just might not fit into your budget. Here is a guide that you can use as a starting pointing for packing an awesome and healthy lunch for your kids.
Think balanced. One great resource for knowing what your kids should be eating each day is Choose My Plate. Based on the metrics set by the United States Department of Agriculture, your child should have about one-and-a-half cups of fruit, approximately two cups of veggies, at least five ounces of grains, about six ounces of lean protein and two or three cups of dairy. Keep in mind that these numbers can vary immensely depending on how active your child is and their age. These numbers are for kids between four and 13 years of age who get around 30 minutes of exercise each day. Don't hesitate to check out the Choose My Plate website for numbers specific for your child!
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Use containers to help you with portion size. Sure, baggies are cheap and easy, but consider investing in plastic containers that you can use again and again. You can color code them and mark them for an easy reference. The LunchBlox™ Sandwich Kit is an awesome starting point. It comes with two half cup containers, a one cup container and a two-and-a-half cup container. Put baby carrots in one of the smallest containers and blueberries in the other and your child will have eaten about a third of their daily dose for fruits and veggies!
Play with color. According to the American Diabetes Association, different colors in fruits and veggies indicate different nutrient values. The more colorful you can be with your fruits and veggies, the more your kids will get all the vitamins and minerals they need. So mix it up! Not only will that create a healthier lunch, but your kids will love the colorful array you've packed!
Focus on variety. Again, different foods hold different nutrients but they are all essential to a healthy, balanced meal. Try to stay away from packing grapes every single day as the fruit serving. Add some berries to the mix or combine food groups like putting peanut butter on celery. Also keep in mind that it doesn't really matter how you pack it. The fruits and veggies can be fresh, canned, frozen, dried, whole, chopped or pureed.
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Be creative. Okay, so you've got the basics. Now it's time to be an artist. An article on Today talks about moms who make their kids' lunches more pleasing to the eye and easier to eat. Most lunchtimes are limited to around 20 to 30 minutes so when your kids get to chatting with their friends, they might not eat the balanced lunch you've taken such time to separate into little baggies for them. Instead, try packing lunches in one box all together, arranged in bite-sized pieces that keep your child interested. If you throw a whole apple into their lunch box, they might have a bite and be done with it. But when you slice it up, they will likely eat more, if not all, of it. Check out these LunchPunch® sandwich cutters to make PB&J even more fun! They're BPA-free and dishwasher safe!
At the end of the day, the most important part of lunch is that your kids have gotten the nutrients they need to grow and be healthy. Packing lunches every day might be tedious and time consuming in your morning routine, but the benefits are great and your kids will love you for it. If you find that you don't have time during the week or maybe your shift at work doesn't allow for packing a lunch every morning, use your Sundays to pre-pack. You can even make it a family thing and even recruit your kids' help!
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