By SHERRI KRAMP
IU HEALTH GOSHEN
School will soon be in session and that means facing the daily challenge of what to pack in your child’s lunch. It can be a struggle to fill a bag or box with nutritious food that your child wants to eat. But don’t despair, it is possible.
First off, you and the kids have to know what qualifies as a well-balanced lunch. A packed meal should include one serving of vegetable, one serving of fruit (fresh, canned or dried), one serving of whole grains, one serving of low-fat or fat-free dairy and one serving of protein, such as meat, fish, eggs, peanut butter, cheese or dried beans.
Second, get them to pitch in. Encourage your kids to help plan the lunch menu for the week, come up with a shopping list with you and go grocery shopping together. Let them know ahead of time that you will buy only what is on the list and then stick with it. Understanding boundaries will help keep stress levels to a minimum. Avoid conflict and arguments and be supportive, but not demanding about what they want to eat. Allow them to browse the many different fruits, vegetables and whole grain sources for ideas that they might like to try another time. Then have them help you pack their lunches.
Sometimes packing a lunch that will be safe for a child to eat can be just as important as packing healthful foods. We all know that having the right tools makes all the difference. To ensure foods stay at the right temperature, purchase insulated lunch bags that are free of BPA and phthalates. Also, having the right size containers and lunch bags with cool-looking designs may entice a child to eat something that he wouldn’t otherwise.
Common challenges found with making a well balanced lunch include:
1. My child won’t drink milk.
The amount of calcium in a cup of milk is also found in:
• 8 oz. chocolate or strawberry milk (mix 2 tsp. of no sugar added flavored syrup into 1 percent or fat-free milk)
• 8 oz. yogurt
• 8 oz. calcium-fortified orange juice
• 1½ slices of American cheese
• 1 cup cooked greens
2. My child won’t eat veggies.
Here are some suggestions:
• Let them have very small portions at first. Pack a ketchup packet
• Try fruits instead. They provide many of the same nutrients as vegetables
• Try new exotic colorful peppers or baby corn
• Try marinara or pizza sauce for dipping (1/2 cup is 1 serving of a vegetable)
• Prepare lettuce wraps using Boston, romaine or leaf lettuce
3. My child is bored with sandwiches.
Change things up with one of the following:
• Bean and cheese quesadillas
• Lettuce Wraps — Fill with chicken salad or wrap ham, pineapple and cheese in romaine lettuce and eat like a taco
• Hummus pocket with pita bread, hummus, veggies and cheese
• Peanut or almond butter on brown rice cakes or a mini bagel
• Pinwheels that can be lunch meat and cheese or peanut butter and jelly on a whole wheat tortilla, rolled up, and cut into slices
• Hardboiled egg, cheese and whole grain crackers
• “Breakfast” for lunch, milk in the thermos and send whole grain cereal such as Cheerios to put in it or make a sandwich or roll-up with leftover pancakes
• Cheese stick roll-up (cheese stick and tortilla rolled up) and pizza sauce for dipping
• Celery w/ peanut butter, hummus, or light Laughing Cow cheese spread
Most importantly, talk to your children. Learn the foods they like. Teach them about the foods they need for their growing bodies. Find ways together to make sure they have the knowledge and ability to eat healthy and tasty foods at every meal.
Sherri Kramp, RD, CD, is a registered dietitian at IU Health Goshen