What NOT to Pack for Your Child's Lunch!

Feeding your children right might seem to be one of life's greatest challenges, but it's a lot easier than you think. Since many hot lunches served at schools are more salt, fat, sugar, and calories than nutrients, returning to the brown bag is a good idea. Besides, eating nutritiously doesn't take any more time and it is easy to fix yummy brown bag lunches that even the fussiest child will like. Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness joined us to give us some tips and suggestions for feeding our kids right.

What Not to Do:
Do not resort to the quick fixes: Lunchables, fruit leather, Gogurt, etc.  For example, a Chicken Dunks Lunchable has more than 8 teaspoons of sugar, half your child’s daily limit for fat, and no fiber, while the Ham & Cheddar Cracker Stackers or the Nachos Cheese Dip & Salsa have a full day’s limit for fat and sodium and as almost the same amount of refined sugar. Yoplait’s GoGurt has more than 2 tsp of sugar and Ritz Cracker Sandwiches are almost half fat calories and 400mg sodium.

General Guidelines:

1. The Brown Bag always should include the 4 food groups: A whole grain, at least one colorful fruit or vegetable, a low-fat milk product or calcium-rich alternative, and a protein-rich item.

2. Include only 100% fruit juices, preferably OJ. "Fruit Drink" or "Fruit Punch" or "Made with fruit juice" are all signs that the beverage is primarily sugar. Even juices made from apple or pear juice are more sugar than fruit.

3. Use low-sugar ways to sweeten desserts. For example, lightly sprinkle apple slices with cinnamon sugar for a sweet taste.

4. Pare familiar foods with unfamiliar foods. For example, a study from Baylor University found that kids ate more vegetables if they were dunked in peanut butter, add green peas to Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup, or dip pineapple chunks  in strawberry yogurt.

5. Sneak healthy foods into the lunch. Include a low-fat muffin packed with fruit instead of a cupcake.

6. Yogurt: Skip the fruit, flavored, or designer yogurts. Buy nonfat or low-fat plain and sweeten it yourself with some fresh fruit and jam.

7. Buy a roasted chicken and use the meat for sandwiches throughout the week, which is far better than the nitrite-laden luncheon meats on the market.

8. Leftovers from dinner. This can be a great way to use up leftovers. Hopefully you have some nutritious combinations you can put together. Plan to make extra servings of healthy dinners to pack for lunches the next day. When you are making a salad for dinner, chop up extra veggies to put in the lunch the next day, like cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, jicama, tomatoes.
9. Short on time? Freeze your sandwiches. We save time during the week making sandwiches on Sunday for the next week and freezing them. This works with turkey and cheese or peanut butter sandwiches. You can't freeze lettuce or tomato, so bring these on the side. Keep the sandwiches in a sealable plastic bag. They will be thawed out by lunch and not in the least bit soggy. 
[PROPS: Selected props from above tips]

A Weeks’ Worth of Yummy, Nutritious Brown Bag Lunches:
1. Peanut butter candy sandwiches" (mix equal parts wheat germ and peanut butter sweetened with honey and spread over whole wheat bread) The nutrients most likely to be low in a child's diet are iron, calcium, and zinc. 1/4 cup of wheat germ supplies 25% of iron needs and 50% of zinc needs of a first or second grader. Add a carton of low-fat milk and a piece of fruit.

2. Pasta Lover's Lunch Salad. Pack a cold pasta salad and a plastic fork, and your pasta lover will love you, too! Make the salad with lean meat or low-fat cheese (so it has some protein), lots of vegetables to boost fiber and nutrition, and whole wheat or whole-grain pasta. Toss everything together with a light bottled vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil or canola oil. Add a carton of orange juice, and a healthy energy bar for dessert, such as a Kind all fruit and nut bar.

3. Whole wheat pita bread filled with turkey, chicken breast, black beans, grated vegetables, and brown rice. Serve with a carton of yogurt and a clamshell of berries.

4. Burrito or Quesadilla: Rolled up or grilled whole wheat tortillas filled with a thin layer of fat-free cream cheese and chicken or fish (like smoked salmon) or filled with rice, beans and cheese. Serve with a carton of chocolate milk, watermelon chunks, and a whole wheat fig bar.

5. Make a yogurt parfait with plain yogurt and cut up fresh fruit. Sprinkle with raisins or granola or trail mix as a topping. Pack in an insulated thermos. Serve with graham crackers and peanut butter, a bottle of orange juice, and an oatmeal cookie.





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