Now that students – and parents – have a few weeks of school under their belts, the grumblings of what to pack in lunchboxes can likely be heard.
Meijer Nutrition Education Specialist Beth Eggleston offers a few tips on what to include in lunch and how to pack it to take away the added stress.
Tip 1: Follow a simple formula for a well-balanced lunch
Packing a lunch that students will eat that is not only healthy, but one that won’t cause them to beg their friends to swap is a big cause of stress for many parents.
We suggest following a simple formula of Protein + Grain + Fruit/Veggie + Something Fun to keep their students engaged – and full – until they come home.
- Proteins: Hard-boiled eggs, hummus, turkey, ham, chicken, pepperoni, salami, yogurt, nuts, almond butter, and beans.
- Grains: Pretzels, sweet potato chips, crackers, bagels, bread, English muffins, tortillas, waffles, pancakes, muffins, sweet potatoes, rice, pasta, and granola.
- Fruit: Applesauce, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, watermelon, cuties/clementines, pineapple, mango, mandarin oranges, and raisins.
- Veggies: Carrots (in the chips, sticks, or baby varieties), bell peppers, snow or snap peas, cucumbers, jicama, celery sticks, edamame, and dip.
- Fun: Energy bites, fruit leather, cookie, trail mix, granola bar, chocolate, and fruit snacks.
Tip 2: Food safety matters
Long gone are the days when ham and turkey sammies sat in a warm, metal lunch box for hours until it was time to head to the cafeteria. Food safety is a top priority for parents as they pack lunches each morning.
- Lunch boxes or bags: Many come with freezable gel.
- Food dividers: Use Bento boxes or muffin tin liners to keep foods separate.
- Thermoses: Always preheat the thermos to keep food warm until lunchtime.
- Ice packs: Freeze wet sponges and put them in a zip-top baggie.
Tip 3: Strategic sandwich making
There is a definite art to making a sandwich and here are some steps to do it properly.
- Smear both pieces of bread with fat like peanut butter, almond butter, butter, and cheese.
- Don’t put wet ingredients (need examples) next to the bread; instead, layer in between meat or cheese.
Tip 4: Have kids help with lunch/snack packing
Kids love to get involved in many things around the house, so it only makes sense to include them in the process of packing their lunch. It’s a fun – and easy – way to keep them engaged.
Designate specific bins in the refrigerator or cupboard for grab-and-go lunch packing. Include items like yogurt, fruit cups, hummus cups, veggie slices, string cheese, milk, juice, water, crackers, popcorn, trail mix, granola bars, dry cereal, and applesauce.
Tip 5: Lunchtime hacks
And finally, here are some simple hacks to make lunchtime even easier!
- Freeze PB&J sandwiches, juice boxes, water bottles, and yogurt tubes.
- Soak apple slices in OJ.
- Slice apples with an apple slicer and then put them back together with a rubber band.
- Send halved kiwi with a spoon.
This segment is sponsored by Meijer.