By following these 5 tips for packing a healthy school lunch, you can fuel your child’s brain and body for busy school days!
Disclosure: Today’s post is brought to you in partnership with the Florida Department of Citrus. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and preschool musings are my own. For more information about the Florida Department of Citrus, scroll to the bottom of this post.
It’s that time of year again when lazy summer days turn to structured hours of in-class learning and after-school activities for our children. And that likely means you are bringing out lunch boxes, bento boxes, thermoses, and more to help fuel your children throughout a busy school day. While your child might be focused on their class schedule or who is in their homeroom class, you have their health and nutrition top of mind. Packing lunches at home means you know which nutritious foods they are getting [and hopefully eating].
While the task of packing lunches day after day can be daunting, packing a healthy school lunch doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. By following these simple tips, you can make lunch a healthy and tasty break in the school and work day for your whole family.
You can pack a healthy lunch in minimal time by doing a little preparation on the weekend. Consider buying enough groceries for the whole week, and when you have some spare time during the weekend, wash, peel, and chop fresh fruit and veggies and place them in containers for an easy snack that you can grab from the fridge and drop in your lunch bag [I call this produce prep– pictured below]. You can even make a sandwich the night before as long as you leave out any spreads that might make the bread soggy. Also, try making a list of lunches for the week [along with your dinner plan] over the weekend and packing each one a night or two before. That way when the hectic morning comes, all you have to do is grab a lunchbox or sandwich bag and head out the door.
To help keep you organized when planning out meals for the week, The Florida Department of Citrus has created a printable meal planner and grocery list you can fill out each week. Head over to their site to print them out right at home.
Include All Food Groups
A healthy diet includes all food groups, so use MyPlate as a guideline to structure what and how much should go into your child’s school lunch. You can also think of new ways to enjoy each food group. There are plenty of healthy choices within each food group that provides kids with the nutrients they need. For example, a 4-6 ounce glass of Florida Orange Juice [FLOJ] counts as one of your child’s daily recommended servings of fruit, something many children fall short of. From folate to potassium, I know I’m supporting healthy habits for my school-aged children by packing them a lunch with 100% orange juice OR serving them that glass before they head out the door to start their busy school day!
Get the Kids Involved
While at the grocery store you can talk to your kids about the importance of making half their plate fruits and vegetables while helping them pick out their favorite fruits and vegetables in the produce section. When at home, older kids can also help to make their own sandwiches, wraps, or roll-ups, and even wash, chop, and prep vegetables, while the younger kids might be most helpful verbalizing what they’d like in their school lunch.
Rethink Their Drink
By avoiding packing sugary drinks such as soda, you can instead choose for a 100% fruit juice with no sugar added, like 100% orange juice. With 5 amazing benefits in every glass [taste, Vitamin C, Folate, Potassium, and No Added Sugar], I know my kids are staying hydrated throughout the school day when there are limited breaks for food and drink.
For even more information on the amazing benefits Florida OJ can provide your little ones, check out their website for detailed nutrition information.
Think of Simple Swaps
Many children are satisfied with the same thing day in and day out for school lunch, and that’s OK. If your child isn’t a fan of sandwiches or you want to switch things up, try making pasta salad with whole grain pasta! Mornings can be hectic, and sometimes you may not have time to pack lunches, so it is important to educate your child about picking healthy food choices when they must buy lunch. Make sure they know to avoid greasy, deep-fried foods such as pizza, French fries, and chicken nuggets, but rather to choose healthier options like sandwiches, stir-fry’s, and salads, and to pair their entrée with a fruit and/or vegetable.
Calling all expert school lunch packers, what tips would you add to this list? Do you think your kids would go crazy for a lunch packed with FLOJ?!