Packing goodness into lunch

Many schools are taking steps to improve the quality of student lunches. They are limiting fats and sugars, including fruits and vegetables and avoiding highly processed foods. Here are some tips on how you can do the same for your child:

  1. Always include a serving of fruit. Ideas include any fresh fruit, canned fruit packed in its own juice or dried fruit.
  2. Always include at least one vegetable serving. Fresh vegetables cut into fun shapes makes them more appealing. Include a small container of ranch dressing or salsa for dipping.
  3. Include a source of calcium. The best and easiest option is to have the child purchase white milk at school. This will include calcium and vitamin D, avoid the added sugar of flavored milks, and the school will keep it cold. If your child will not drink white milk, pack low-fat yogurt or string cheese.
  4. Variety in the entrée. Get creative with the sandwich. Cut it into different shapes. Use different breads such as tortilla wraps, pita bread, English muffins or mini bagels. Substitute a salad topped with cooked chicken, tuna or a hard-boiled egg for the traditional sandwich.
  5. Lunch does not need dessert or chips. Kids occasionally may enjoy those items but should not expect them every day. Parents should ask, “Is the food I am placing in my child’s lunch going to help their health or make them happy?” To help brighten a child’s day, include a personal note, sticker or pencil instead.

Keeping these tips in mind will help keep lunches healthy and fun to eat.

~ Heather Fortin, RD, CSP, CD, clinical dietitian specialist, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

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