Pack Whole Grains
Sandwiches are a convenient lunchbox breakfast for kids, as they are quick and easy to prepare with various healthy fillings. The first step is to choose quality bread. Children’s growing bodies need the benefits of whole grains. Don’t be fooled by misleading labels with the words "multigrain” or “seven grain” – that doesn’t mean it’s a whole-grain product. Whole grain means all the parts of the grain kernel – the bran, germ and endosperm – are used, allowing for a more nutritious product compared to foods made with refined grains. To make sure a food is a whole grain, the first food in the ingredient list should be the word “whole,” such as whole wheat. You could also use whole-wheat crackers.
Omega-3’s brain food !
One great lunch box idea is a tuna sandwich as most kids like it. Use canned light, albacore tuna as it is lower in mercury levels. Tuna contains an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA, which research shows is associated with improved learning ability, reading, and spelling as well as significant improvement in ADHD-like symptoms. In addition to canned, light tuna, DHA is found in other “fatty fish” such as salmon, tuna, halibut, trout, mackerel, sardines, and herring. For further information about mercury found in fish, go to EPA.gov. Would like to add that walnuts are a wonderful vegetarian source of omega-3’s.
Thumbs Up for Avocado
Avocados are an excellent addition to a lunchbox. They are packed with more than 20 different vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for good health, and they provide healthy fats to help keep hunger at bay until the next meal or snack time. Avocados can even act as “nutrient boosters” by helping the body better absorb certain nutrients from foods that are eaten with them.
Naturally cholesterol-free, avocados are a tasty and creamy alternative to condiments and dips that are high in saturated fat. For a healthy sandwich upgrade, spread some ripe avocado on your child’s sandwich instead of mayo or butter. Or, make a salad and purée fresh avocado with lemon juice and a drop of olive oil to use as a tasty dressing. You can also add some guacamole in their lunchbox; for a healthy dip, upgrade with baked chips or cut up veggies, like bell peppers, cucumbers, or baby carrots.
Beans, beans, beans !
Beans are a protein-packed superfood. They also deliver high-quality carbohydrates that are rich in folate, magnesium, iron, potassium, and fiber. In fact, beans are so nutritious that the latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend we triple our current intake from 1 to 3 cups a week. While beans are incredibly healthy, they’re not the easiest food to throw in your kid’s lunchbox.
Easy ways to get kids to eat more beans are in the form of hummus (chick peas) and homemade baked beans.
Edamame is another convenient form of whole (baby) soybeans that are often popular with kids since they are a fun finger food – kids can pick up a pod and pinch the soybeans out into their mouth.
Fruit and Veggie Delights
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and a powerhouse of important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for good health. Getting kids to eat the recommended servings each day can be challenging.
While it’s easy to toss a banana, pear or bag of carrots into their lunch box, it’s fun to present fruits and vegetables in a more creative way. Try topping fruits with a cinnamon Greek yogurt dip or all-natural nut butter. Vegetables are great for dipping in cottage cheese, hummus, guacamole, or salsa. Grapes are a great way to add sweetness and kids love that they are a finger food. Try freezing grapes for a popsicle-like snack without the added sugar.