A Guide to Healthy Lunches

School Lunch Packing Tips
Whether your child eats everything or has a rotation of limited favorites, there are some things to keep in mind

Whether your child eats everything or has a rotation of limited favorites, there are some things to keep in mind to prepare meals packed with nutrients.

Read labels

Perhaps the most important– and the most time-consuming– habit is to read labels. Try to choose items made with ingredients you recognize, and stay away from added sugars and any of its other names (high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, et cetera). It’s amazing how many things have hidden sugars.
Dr. Jenny Pfleghaar, mother of three from Oregon, and an ER physician currently pursuing an Integrative Medicine Fellowship, shares her sage advice: “Avoid food dyes! Red 40 has been linked to hyperactivity in children and yes, it’s still in your food! Check out that bag of Doritos or fruit snacks next time you are packing your child’s lunch. There are many other choices that use natural colorings.”

“BHA and BHT are other ingredients I steer clear of. It is approved by the FDA as a food preservative but has been linked to cancer in animal studies and banned in other countries. Look for foods that use vitamin E as a preservative or no preservatives at all,” Pfleghaar adds.

Fresh foods

One way to avoid eating these additives is to choose fresh produce/meat and to buy local and/or organic when possible.

Many community supported agriculture (CSA) programs are in the area: Shared Legacy Farms, for example, has weekly pickup locations in Sylvania, Perrysburg, Toledo, Elmore and Port Clinton in the summer and fall. For those who eat meat, Weber Ranch is another local farm that provides “pasture-raised foods delivered to your neighborhood.”

Veggies are key

For those with picky eaters, PIeghaar has some tried-and-true recipes. “One thing I love to make for my kids is black bean brownies and chickpea cookie dough. Both of these are easy to make in a food processor and have no refined sugars in them.”

“Sometimes, it is a texture situation,” continues Pleghaar. “You can always try to make the vegetables different ways: roast them, mash them or sauté them. You could try cauliflower rice. You can eat the veggies with them; we all know adults don’t eat enough vegetables either! Children are more likely to try what their parents are eating.”

In theory, if you continue to introduce your child to healthy eating choices through your own behavior and what you place on his plate, he will eventually come around. After all, many of us were picky eaters and we probably didn’t stay that way!

Meal ideas

Tip: “I love using stainless steel lunch boxes for my children. You can really have a lot of fun creating different combinations. It is basically a healthy, homemade lunchable!”

Boxed Lunch Ideas:
Lunch meat, cheese and crackers paired with fruit is a great combo.

Make it fun with a build-your-own waffle or pancake lunch with sausage, syrup and fruit!

Hard boiled eggs are easy to prepare and a great protein for children.

My older daughter loves to eat leftovers from dinner for lunch sometimes. I heat it up before she leaves and put the meal in a thermos. Soup, rice,chicken marsala– we have tried it all and she enjoys it!

If your child has allergies, sunflower butter is delicious and nutritious! Pair some with pretzels (we use gluten free) and you have a balanced snack for lunch or after school.

Check Out: planetbox.com for lunchboxes that work with specialized meal planning

Easy options:

Breakfast: oatmeal with blueberries, or a hard-boiled egg.

Packed lunch: any fruit (strawberries, raspberries, pineapple, orange), a veggie (cucumber, celery) with hummus, turkey roll-up with lettuce and cheese or cream cheese on a sprouted grain flat bread. A no-bread option: spring roll or veggie sushi roll.

Snack: apple or banana with peanut butter, veggies with hummus, or a bowl of fruit.

Dinner: rice and veggie medley (option to add meat or beans). Leftovers can be packed for lunch the next day!