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Start the School Year Off Right with Healthier Lunches

Start the School Year Off Right with Healthier Lunches

Back-to-school is a time to start fresh—and that includes rethinking kids’ lunchtime routines. With childhood obesity affecting nearly one in five children in the U.S., you may be concerned about keeping your children a healthy weight. Or maybe you’d like to save a little money.

Packing school lunches is a great way to accomplish these goals. As you’re filling their school lunch sacks, aim for veggies and fruits to make up half of the meal. For the rest, use whole grains and lean protein such as poultry, fish, lean beef, eggs, nuts, beans, or tofu.

Try Something New

Try these tasty treats and tricks in your child’s lunch:

  • Tweak kids’ favorites. Instead of using white bread, try bread, English muffins, tortillas, or bagels made from whole grains as the base of a sandwich. Get creative with the fillings, too. Swap out sugary jelly in a PB&J sandwich and replace it with apple slices, banana slices, or raisins.

  • Skip the salty snacks. A handful of a fruity trail mix (made of unsalted nuts dried fruits like cranberries, apples, cherries, and raisins) is a great substitute for potato chips, pretzels, and other salty snacks.

  • Think small. Cheese, rotisserie chicken, melons, and veggies are easier to eat if you slice them into cubes or chunks. Your child won’t need to worry about cutting things up at the lunch table and will have plenty of time to enjoy these healthy foods.

  • Try tasty dips. Instead of salad dressings and ketchup, spice up a sack lunch with salsa. Hummus is another tasty partner to apple slices, whole-grain crackers, cubed foods, and other healthy treats.

  • Be imaginative. Want to make lunch feel interesting, fun, and full of love? Try using art supplies, cookie cutters (to make square sandwiches into fun shapes), cloth napkins, flowers, a note from you, and stickers.

Keep it Cool

Once you have lunch ready, make sure it’s packed properly. When lunches with perishable food aren’t kept cold enough, harmful bacteria can multiply quickly.

These tips will help keep your little one’s lunch at the right temperature:

  • Prepare the food the night before and pack lunch bags right before leaving home

  • Send lunch to school in a soft-sided lunch box or insulated bag that’s made for keeping food cold

  • Pack at least two ice sources (such as an ice pack, frozen water bottle, or frozen 100 percent juice box) with perishable food in any type of lunch bag or box.