Monday, August 12, 2013

Beating the Back-to-School Lunchbox Blues

     As another school year rolls around, the thought of how to keep your kids’ lunchboxes interesting and nutritious comes to mind. While schools have made leaps and bounds in delivering nutritious cafeteria lunches, it’s always good to alternate packed and school-bought lunches. For most parents, we want to strike a balance between sodium-packed Lunchables and fine cuisine.

     Good news! Your Health Matters has gleaned insights from Meritus Health’s experts and scoured the internet for lunch ideas. So, get out your shopping list, we’ve done the thinking for you.

Tips for better eating
     Bridget Krautwurst, RN, director of community health nursing for Meritus Health manages a household of four children ranging in age from five to 14. “I keep a veggie bowl and dip in the fridge, usually hummus, salsas and low-calorie ranch.” Bridget’s kids help pick and chop the veggies and they also make “ants on a log” which is celery topped with cream cheese and raisins (ants). “I like this because it is keeps over night for after school snacking.”

     Brandy Baxter, community health and wellness outreach coordinator and clinical dietitian at Meritus Medical Center spends her days counseling people on how to eat well. She suggests the following:
  • Involve your kids in the lunch-making process for improved buy-in.
  • Make a lunch date with your child and check out what’s being served in the school cafeteria. Are the veggies over-cooked? Is the fruit fresh?
  • Include at least one serving of fruit. Get creative and serve cubed fruit with yogurt.
  • Sneak in some veggies by garnishing sandwiches with spinach and grated carrots.
  • If your child isn’t a milk drinker, find other ways to slip in calcium, like packing yogurt or cheese cubes. 
  • Design your own pre-packaged lunch by purchasing segmented containers. 
  • For busy parents, look for pre-packaged snack packs of baby carrots, sugar snap peas, celery sticks, grapes and apple slices found in your produce section.
  • While it’s great to pack your child a healthy lunch, make sure she can open the containers without any assistance. There’s nothing worse than a hungry kindergartener waiting for help to open her applesauce.

Lunches to love
  • Fresh tomatoes, cheese cubes and salami (pack the night before to mix the flavors)
  • Tortellini soup with chicken
  • Whole wheat wrap, spread with humus and crumbled bacon, chopped tomatoes and romaine lettuce
  • Peanut butter on whole wheat wrap sprinkled with bacon and sliced bananas
  • Pita pocket lined with cream cheese and filled with turkey, spinach leaves and cucumber slices
  • Rotisserie chicken with thinly sliced carrots and barbeque sauce heated and served on a whole grain bun
  • Pita pocket with thinly sliced roast beef, Swiss cheese and store-bought cole slaw
  • Strawberry and cream cheese sandwich

Super snacks
  • Chips and salsa or avocado and Greek yogurt
  • Graham crackers topped with low-fat cream cheese and sliced strawberries
  • Whole grain crackers topped with peanut butter and fruit (bananas, strawberries, kiwi)
  • Soft pretzels and mustard
  • Peanut butter and celery sticks
  • Air-popped popcorn with parmesan cheese
  • Low-fat cheese cubes and grapes
  • Whole grain bagels topped with cream cheese veggie spread

     A favorite of Bridget’s that packs a protein punch are peanut butter and apple cookies. Bridget combines peanut butter, sugar, vanilla, egg, cinnamon and nutmeg together with finely chopped apples. Bake for about 20 minutes and you have a gluten free cookie!

     To start the academic year off right, clear your refrigerator of high-fat lunch meats like bologna, hot dogs, sausage and pepperoni. Ditch white bread, fried chips, pre-packaged cookies and cakes—and save the fruit drinks, sports drinks and soda for special occasions.

By: Anne Gill


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