Parents don’t always have the best strategies when it comes to packing healthy school lunches. “There are lots of ways to make things more varied, fun and colorful,” says Jennifer Shea, a Boston-based dietitian who works with several grocery chains. Here are some don’ts:
Not involving kids. Let them offer input on new fruits and vegetables they would try and help pack their lunchboxes.
Tossing in chips. As an alternative, have kids create their own bags of trail mix. Possible ingredients: whole-grain pretzels or cereal (anything with at least three grams of fiber and less than nine grams of sugar per serving), nuts, dried fruits and mini dark-chocolate chips. If a child has a nut allergy, dried edamame is a good substitute.
Packing fruit and vegetables plain: Many kids will be happier with a side of dip: hummus or a mixture of salsa and low-fat sour cream is popular for veggies and light vanilla yogurt mixed with cinnamon and raisins for fruit. Also, most kids prefer produce cut into slices.
Relying on white bread: Plain white lacks the fiber that keeps kids full. Go with 100 percent whole-wheat breads or, if your kids won’t eat something “brown,” whole-grain white. For variety, fill whole-wheat wraps or pita pockets with turkey, lean ham, hummus and vegetables or natural peanut butter with 100 percent fruit jam. Or use cookie cutters to create sandwiches with cool shapes.
Packing high-sugar drinks. Choose water, 100 percent juices or fat-free or 1 percent milk over soda or sports drinks.
Including candy. Dessert can be yogurt with a little granola, or fruit with a sweet dip.