Tips for making a memorable and healthy school lunch

Keep these tips in mind to help ensure your child’s lunchbox is a healthy one.

Child in red polo eating sandwich
Kids are more likely to eat lunches that they pack, or help pack.

Healthy students are better learners. As a parent or caregiver, you can help your child make smarter decisions by providing them with a colorful and healthy school lunch that will fuel their body and brain. When children skip lunch or consume a low-nutrient lunch, they may have problems concentrating in class and lack energy. Consider the following suggestions when planning your next packed lunch:

  1. Involve your child. Ask your child to help with planning and packaging of lunches. Not only is this an opportunity for you to discuss healthy food options, but you can help include nutritious foods that will appeal to your child. Kids are more likely to eat lunches that they pack, or help pack. Make a packed lunch a positive experience for your child by incorporating colorful packaging, leaving little notes in their lunch, and allowing your child to pick out their own lunch box.
  1. Seek balance and color. Create a balanced lunch that is nutrient-rich and includes a variety of foods from all food groups: grain, dairy, protein, fruit and vegetables. Reference the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPlate to find more information on recommended foods and information on appropriate serving sizes for your child.
  1. Stay away from pre-packaged lunches. Although they are appealing due to the convenience factor, they are relatively more expensive than packing a lunch, lower in nutritional value, include processed ingredients and typically are higher in sodium, fat and calories. If this style of lunch appeals to your child, be creative and use healthier ingredients to create your own look-a-like lunch by buying plastic containers that have compartments where you can divide different foods. Come up with fun options with your child that will allow them to assemble their own food and give ownership over their meal without the added sodium, fat or sugar.
  1. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Keep hot foods hot in a thermos or cold foods cold in an insulated lunch box with an ice pack. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has a great tip sheet on keeping lunches safe. The transition from class to lunch may not allow for your child to have easy access to wash their hands. Pack wipes or hand sanitizer in their lunch box to help remind your child to wash their hands before eating.

Healthy eating is about what works for you. As a parent you can help implement small changes to build healthier eating styles with your child as the new school year is beginning. Michigan State University Extension  encourages small changes that work for your lifestyle such as allowing your child to pack their own lunch with healthy items that appeal to them.

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