Good nutrition is essential for your child to have a great day at school. Packing a sack lunch is one way to ensure that your child will have a nutritious mid-day meal, and even a healthy snack or two. The right lunch bag and accessories will allow you to pack a variety of healthy foods that are still tasty enough to please even the pickiest eaters.
Lunch Bag TechBrown paper bags may be convenient and inexpensive, but they rip easily and don’t help keep cold foods cold or hot foods hot. They are fine for a peanut butter sandwich and an apple, but not for much else. Metal or plastic lunch boxes with insulated beverage containers are one step up from the brown bag because they are sturdier. Your child can take a hot or cold beverage with his lunch, but it is still difficult to control the temperature of the foods — so food choices are still limited. Insulated lunch bags are the best choice for school lunches. Some insulated lunch bags are equipped with freezer packs; you can also buy freezer packs separately. There are bags with two or more compartments, so foods and beverages can be kept separate. Insulated lunch bags can be very fashionable as well. Some look more like a trendy purse or tote bag, and there are plenty of novelty bags to please any boy or girl. The insulated bag and freezer packs will keep your child’s lunch cold and, therefore, safe and fresh. Of course, your child may get tired of cold foods every day, so you also need insulated food jars for hot foods. Pick up a few plastic containers in smaller sizes and sandwich bags, too, and you’ll be prepared to offer your child a variety of hot and cold healthy foods.
Healthy Lunch Bag IdeasSandwiches are a popular choice for a school lunch. Remember that meats, dairy products, and eggs are perishable, so be sure to use a freezer pack to keep them cold. Choose whole grain bread, wraps, or pitas. If your child resists whole grain breads, use bread that is made with some whole grain but still has the flavor and texture of white bread. Each sandwich should have a healthy protein source and healthy toppings. Some suggestions: • Tuna sandwich wrap with light mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes • Egg salad sandwich on whole grain bread • Peanut butter, cashew, or almond butter with a 100 percent fruit spread on whole grain bread (a healthier PB&J) • Sliced turkey, lean roast beef, or chicken from the deli–or left over from last night’s dinner–with light mayonnaise, mustard, and a slice of cheese What should you send along with the sandwich? A piece of fresh fruit is healthy but can get a bit boring after a while. Skip the greasy chips and choose from these healthier ideas, just remember to keep perishables cold: • Send a salad in a small plastic container. Keep the dressing on the side in a separate smaller container. • Cheese sticks go well with sandwiches and are a good source of calcium. • Whole grain snack crackers add a nice crunch and lots of healthy fiber. • Make a fruit salad with grapes, melons chunks, and blueberries. • Dried fruit, like raisins, dried cranberries or banana chips • Nuts like almonds, cashews, or walnuts • Pack a cold pasta salad, cole slaw, or potato salad. • Baby carrots with a small container of vegetable dip • Crunchy raw green beans with a small container of ranch or french onion dip • Prepackaged, flavored low-fat yogurt
Think Beyond the SandwichWith insulated food jars, you can send hot foods to school, too, like leftovers from that delicious meal you made last night. Make sure the foods are heated up to at least 140 degrees before you load them into the insulated jars. Here are some hot food ideas: • Beef and vegetable stew with a hard roll • Chicken noodle soup and whole grain crackers • Lasagna with a salad and bread • Chicken casserole with carrots and vegetable dip. • Chili with whole grain crackers or bread • Left over stir-fry or sautéed vegetablesWith the right lunch gear, your child can enjoy a delicious and healthy lunch every day. Add a small cookie or tiny piece of candy for dessert along with juice, milk, or water for a complete healthy and fun meal.