Has this ever happened to you? It’s 8:45 in the morning and the school bus is scheduled to arrive in three minutes when your child announces that, oops, there’s no hot lunch today because the class is going on a field trip. Not only do you have to pack a suitable lunch in 2 minutes, but you have the world’s pickiest eater watching over your shoulder.
If you let your child choose, he or she will likely pick soda (instead of milk or water), and chips (instead of carrot sticks or grapes). These choices would surely make a "fun" lunch, but certainly not a very healthy one. At a time when your child should be building peak bone mass, healthy lunches are vital to the growth and development of his or her brain cells. Poor eating habits can lead to a host of health problems. Only 2% of children today meet the dietary goals of the food pyramid. Fifteen percent of today’s youth are overweight—not surprising considering 38% of every food dollar is spent on eating out.
Here are some tips to take the confusion out of healthy eating. And some ideas for expanding healthy food and beverage possibilities:
- Remember to pack bottled water for lunch and hydration during the day. (We recommend Eldorado Natural Spring Water! Find our water.)
- Include your kids in choosing fruits and vegetables by holding taste testing “events” and having them grow their own vegetable garden.
- Discuss the pros and cons of various food choices. For example, veggies build muscles while a diet of only sweets clogs your arteries and hurts your heart.
- Teach balance and moderation. One or two cookies a day is okay—the entire cookie jar is not!
- Keep healthy snacks readily available. Fruits and veggies such as grapes, carrots, and apple slices washed and cut, make great grab-and-go snacks.
- Split or share high fat items like that delectable ice cream treat you crave on hot days—ask to have it split into two cups or request two spoons.
- Plan ahead. When cooking casseroles, spaghetti, stir fry, etc, prepare a little extra and store it in separate containers to use in your kids’ and spouse’s lunches during the week.
- Variety is the spice of life. Don’t fix the same sandwich every day, try something new!
Think of a traffic light—red, yellow, green—and imagine foods in these categories:
- Red Light Food — Eat these foods sparingly. e.g. Fats, sweets, fried foods, hydrogenated foods, etc.
- Yellow Light Food — These foods are necessary for your health, but only in moderation. e.g. Grains, fiber, proteins, etc.
- Green Light Food — Eat and drink your little hearts out. e.g. Vegetables, fruits, water, etc.
Think in terms of substitutions:
- Instead of chocolate chip cookies, try fig bars or toasted cinnamon bread.
- Instead of fruit roll ups, try dried fruit.
- Instead of soda, try water or 100% fruit juice.
- Instead of regular chips, try baked chips.
- Instead of ice cream, try yogurt with berries.
- Instead of cake, try muffins.
- Instead of pie, try low fat pudding with graham crackers sprinkled in.
- Instead of a candy bar, try a small energy bar.
- Instead of fried, try grilled.
Mix it up. Here are some unique choices for lunches:
- Tortilla wraps—fill them with peanut butter, sliced turkey, or beans and cheese.
- Lettuce wraps—fill them with ground turkey or chicken.
- Pizza stir fry.
- Bagels with low fat cream cheese.
- Pita breads filled with your choice.
- Turkey chili with beans.
- Presley’s pancake burritos—pancakes with peanut butter and honey rolled into a burrito. (Bananas optional.)
- Trail mix.
- Carrots with dip.
- Sliced apples and other fruits.
- Low fat granola.
- Graham crackers.
- Vanilla wafers and fig cookies.
- Low-fat pudding.