Healthy Eating: Ingredients to a Healthy Lunch Box Meal

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While parents are preparing their kids to get back into the school day routine, they should also be encouraging healthy eating routines.  Whether bringing lunch or buying lunch, it is important for children to consume healthy foods, giving them plenty of energy for the school day.  Foods that are high in trans-fat, saturated fat and/or sugar actually slow brain function and tend to make you more sluggish, therefore it is important to read labels and avoid these types of foods.

Message #2:  If preparing your child’s lunch at home, try to incorporate healthy fats and complex carbs, and lower amounts of sugar and sodium. Carbohydrates provide the energy children need to stay sharp throughout the school day, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help keep the connections in the brain flexible and prepared to learn. Micronutrients and antioxidants are also important for brain function, and can be found in fruit, vegetables, whole grain bread and dairy products.  Examples of healthy lunch options include:

  • Low-fat chicken salad in a pita or on whole wheat bread
  • A whole grain tortilla wrap with a low-fat deli meat, cheese, lettuce and a little guacamole. Pair with whole grain crackers, fruit or a vegetable.
  • A whole grain tortilla wrap with shredded rotisserie chicken, spinach, and some light mayo.
  • A sandwich made of whole wheat bread, roast beef, lettuce, light mayonnaise, and cheese. Pair with strawberry-pineapple kabobs and almonds.

Also, try encouraging your children to drink water with their meals, rather than juice or other sugary drinks. If they do have juice, make sure it is 100% juice and try to dilute it with water.

Message #3:  Choosing healthy snacks is also important, especially for student athletes.  Snacks should include a balance of carbohydrates and protein, such as a graham cracker with banana and peanut butter. Other ideas include:

  • Apple slices with nut butter
  • Trail mix that consists of mostly nuts and dried fruit
  • Frozen grapes, melon or peaches
  • Homemade apple sauce without added sugar
  • Bean dip, such as hummus, with veggies and crackers
  • Ants on a log with pumpkin seeds or grape halves instead of raisins

Fortunately, Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Management Center has an exceptional team of registered dieticians dedicated to educating families in the community on making nutritional choices and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Physician Background:

Margaret “Maggie” May is the diabetes coordinator at Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Management Center.  Maggie is a registered dietician nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator.  She earned a Master of Science in nursing in 1982 and a Master of Science in nutrition in 1998 from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.