While parents are preparing their kids to get back into the school day routine, they should also be encouraging healthy eating routines. Whether bringing or buying lunch, it is important for children to consume a balanced diet, including foods from each food group, giving them plenty of energy for the school day. A great guide to use when preparing meals for your children at home is the My Plate model. This method includes filling half their plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruits, one-fourth with lean protein sources, and one-fourth with starchy foods and some dairy as a side.
While sandwiches are an easy go-to meal for lunchboxes, there are plenty of other meal combinations that are easy to pack. Switching up what you pack can also keep things interesting for your child and encourage them to eat a variety of different types of food. Other healthy foods that you can pack instead of sandwiches include tacos, wraps or deconstructed sandwiches on whole wheat crackers. Then you can vary the ingredients in the meals, such as:
- Vary the types of fruits and vegetables.
- Swap out the lettuce for spinach or other greens.
- Add shredded carrots to sandwiches or wraps.
Another way to encourage your children to eat healthier is by making lunch fun. Adding dips like hummus, salsa, yogurt or a nut-free spread such as Sun Butter are all great options for kids. Making a meal colorful not only makes it look more appealing to kids, but also provides a variety of nutrients in their diet. Using cookie cutters to cut their food into fun shapes is also a simple way to make lunch more exciting, and can be done with things you may already have at home.
Fortunately, Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Education Services has an exceptional team of registered dietitians dedicated to educating families in the community on making nutritional choices and promoting healthy lifestyles.
Melissa Leonard, MS, RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian at Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Education Services in Greensboro. Leonard received her Bachelor of Science in human nutrition and dietetics and her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She also received a post-baccalaureate certificate in gerontology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and completed a dietetic internship with Morrison Healthcare.