August 18, 2017
Lori Mager, M.B.A., RDN, LDN, CDE, Clinical Nutrition Manager, and Dipti Shah, M.S., RDN, LDN, Registered Dietitian at Northwest Community Hospital
It’s that time of year again—back to school season! Start thinking of healthy lunch ideas since a well-balanced meal consisting of nutrient-rich foods will help fuel your children’s growth and development, and help them perform better in school.
Components of a balanced lunch should contain foods from each of the five food groups:
But how do you come up with healthy meals your children will actually eat? For starters, include your children in planning and preparing their lunchtime foods. They will be likely to eat more and waste less. Start by looking through the grocery store sale papers together and have them help you add ingredients to your grocery list. Then have your children help prepare their lunches the night before to avoid contributing to the morning rush.
Try some new twists. A lunch does not need to include a traditional sandwich, although it can be a great choice. Other fun ideas may include:
Be sure to keep lunch food safe. It is important to practice safe food handling when packing a school lunch. If they are not refrigerated, after about two hours, the food can begin to grow harmful bacteria that may cause foodborne illnesses. To keep a lunchbox at a proper temperature, use an ice pack in an insulated lunch box or freeze a bottle of water overnight to function as an ice pack (it can be a great drink at lunch and through the afternoon too).
Keep in mind that limited time often is a factor in decreasing intake at lunch. This emphasizes the need for that next important period of intake—the after-school snack most kids need. So, whichever foods your children didn’t work in at lunch can become a snack. Just remember to leave room for dinner!
After-School, No-Bake Energy Bites
Note: Contains nuts
Note: The energy balls could be altered to your taste by adding in or substituting ingredients in the recipe above. Oats and nut butter could be used instead of dates. Or, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds could be used.