Packing Healthy Lunches



If you send lunch to school with your child, you have a wonderful chance to show them that healthy foods should be eaten at every meal.  Stay clear of pre-packaged lunches that are usually high in salt, calories, fat, and sugar.  Instead, you can pack a healthy lunch that will give your child the energy they need to keep going throughout the rest of the school day.

What kind of sandwich?
Think about the kind of sandwich you want to send.  Use whole grain bread or whole grain wraps to hold lean meat like turkey or chicken.  Be sure to include lettuce (keep it in a separate container or bag so the rest of the sandwich doesn't get soggy).  Peanut butter and fruit jam or fruit preserves make a nice sandwich, too.  A low-fat cheese slice in a rolled-up wrap is fun to eat.   Remember you will need to keep any sandwiches with meat or dairy (cheese) cold.  A reusable freezer pack or frozen water bottle is a good choice.

Something salty...
Stay away from sending potato chips with your child's lunch.  Pack whole grain crackers in the lunch box!  Instead of getting just salt and fat from chips, your child will get an extra bit of fiber to help them feel full.  Send along a separate container with salsa or hummus for a low-calorie dip.  Lightly salted popcorn or baked tortilla chips might be a fun treat, too!

Add veggies
Let your child choose what veggies they want to add in their lunches.  Baby carrots, celery, broccoli, and cauliflower are easy to add and a favorite for many kids.  Veggies give fiber and provide a "crunch" that kids love!  Salsa, hummus or low-fat dip go great with veggies.

Remember fruit!
Fruit is a must for a packed lunch and you have many choices.  Dried fruit is a fun way to include fruit, but remember that a little bit goes a long way.  A quarter cup of raisins, dried cranberries or apricots, or any other dried fruit equals a serving of fruit.  Or send along a whole, washed piece of fresh fruit like a small apple or a peeled orange.  Applesauce and diced canned fruit now come in single-serving sizes.  Be sure to get canned fruit without added sugar since fruit is naturally sweet.  If you cut up fruit, it must be kept cold.

Re-think that drink
Encourage your child to drink water throughout the day.  With lunch, consider sending along a small bottle of water or a can of 100% fruit juice.  Be sure to check the nutrition facts label.  Look into vegetable juices such as tomato juice, which give your child another serving of vegetables.  Just be aware that these may be high in sodium.  Some schools allow children to buy  milk even if they aren't buying the rest of the school lunch.  Check with your child's cafeteria to see if this is available.

Skip the sweets
Teach your child that a healthy meal does not include sweets.  Save those for a special treat.

Try these other tips for packing healthy lunches
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This institution is an equal opportunity provider. This material was funded by USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP. The University of Maryland Extension will not discriminate against any person because of race, age, sex, color, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry or national origin, marital status, genetic information, political affiliation, and gender identity or expression. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more about Maryland’s Food Supplement Program (SNAP), contact the Maryland Department of Human Resources at 1-800-332-6347 or apply online at https://mydhrbenefits.dhr.state.md.us/.
© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall