Are your lunches as healthy as your child's?
Each week the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics. Have nutrition questions or ideas for future topics? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. This week, Karen Kolowski, RD, CNSD, LDN, weighs in on healthy lunches.
As you start to plan healthy school lunches for your children, let those good habits carry over into your own workday lunch. If you do a little planning, there won't be any scrambling to make lunch in the morning.
How can you plan a winning lunch that won't end up being tossed for the donut tray in the snack room? First, start with making selections from at least three different food groups. Choices include: fruits, vegetables, dairy, (whole) grains, meats, beans, fish and nuts. Then play with the appearance, orange rings rather than slices, carrot circles instead of plain sticks or melon balls ... get creative and have fun!
Fun Finger Foods
Fun finger foods are favorites as well as classics with a twist. Mini carrots, baby corn and sugar snap peas are more fun when packed with hummus. Fruit cut up into cubes with yogurt can be a sweet dessert for any time of the year. Making "sushi" will make you the hit of the lunch table. Avocado, almond butter or cucumber rolled up in whole-wheat tortilla cut into bite sized pieces will be gobbled up. Hard-boiled eggs, grape tomatoes and blueberries are quick mouth poppers and smile makers as well. Think mini, such as muffins (homemade with the children's help) and bagels.
Don't Lose it: Use it
Don't forget about leftovers and hot meals. Buying a stylish yet sturdy thermos can help you eat healthy and warm meals throughout the cold months. Soup with whole wheat crackers or chili with a baggie full of low-fat cheddar cheese can both be winners. It's best if the soup is homemade, possibly from weekend leftovers, since it is usually lower in salt. Pre-packaged individual soups not only create more waste with a bigger carbon footprint, but usually have more salt content than homemade soup. You can also use your favorite dinner meal warmed up and stored in a thermos to make sure the food does not go in the trash.
Don't forget the drinks to stay hydrated. Limiting sugar intake is important for both kids and parents. Low fat milk, water with sugar-free flavorings (if needed) and 100 percent fruit juice are all good choices. Avoid soda.
Make the Effort
So, remember to think before you pack that lunch! Small changes and a little prep-work will pay off. All that great food will reward your's and your kids' bodies with more energy, stronger bones and muscles, and increased brain power.
What are your lunch tricks? Share them in the comments.