Have you ever taken a look at the food that is being served at your kid’s school cafeteria? Better yet, have you ever seen the lunches being served in other countries, like France? Compare our reheated chicken nuggets and fries with a juice and maybe ice cream for dessert to their 3-course, locally sourced salad, baked fish and veggies and fruit for dessert. Is it any wonder why our country struggles with a childhood obesity epidemic and the French do not?
The current state of school lunch in the US is far from ideal. Most cafeterias are running on a tiny budget, relying on reheating instead of actually cooking food and are doing what they can just to scrape by. This is a far cry from the cooked in-house, locally sourced, thoughtfully prepared meals of other countries.
So, what’s a parent to do?
The current state of school lunch in the US is far from ideal.
The first step is to make healthy eating a habit in your own home. Set a good example and teach your children the importance of healthy eating from the get-go. And if cafeteria lunches aren’t up to your standards, then it’s time to start brown-bagging it!
Here are some great tips for building a fun, healthy and tasty lunch your kids will enjoy (and not trade with their classmates!).
How to Make a Healthy Lunch For School
1. Be Prepared
Variety is key when it comes to kids. They don’t want to eat the same boring meals day in and day out. Having a big list of lunches to pull from will ensure you keep things interesting and make it easy when building your grocery list for that week.
Don’t just send your kids off to school with a sandwich and an apple. Lunch can be so much more fun than that! Here are some great sides to include for color, texture or just a change of pace.
- trail mix
- clementine wedges
- fruit salad
- cheese cubes
- salad (maybe tomato & cucumber or veggie pasta salad?)
Smoothies are a great way to hide tons of vitamins and nutrients in a fruity, fun-colored drink. Get a couple of those silicone ice pop molds and freeze a smoothie in them. It’ll be smooth and melty by lunch time.
4. Don’t Forget Dessert
Yes, a healthy lunch box can include dessert. It doesn’t have to be ice cream, obviously. Something fruit based is great or things like popcorn, chocolate avocado mousse (ooh, fancy!) or even a homemade trail mix with some sweet treats mixed in.
5 . Balancing Your Meals
The key to a healthy lunch box menu is balance. Think about the meal as a whole. Does it have too much carbs or too little protein one day? Maybe swapping your sides will help better balance the meals as a whole. How many days this week had “sweet treats” for dessert versus things like popcorn? Make sure it’s a balance of each.
It takes a little work in the beginning, but heck, this is one of your kid’s biggest meals of the day. It’s what’s going to get them through the day, staying alert and happy through the school day. It’s totally worth it!