Menu ideas for healthy school lunches

Written by kay ireland
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Menu ideas for healthy school lunches
Give your child better choices than what's in the lunch line. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

While many schools offer cafeteria services and offer healthy choices to children, it's no assurance that your child will choose carrot sticks over chips when given the choice. The problem with school lunches is that children will often opt for the foods laden with fat, salt and sugar. By taking the dinner lady out of the equation and packing your child's lunch, you ensure that your child is getting the nutrition he needs while at school. A few original ideas can make school lunches seem just as appealing as turkey twizzlers and pizza.

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Filling lunches

When placed up against cafeteria favourites like pizza and chips, it's imperative that you make your child's lunchtime meals tasty and visually appealing. While sandwiches are standard fare, you can break out of the box with meals that are convenient and filling. Bean burritos can be made easily by spreading refried beans from a can over a whole-wheat tortilla. Cold pasta salad can be served with diced vegetables and stored easily in a compartmentalised lunchbox. If your child likes sandwiches, add fruit like bananas or apples between the slices to increase fibre intake.

Snacks

Adding a few snacks to your child's lunchbox can make her lunch more appealing and serve as snacks throughout the day. The trick is to avoid sugary snacks that only cause a temporary increase in energy. Fibre and protein are longer-lasting and can help your child stay satisfied throughout the day. Vegetables with a small container of hummus are fun for dipping, while a Greek yogurt parfait is pleasing to the eye and an alternative to string cheese or fruit snacks.

Drinks

You'll need to pack a drink with your child's lunch. What your child drinks may be as important to the menu as the snacks or main choices. When you send your child to school with fizzy drinks or energy drinks for focus, you only give him a temporary experience with synthetic energy, warns KidsHealth.org. Instead, look to healthier drinks like low-fat milk, a thermos of water and 100-percent fruit juice as a treat. Make drinking water more exciting by allowing your child to choose a thermos to drink from every day.

Requirements

Before you pack your child's lunch for the day, you must first ask yourself a few questions. Consider whether or not the meal you're packing is healthy, wholesome and has a wide variety of food groups included. As a rule of thumb, include at least one item from the whole-grain, fruits and vegetables, protein and eggs and dairy food groups. Then, ensure that you're packing foods that your child will actually eat. If you're packing foods your child doesn't like, he may be swayed by cafeteria lunches, and your hard work will be wasted.

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