How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch

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I powerpoint I made, directed at parents of school-aged kids. How to pack a healthy, nutritious, fun, and safe lunch for kids!

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  • Packing a healthy lunch for your children is a great way to get them the nutrients they need to power through the school day. Unfortunately, lunch boxes are often filled with packaged ‘convenience’ foods like full-calorie soda, chips, and cookies. This can add up to a lot of excess fat, sugar, sodium and calories that may contribute to long-term health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.These extra calories may also make kids sluggish or cranky in the afternoons.When deciding what to put in your child's lunch box, it's a good idea to include foods from different groups. Focusing on variety not only makes lunches more interesting, but also helps your children enjoy a balanced lunch that will provide the energy and nutrients they need to grow, play, learn and stay healthy.
  • Switch from bologna, salami, pastrami or corned beef, and other fatty luncheon meats to low-fat alternatives such as lean turkey or chicken breast.Use peanut butter in moderation: 2 tablespoons (about the size of a ping pong ball) provides about 190 calories and 16 grams of fatPack salt-free, dry-roasted almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts to provide kids with a dose of heart-healthy essential fatty acids--be sure to cap the serving at ¼ cup since nuts are high in calories.
  • Try a lowfat or light yogurt in exchange for the full calorie varieties targeted at children. If you’d prefer to avoid artificial sweeteners, try packing fat-free plain yogurt mixed with fresh fruit.
  • The taco salad shown would be a great, complete lunch, when served with a whole grain, fruit, and a drink.
  • Stay inspired by reading new recipes, trying new foods, and looking at other lunchbox posts online
  • How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch

    1. How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch by Emily Todhunter, 2012
    2. A healthy lunchbox is: Full of colorful foods Includes variety of foods from all groups  Proteins  Fruits  Vegetables  Whole grains  Dairy Nutrient-dense Delicious!
    3. What food groups should be included?
    4. Choose Whole Grains Whole grains provide more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein than white, processed grains. Whole grains can be found in: Whole wheat breads, pita bread, brown rice, pasta, tortillas, cereal, crackers, popcorn, & pretzels.
    5. Ideas for Incorporating Grains: Whole wheat sandwiches Wraps made from tortillas Pasta or quinoa salad Whole grain crackers with cheese & meat
    6. Protein Go Lean with protein Turkey, roast beef, chicken, seafood, eggs, soy products, beans and peas, nuts & seeds are great choices are all great protein choices
    7. Ideas for incorporating protein: Egg salad sandwiches Tuna salad with whole wheat crackers Meat and cheese kabobs Grilled chicken strips  On a salad, or with a honey mustard sauce Peanut butter with apple slices Trail mix, with nuts & seeds Hot soup in a thermos
    8. Vegetables Make half of the lunch box fruits and vegetables Vegetables can be fresh, canned, frozen, dried, or in 100% juice form. Only 1 in 4 children eat the recommended 5 fruits and vegetables per day Pack a variety of colors!
    9. Ideas for incorporating vegetables: Raw vegetables with a fun dressing  Hummus  Low-fat or fat-free salad dressing Salads Vegetable soup in a thermos Add fresh vegetables such as cabbage, cucumber, and lettuce to sandwiches and wraps Mix in diced cucumber or celery to tuna salad Add a tomato or corn & bean salsa to dip with whole wheat crackers
    10. Fruit Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the Fruit Group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed. Enjoy a wide variety Shop seasonally
    11. Ideas for incorporating fruit: Peanut butter and sliced strawberry sandwich Make a tuna salad sandwich by mixing canned tuna with diced apples & a little bit of mayonnaise Slice up fruit, such as apples, into smaller pieces for easy eating Pack some peanut butter or low-fat/nonfat yogurt to dip fruit into Fruit kabobs
    12. Dairy Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese Make sure to use a freezer pack to keep these products cold until lunchtime
    13. Ideas for incorporating dairy Yogurt with granola & fruit on top Cheese & crackers (make your own Lunchables) Cheese & fruit kabobs Cottage cheese Skim or 1% milk Use a cookie cutter to make fun cheese shapes
    14. Treats Aim to make snack treats occasional rather than everyday items. Treats should be less than 150-200 calories and should not be high in fat, sugar, or sodium.
    15. TreatsHealthier Options: Options to Limit: Animal crackers  Cake Pudding  Cookies Jell-O Rice Krispie bars  Oreos Fruit leather  Brownies Squeezable Yogurt  Little Debbie’s Dark chocolate squares  Chips Whole grain Goldfish crackers  Candy Yogurt-covered raisins
    16. DrinksDrinks should be zero calorie or have some nutritional content Healthy Ideas Include:  Avoid sugary drinks such  Fat free or Low-fat milk as:  Sports drinks  100% fruit juice  Water  Energy drinks  Sodas  Lightly sweetened tea  Fruit-flavored drinks
    17. Sandwich Alternatives Soup w/ a Breadstick Cold pasta salad Taco salad, burritos Dinner Leftovers  Lasagna  Chicken pot pie  Casseroles  Grilled chicken Cheese, meat, & crackers Taco Salad Lunch Breakfast for lunch  Pancakes & sausage/eggs  Cereal w/ a thermos of milk
    18. Keep Cold Items Cold Include ice packs or frozen gel packs Sandwiches, yogurt, & juice boxes can also be frozen before school and will be defrost and be cold by lunchtime Sandwiches with meat, eggs, dairy should be packed directly next to the cold source A frozen gel pack in an insulated lunch bag should keep the food cold until lunchtime. Optimum temperature for cold foods is 41 degrees F.
    19. Keep hot items hot In order to keep a thermos of chili or soup hot—  Preheat the thermal container by putting boiling water in it first, letting it sit for a few minutes, then dump out the hot water  The preheated container, when filled with hot soup or chili, will remain hot enough to prevent food borne illnesses all the way through the lunch hour.
    20. Other Food Safety Tips Wash hands before preparing the lunch Wash fruits & vegetables If including leftovers, make sure leftovers were refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking and were kept in the refrigerator overnight. If prepared the night before, store in refrigerator overnight Make sure your kids know to wash or sanitize their hands before eating their lunch Remind your kids to store their lunch away from direct sunlight or a heat source like a classroom radiator
    21. Hints  Buy a lunchbox that is easy to use and that your child likes  Include multiple colors and textures in the lunch  Include condiments in the lunchbox  Pack salad dressings in separate containers so salads don’t get soggy or mushy
    22. Make it Appealing Use fun napkins and toothpicks Include a hand-written note for your child Cut food (sandwiches, cheese) into fun shapes with cookie cutters Make it ―kid-sized‖  Cube cheese, meat, and fruit  Cut up fruits and vegetables into bite-sized pieces  Make sandwiches mini– cut into halves or fourths
    23. Save Time! Create a healthy lunch plan for the week and have all of those items on hand Pre-chop fruits and vegetables in the beginning of the week. Place food portions for meals in bags or containers ahead of time: things like crackers, fruits, cheese portions.  Use frozen vegetables in a pinch if running low on fresh produce.  Use left-overs from the night before.  Make lunch while you are making another meal
    24. You Can Do It! Remember: The main elements needed to create healthy lunch day in and day out are:  Preparation  Organization  Thoughtful approach  Creativity Find out what works for you and stick with it. Stay inspired

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