Packing a nutritional lunch that kids will eat is a difficult task. With students getting ready to head back to school, parents head to the grocery store to look for healthy lunches.
“The main nutritional need during the middle part of the day is going to be carbohydrates,” said nutritionist Heidi Kaufman.
Kaufman says there are several things to keep in mind when packing lunch for young kids. “They need a lot of energy. They need energy to be thinking, they need energy to be moving, so you’re thinking in terms of slow release energy if possible.”
While whole grains, fruits and vegetables will do the trick, there are certain foods you want to avoid. “What you don’t want to do is put Twinkies and candy in the lunch box because it will give them the quick energy but it won’t last all afternoon. So then by 3:00 o’clock they’re tired, they’re sleepy, they’re irritable,” Kaufman said.
When it comes to providing a healthy lunch, one cafeteria favorite fails to make the grade. Although it’s fast and easy for parents to put together, when it comes to nutritional value, PB and J gets an “F”.
“Parents will pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but jelly is loaded in sugar, and the peanut butter is really high in fat, and you just have to be careful with that because it’s a lot of sugar and fat at once,” Kaufman explained.
Lean cuts of turkey and ham provide a healthy alternative… just watch the salt content.
And remember, not all deli meats were created equal. Kaufman said, “The ones you really want to stay away from are bologna and salami. They’re really high in fat, they have a lot of processed ingredients.”
When it comes to drinks, soda, juices, and sports drinks are loaded with sugar.
“Milk has protein, a little bit of fat, but it tends to stick longer with the child, doesn’t spike their blood sugar, and doesn’t make them want to eat quite as much food,” Kaufman said.
For a healthy snack Kaufman says graham crackers and wafer cookies will feed the sweet tooth with fewer calories.
And you might want to invest in some good Tupperware; last night’s leftovers usually make a nutritious meal the next day.