So you have decided that your child will brown bag his or her lunch to school. You will send your little darling off with a lunch bag full of nutritious delights that will entice them to eat lunch while still satisfying your desire as a parent to promote a healthy diet for them. You have committed yourself that no matter the time, expense, or added hassle you will facilitate this for your child. There’s only one problem-unless you are an experienced nutritionist you may not be aware of what exactly should be included in a nutritious brown bag lunch. With all the nutritional information available you may want to throw your hands in the air and give up, but help is at hand. Here are the basics on what every nutritious brown bag lunch should include-
Follow the food pyramid. Ideally each nutritious brown bag lunch should include the following-
1.Fruits and vegetables-2-3 servings
2.Dairy-one serving of low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese
3.Grains-one or two servings from the grain group
4.Meats/Proteins-one serving from this group
5.One small treat for added pleasure
This listing is the ideal nutritious brown bag lunch. Based on your child’s size and food preferences you may not be able to include something from every group in every lunch. Work to try and include at least three of the five food groups. For example a sandwich is a good way to include many of the food groups (dairy, grains and meat). Add some fruit and low-fat milk as the beverage, and you are well on your way to a balanced meal. The key here is to use the food pyramid as a guide to what your child will eat. Creativity and planning will help you pack in the nutrition while designing a lunch that will be eaten by your school age child and not simply thrown away.
Involvement with the kids. By involving your child in the decision making process of what they will eat you will be more likely to be successful in fostering healthy eating. They are much more likely to eat what is in their lunch if they helped plan and prepare it. Many kids also love shopping for their lunch choices. And older children can be involved in the actual preparation of their lunches.
A fight against food boredom. Some younger children may be satisfied with, or even insist on, having the same thing every day but older children may seek out great variety. If your child gets bored, use different kinds of breads, such as pita pockets, tortilla wraps or English muffins. For added variety try cutting sandwiches, fruits and vegetables into different shapes to vary the look and texture. You can make kabobs with fruits and vegetables on a straw and include low-fat yogurt or salad dressing as a dip.
Pack dry cereal or granola that can be snacked on out of hand. These items can be mixed into yogurt, or eaten plain. For added nutrition be sure and opt for pretzels or rice cakes instead of potato chips.
Allow for special treats in your child’s lunch. While nutrition should be the focus of your lunch be sure and allow treats for special occasions. Pack cookies or a snack bar and for an extra treat include a special note from mom or dad.
For added nutrition try the following tips-
•Add zucchini, carrot or sweet pepper strips to your child’s lunch bag
•Try peanut butter and banana sandwiches (kids love them)
•Use spinach, tomatoes and sprouts in sandwiches instead of lettuce
•Marinate a variety of sliced vegetables with low-fat Italian dressing and use with turkey in a pita pocket
•Add slices of fruit to your sandwich instead of the usual add-ons