Packing Nutriton and Fun in Your Child’s Lunch

As I wrote last week, sending our kids off to school requires finding a balance between enough comfort and enough nudge. They have to be a little uncomfortable if they are ever going to grow up, but there is no reason they (and we) can’t have fun along the way! Feeding our children fits right into this paradigm, especially when we are talking about feeding them while they at school all day.

Here are my “Sweet 6 Lunch Basics,” followed by a few fun sandwich ideas:

  1. Kid-Approved: Involve your child in packing lunch, and talking about how he liked it.
  2. Balanced: Choose from 3 food groups, including a high-protein food, a fruit or vegetable, and a calcium source (milk, yogurt, or cheese, or buy milk at school).
  3. Out-of-the-Box: Try a “snack sampler,” go “bento”—be creative!
  4. Nudge Factor: Balance mostly loved with 1 new food a day.
  5. Sweet Finish: A small sweet treat is a fun addition now and then.
  6. Safe: Include an ice pack with lunch in an insulated bag.

There are endless ways to build a sandwich, from whole wheat bread, to pita pockets, tortillas, or flatbread. You can build a “mini-wich,” using whole grain crackers or mini bagels—there’s the fun factor! I find that pita, tortillas, and flatbread hold up better than breads with a spread.

Speaking of spreads! Hummus and all kinds of nut butters (peanut, sunflower, almond, etc) help to hold a wrap together, and add a little protein for kids who don’t eat much meat. And even though cream cheese is not packed with nutrition, it can be a good way to pull fruits, veggies, and even omega-3-rich walnuts into a sandwich.

Make sure protein is in the bag. Meat & cheese or PB&J sandwiches are the old stand-by, but there are so many other things to try. Kids love cheese (and so do I!)—just remember they don’t need a large amount. Don’t forget beans, canned tuna or salmon, tofu, or leftover meats that can be stuffed into a pita.

Don’t forget to layer on a veggie (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, bell peppers of any color, carrots) or a fruit (berries, bananas, apples, peaches, or pears)! Or, tuck these in on the side. Try putting them in little cups or cutting into fun shapes—they need a little “presentation” support to be noticed sometimes!

I’m building a few more fun ideas to share in the coming days. I hope these ideas help you to think out of the lunch box and unleash your creativity. Share your child’s favorite packed lunch here!



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