Donna White

Last week we talked about how important it is for school children to get enough rest. This week our emphasis will be on packing healthy lunches. Choosing to pack a lunch is a commitment on the part of a parent that allows children to have more healthy food choices available. It can also be an opportunity for a parent and child to work together and spend time together making lunches and talking about school activities. Attitude is everything!

If you are helping your child pack a lunch, start by discussing foods and snacks they would like to eat. Children typically eat their lunch better when they have input on what is in their lunch. Here are some ideas for lunch makeovers:

Instead of a bologna sandwich on white bread, suggest lean turkey on whole wheat bread, which would result in a lower fat and more fiber content. Or, instead of potato chips, suggest carrots and celery with light dressing, which would yield less fat, while adding two vegetable servings. Finally, instead of chocolate sandwich cookies, make some homemade trail mix which would contain less fat and more fiber.

Still need ideas?

Core and stuff an apple with peanut butter; then slice it crosswise. Spread light cream cheese and jelly on a tortilla and roll it up. Make mini kabobs on straws - ham and cheese, grapes and melon balls, cherry tomatoes and cheese cubes. Roll a slice of meat around string cheese or a carrot. Cookie-cut sandwiches into fun, interesting shapes.

In addition to choosing nutritious foods, keeping the foods safe for eating can be a challenge when packing for school. Here are some tips that can help you and your child with “safe sacking”:

Wash your hands first! Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to prevent growth of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Send hot food in an insulated thermos. Pack cold foods with ice packs in insulated lunch bags. For drinks, pack frozen juice boxes that will thaw by mealtime. Use frozen juice boxes or freezer gels to keep lunches cool. Wrap sandwiches tightly; then put them in a sealed bag or container. Refrigerate sandwiches if made ahead. Wash the tops of beverage containers, or use a straw or cup. Clean plastic lunch boxes daily with soap and water. Only use paper or plastic bags once. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables before putting them in a lunch box or before eating them. Keep sandwiches in the refrigerator until leaving for school. Toss in some moist towelettes to remind kids to wash their hands before and after eating.

Though you can’t completely control what your children eat at school, you can help them learn to make healthy choices and help keep their foods safe from foodborne illnesses.

Try to set a good example! It is always humbling to remember that our children observe our health habits when determining what they will ultimately choose as their own health habits.

Information for this article came from http://www.kidshealth.org and http://fcs.tamu.edu/health/healthhints/index.php.