A Healthy Start to the New School Year

— Written By and last updated by

Image of child enjoying fruitIt’s time to start back to school and start packing lunches again. Does just the sound of that make you want to cry? You want to pack something healthy, and easy, but also something they will actually eat and not trade for french fries. For most parents, it can cause great distress to prepare something that meets everyone’s standards. Try some of these healthy tips to take the stress out of lunches this school year.

Spice up fruits and vegetables by adding a dip. Low-fat yogurt or pudding is great with strawberries and melons. Try different fruits with different textures so children do not get bored. Fruit chunks go great with a yogurt and cinnamon or vanilla dip. Fruit cups are a quick and easy way to enjoy a fruit but make sure to look at the amount of sugar used to package the fruit. Choose fruit packaged in water or its own juice. When picking juices make sure they are 100% fruit juice. For vegetables whip up a quick dip for veggies with yogurt and seasonings such as herbs or garlic. Serve with raw vegetables like broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower.

Make at least half of your grains whole grains. Use whole wheat sandwich buns, pasta, tortillas and brown rice. If you are transitioning to whole grains make a flip-flop sandwich which has whole wheat bread on one side and white on the other. Whole-grain cereal is also a fun alternative to potato chips for a snack. If children still want chips, pick ones that are whole grain, baked, or possibly both.

Pick lean proteins. Choose lean turkey, roast beef, ham, or low-fat luncheon meats for wraps or sandwiches instead of luncheon/deli meats with more fat, such as regular bologna or salami.

Choose food rich in calcium and low in fat such as fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. Dairy foods contain calcium to help your child to have strong bones and healthy teeth.

Keep lunch safe. Insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes or bags are best for keeping food cold, but you can also use metal or plastic lunch boxes and paper bags. If using paper bags, create layers by double bagging to insulate the food. Use an ice pack, gel pack, or freeze a juice box or bottled water to help keep lunches cold.

Following these simple guidelines for creating a healthy and safe lunch can create healthy habits that develop as your child ages. It can also take the fuss out of packing for those picky eaters. Try new things each week and include your child in the picking and packing steps to making lunches. Start this school year off with new healthy habits.

For more information on nutrition and food safety, contact Olivia Jones via email olivia_jones@ncsu.edu or phone 252-232-2261 or visit us online.