5 Tips for Packing Healthy School Lunches

One thing I think most parents dislike about the return to school is having to once again pack lunches.

Packing lunches doesn't have to be painful.

Packing lunches doesn’t have to be painful.

Here are 5 things that you can do to make packing lunches easier.

One: Plan

Just as with most things in life, you are more successful when you have a plan. By creating a list before you go to the store you are sure to have what you need for the coming week. There’s nothing more discouraging to reach for a sandwich bag and find an empty box.

Two: Prep Work

Once you get home with your groceries take a few minutes to clean your produce. Not only will this help you with lunches, it will help with dinner and easy snack choices. So often we don’t reach for the healthy option because it’s more convenient to grab something prepackaged.

Three: Do it the Night Before

If your home is anything like ours, mornings are hectic. Don and I are both out the door with the sunrise to get to the gym and when we get home there are many stages of getting ready happening with our three children so the kitchen can get a little crowded in the morning from everyone trying to get their breakfast. (Yes, I make my children get their own breakfast.)

This is why we have moved lunch prep to the evening. Once dinner is cleaned up the lunches are packed and put in the fridge. This not only helps minimize the kitchen chaos in the morning, in the event that an alarm doesn’t go off, we aren’t scrambling to take care of another task we don’t have time for.

Four: Get the Kiddos Involved

So I mentioned above that my children make their own breakfasts, well, they also make their own lunches. My husband and I set ground rules for their lunches:

  • A source of protein – deli meat (you don’t necessarily have to make a sandwich, wrap deli meat in a slice of cheese) yogurt or gogurt (can also double as an ice pack if placed in the freezer and put in the lunch box in the morning), cheese (string cheese or other cheese sticks are always yummy)
  • A serving of veggies – carrots and celery can be the easiest but go with what your child likes, avoid sending dipping sauces for veggies if possible, help them discover the true taste of the food
  • A serving of fruit – each of my children prefers different fruits, one great tip for sending apples is cut them up and wrap the slices around the core in press and seal – they won’t brown
  • A small treat – if it is a cookie, it’s one or two depending on the size, if it’s candy, it’s one fun size piece, you get the idea
  • A bottle of water – juice boxes and other drinks can be expensive and high in sugar, drop the cost and the sweetness for a good old drink of water

We double check their lunches each night to make sure they didn’t forget anything or try to pull a fast one on us. This process not only teaches them responsibility, it teaches them about food and what a balanced lunch looks like and healthy portion sizes.

Five: Take Control

And while our children certainly have food preferences, we have the power to make sure their lunches are filled with quality nutrients. You know I’m not opposed to a small treat, but the entire lunch shouldn’t be a ‘treat.’

If you currently struggle with getting your child to include fruits or veggies in their lunch start with one of them (preferably a veggie). Let them make the choice, oddly enough my son will choose broccoli over carrots or celery if it’s an option. If they have the power they will be more likely to eat the food. By slowly introducing the changes you have a better chance at success.

So before you hit the store this weekend, make a list. When you get home, prep the produce and enlist the kids to help. Talk to your family about the benefits of packing lunches the night before and start empowering your kiddos to make positive food choices by packing their own lunches. Here’s to another great school year!

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Fill Your Tank

Last week I focused on giving you some tips for identifying a path to success by finding your motivation, creating goals to keep you accountable and rewarding yourself when you achieve milestones.

Now it’s time to focus in on what you are putting in your body as you work towards those goals.

There is not a complicated science behind which food are good for you and which ones you should avoid – despite what the ever changing headlines tell you about foods.

It’s as simple as this:

–      If it came from the ground or has a mother you should eat healthy quantities of it.

–      If it is made in a building and has ingredients you can’t pronounce, you should avoid it as much as possible.

All groceries are set up the same; produce, proteins and dairy around the perimeter with all of the manufactured goods in the center. Keep your grocery carts out of the center of the store as much as possible.

 

Every healthy type of essential nutrient can be found in fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products. Your body needs these nutrients to function properly and to fight off disease.

When we fail to give our bodies healthy nutrients and rather fuel ourselves with manufactured products, we are missing out on the essential nutrients that keep us healthy and active.

Undoubtedly there are some items that you cannot avoid purchasing in the center aisles of your grocery. Tomorrow I will write more specifically on what things to watch for on those labels and how to make healthy choices.

Grocery Store Accountability

Do you shop with a grocery list? If not, you really should.

Shopping with a list:
1. Helps with meal planning.
2. Saves you money.
3. Keeps you from impulsively buying based on craving.

Taking just a few minutes to plan your meals prior to going to the store will help make sure that you get all the ingredients you need and will help you avoid those things you don’t need. Just think about all the food we throw away each week because it has spoiled.

You will also find that by purchasing only what you need for the week will reduce the unnecessary snack foods we tend to purchase walking the aisles of the grocery.

You also should try to structure your list based on the items available at the perimeter of the store. The items that are most healthy for us involve fresh produce, meats and dairy. Frozen items such as fruits and vegetables are also good choices if fresh produce is not available.

Limit the number of your purchases in the center of the store – this is generally where the processed foods are shelved and where the greatest temptations for unhealthy choices appear. If it doesn’t come from the ground or have a mother you shouldn’t be eating it.

So the next time you need to hit the grocery store, take a few moments to make a quick list. Your waistline and pocketbook will reap the benefits!