Packing your teenage child's lunch doesn't just give her the energy and nutrients she needs for a successful day at school or work, it also helps her make healthier food choices throughout the day. The University of California reports that teens who don't bring packed lunches to school often eat more fast food and are more likely to drink sugary soda than their counterparts. Some of the healthiest portable lunches are also some of the easiest to whip together.
Kebobs may seem exotic, but they're quick and easy to craft. On a wooden skewer, push along rolled up slices of deli meat, veggies such as grape tomatoes, and cheese cubes. In the end, you have a complete spectrum of protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals. Save time by stacking several containers of kebob-making supplies in the fridge, such as a container of cheese and a package of deli meat. Then, let your teenager make her kebobs, giving her a sense of independence and control. Pack single serving dip cups along with the kebobs.
"The original fast food was fruit; you could pick it off the tree and eat it on-the-go," says registered dietitian Jaime Schehr. "This hasn't changed much except now we can grab it off the counter. I often encourage teens to have fresh-washed fruit available for them to eat on the way, such as bananas, apples and other easy-to-eat fruit." Keep a fruit basket in your kitchen and let your teen pick-and-choose what she wants as she heads out the door. Pair it with individual cups of yogurt in your fridge door, and your teen has a filling combination of protein and fiber that requires absolutely zero preparation on your part.
Think Beyond Bread
Bread's boring, especially if you're a teenager and your parents have been feeding it to you for more than a decade. Spice things up for your teen with bread alternatives, such as a bagel spread with peanut butter. Other options include whole-grain tortillas and pita pockets spread with creamy dressing. Use your teenager's favorite bread fillings, simply substituting these alternatives for traditional bread slices.
Keep a bag of pre-washed salad mix in your refrigerator. When it's time to put your teen's lunch together, toss some salad with a handful of nuts --- they're a rich source of protein and healthy fats --- and dried fruit, such as cranberries. Drizzle with their favorite creamy dressing and pour the salad into a thermos. The thermos may seem like an unconventional lunch-packing tool, but it keeps the salad cold and crisp and also survives being tossed and banged about in your teen's backpack.
- UCLA Center for Health Policy Research; Teens with Packed Lunches Eat Less Fast Food; September 2009
- Cleveland Clinic: 10 Quick and Tasty Brown Bag Lunch Ideas
- Sefton Council: Packed Lunch Ideas and Tips for Teens
- Dr. Jaime Schehr; Registered dietitian and personal consultant; Wyckoff, New Jersey
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