Healthy lunches, consisting of a whole grain, protein, dairy, vegetable and fruit servings, fuel minds and help students concentrate on learning for the remainder of the school day. Though it is much easier to grab unhealthy, packaged convenience foods for lunches, these often contain higher sugar and fat levels. Healthier choices may take a bit longer to prepare, but they provide nutrients the body needs for optimal performance.
Healthy and Safe
It doesn't matter how healthy a lunch is if it spoils by lunchtime. Be sure cooked foods have had time to cool completely in the refrigerator if they are to be eaten cold at lunch. Keep lunches safe by maintaining cool temperatures with frozen juice or water that doubles as an ice pack. Use insulated lunch containers or double bags if using paper lunch sacks. If you doubt food can be maintained at a safe temperature, use foods that do not require cool temperatures such as crackers with hard cheese or peanut butter, beef jerky, fresh fruit or vegetables and trail mix.
Since kids need five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, it is important to include some of these in school lunches. Disguise fruits and vegetables in easy-to-transport muffins. Add cooked, mashed zucchini or squash to a corn muffin mix. Mix bananas, berries or apples into a plain, sweet muffin mix. Add pureed broccoli or cauliflower to a meatloaf mix, then cook mini-meatloaves in a muffin pan. Be sure to keep meatloaves cool until eating.
Sticks, Logs and Dip
Create a lunch of healthy "sticks," "logs" and dip. Slice cheeses, vegetables and ham or chicken breast into long, thin slices resembling sticks. Include a small container of ranch dressing, honey mustard or barbecue sauce for dipping the sticks. Make "Ants on a Log" by placing peanut butter or cheese spread on celery sticks and adding raisins. Include whole-grain pretzel sticks and graham cracker rectangles to complete the lunch.
Keep kids from getting bored with sandwiches by using whole grain wraps to create a meal. Make healthy sandwich wraps from cheese, lean meats, cucumber, carrot slices, lettuce and tomato. Create healthy lunch dessert wraps by placing cream cheese mixed with just a touch of powder sugar and sliced fruit in the wrap. For a make-it-yourself lunch for kids, send the wraps separately and include meats, cheese sticks, sliced apples, raisins, creamy dressing or peanut butter so kids can create their own lunch.