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Healthy Lunchbox Menus for Children

Red metal lunchbox: healthy lunchbox menu

By Katia Murillo-Valdez

A well thought-out school lunch can still include your child's favorite foods. Here are some tips and sample menus to prepare for your child:

  • Include one or two portions of fruits and vegetables. One portion equals: 6 baby carrots, one pear or ¼ cup of raisins.
     
  • Choose whole grain bread, cereal, pasta and tortillas. They are healthier and more nutritious than products with refined flour.

  • Avoid fatty foods. Popular foods with a high amount of fat include: French fries, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.
     
  • What you drink is important. Unflavored milk is a popular and healthy option. If your child won’t drink milk, send water. Avoid sodas and imitation juice with a small amount of fruit juice. Even though 100 percent juice has a high amount of calories and natural sugar, it’s a better option than fruit flavored drinks.
     
  • Add variety and make it balanced. Combine fruits, vegetables, grains, meats or other foods containing protein and dairy products such as milk, yogurt or cheese. If you include the same food every day, your child may get bored.
  • Last night’s leftovers can be a convenient option for today’s lunchbox.
     
  • Avoid packaged items and lunchbox meals. Most packaged items lack nutritional value, are highly processed, have artificial flavorings and colorings, and are high in salt, fat, calories and processed sugars. Many are expensive and come with a lot of packaging that increases the amount of trash in this world. Also make sure to talk to your child about not spending money on packaged products from vending machines.
     
  • Keep hygiene and freshness in mind. Use insulated containers such as thermos and cold packs to keep food fresh.
     
  • Encourage your child to help plan and prepare the lunch. He or she will appreciate being included and will feel like a big kid.
     
  • For young kids, include small portions of each food with different colors and textures. For example: cheese cubes and crackers, cherry tomatoes and cut apples.

See a Healthy Lunchbox Menu Chart

Healthy lunchbox menu:
Choose items from each category based on your child’s age and taste and adapt the portion sizes accordingly. If needed, include small amounts of condiments, such as mayonnaise.
Your child’s mid-morning snack and lunch should include at least:

  • Two portions of fruits and vegetables
  • One portion protein
  • One portion grains (bread, cereal, rice, pasta, tortillas)
  • One low-fat dairy product

It’s easy to see how you can put together a tasty menu for your child’s lunchbox without relying on junk food or processed food. This year, make your child’s lunchbox an important part of giving them the best nutrition possible!

Article courtesy of La Buena Vida

 

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