Kids Packing Lunch

Article Published: Aug. 18, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Kids Packing Lunch

Children have the option of the hot, well-balanced lunch served in the school cafeteria every day. If your kids prefer a lunch from home, let them pack it, preferably after dinner for the next day.

Children as young as 7 have the ability. It's a great way for them to practice making healthy food choices and become more independent. Kids typically know how much to eat and what combinations they prefer, but still need a little guidance.

As the adult, you decide what food enters your home. To provide guidance for children, remember that it's as easy as 1, 2, 3. One is a grain choice, two is protein, and three is at least one fruit or vegetable choice. If that isn't enough, optional side choices may be added.

Grain Choices
Remember, at least half of your grain choices should be whole grains. Appealing lunch choices include bagels, pasta, rice and rice cakes, bread, couscous, pita, grits, crackers (without hydrogenated fats), tortillas or baked chips, pretzels, English muffins and specialty breads (naan, manna, lavash)

Lean Protein Choices
Reduced-fat cheese, Neufrachael cheese, cottage cheese, eggs and egg salad, chicken, turkey and lean meat, salmon, tuna (light, not white), yogurt, hummus, beans, nuts and nut butters (if no allergies), tofu, soy pepperoni and other meat substitutes for vegetarians

Fruit Choices
Dried Fruits: Apples, apricots, cranberries, figs, mango, mixed fruit, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapple, prunes, raisins

Fresh Fruits: Apples, apricots, Asian pears, bananas, blueberries, cherries, dates, figs, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi, mango, melon, nectarines, orange sections, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, raspberries, strawberries

Canned Fruits Packed in Own Juice

Vegetable Choices
Raw veggies, such as bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, mushrooms, snap peas, spinach, yellow squash, zucchini (Remember, kids love dip!)

Other Treats

Apple, peach or pear crisp, baked tortilla chips, banana pudding, dried cereal (less than 5 grams sugar per serving), cookies that are lower sugar and with little or no hydrogenated fats (homemade oatmeal, fig cookies, animal crackers, graham crackers, ginger snaps), nuts (check for classroom allergies), popcorn, pretzels, rice cakes, trail mix, yogurt with real fruit added

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. To contact Margie, email or call (828)264-3061.

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