Packing a lunch can feel like one more thing on a long to-do list, especially if your schedule is busy with back-to-school activities. Thinking outside of the box can help you put together lunch in a snap, whether it’s for you or your kids.
ProMedica Dietitian Liz Satterthwaite, RDN, LDN, said that the most important thing is variety and making sure the foods contain the right amounts of macronutrients. “It’s all about plugging in your protein, fruit and vegetable, whole grain and healthy fats,” she said. Protein will help your child feel fuller throughout the day and support their growth. Fruits and vegetables have vitamins and minerals, while whole grains provide fiber. Just be sure to check the ingredients list first.
“The ingredients list goes by volume, so the first ingredient on the list is going to be the most prevalent ingredient,” explained Satterthwaite. So, when you’re choosing bread, even if the package says “whole grain” or “whole wheat” that doesn’t mean it’s the main ingredient. “Use the back of packages to find products that are higher in fiber, have lower added sugar and have more whole food sources.”
Another piece of advice from Satterthwaite: Go with what works. “Stick to what your kid likes,” she said. “Give your child a few different options and they can piece their meal together how they want it. If the option isn’t so healthy, at least pair it with a fruit or a vegetable and you’ll be doing a little bit better.”
And treats are OK in moderation. A mini candy bar at lunch may help curb that sweet tooth. “I would rather a kid have a more moderate portion of a tiny piece of candy rather than buying packaged treats in the cafeteria that will have more calories, or sneaking ice cream later because they feel like they missed out at lunch,” said Satterthwaite. “When you tell them they can’t have something, they’re more likely to either want it, sneak it or overeat it.”
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are seven packed lunch ideas to rev up your daytime meals.