(BPT) - Lunch box nutrition has come a long way from bologna on white bread with a juice drink pouch. As parents get ready to send their kids back to school, an easy lesson on lunch box nutrition may be just the thing to help kids get to the head of the class. Packing a winning lunch is not only about health and nutrition, but also about keeping food fresh and appetizing for kids.
“A nutritious lunch provides important nutrients kids need throughout the day,” says Mona Rosene, registered dietitian with a master of science degree in nutrition, and nutrition research scientist for WhiteWave Foods. “For parents who think packing a balanced and affordable lunch is a chore, a little preparation can go a long way in making lunch box planning a breeze. Parents should focus on fresh foods and be label-conscious. With so many convenient lunch options, it’s important to check labels to avoid products with empty calories and little nutritional value.”
For parents on the go and on a budget, here are “Lunch Box 101 Tips & Tricks” from TruMoo Milk Boxes to help make lunchtime less stressful and more nutritious for their kids.
1. Instead of a juice drink pouch, opt for a flavored shelf-stable milk box, which provides all the benefits of milk including 8 grams of protein, vitamins A and D, and calcium, without high fructose corn syrup or any artificial colors or flavors found in many juice drink pouches. TruMoo single serve milk boxes are a great option. They are available in three flavors kids will love – chocolate, vanilla and plain low-fat varieties, and are free of artificial colors and flavors.
2. Try to include at least one item from each of the five food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and lean protein, to help ensure a balanced meal.
3. For a time-saver, sandwiches can be prepared the night before. Put sandwiches in reusable sandwich boxes instead of aluminum foil to prevent them from getting crushed or soggy.
4. Bite-sized fruits and vegetables are an easy way to add a nutritious and fun staple to lunch boxes. For picky eaters, a favorite dip like low-fat ranch, peanut butter or hummus can help make sure those fruits and veggies quickly disappear.
5. Choose leaner lunch meats like chicken, turkey and tuna in water, or choose a hard-boiled egg, beans or edamame as great protein alternatives. This way, kids can get protein with less fat and calories.
6. Keep cold food cold and hot food hot – keeping foods at safe temperatures will prevent the growth of unhealthy bacteria. Ice packs and insulated containers are key.
7. Instead of potato chips, try something different with the same amount of satisfying crunch such as: baby carrots, whole wheat pretzels without salt or baked sweet potato chips.
8. Liven up the lunchbox with fun-shaped sandwich and vegetable cutters. Lunchtime should be fun for kids, and they’ll be thrilled to find a butterfly- or dinosaur-shaped sandwich in their lunch.
9. Use leftovers, but change up the presentation by putting meat on whole wheat bread or pitas with sliced tomato or create a rice bowl with leftover veggies and protein.
10. Variety is key to keeping kids happy at lunchtime. Avoid boredom by offering new meal and snack options daily or weekly.