Looking for creative things for your child’s lunch? Here are some things you might want to try to spice up the "brown bag."
By Deborah Lambeth
We all know that school lunches have changed over the years. For many years, milk was the only beverage children could choose to drink when they bought lunch at school. Then came the era of chocolate milk. And, most recently, drink and snack machines installed in or outside the cafeteria. It is no wonder that children are becoming overweight and, thus, unhealthy. The number of overweight children has increased dramatically over the past ten years. Physicians are now seeing adult diseases in children – primarily due to lack of exercise as well as what children eat. This includes diabetes, heart-related conditions, high cholesterol, and joint damage for examples.
Health and education professionals don’t really see any significant let up unless things change. Administrators and school systems are now “wising” up and taking out drink machines altogether or making healthy drink choices available. Snack machines are becoming a thing of the past. There are more fresh fruit options available and there is a concerted effort to make school lunches healthier.
If you want to make sure your child eats healthy, “brown-bagging” it is a great option. There are many things your child can take for lunch other than sandwiches. Be careful on the pre-packaged things as they contain a lot of fillers-sodium, sugar, and fats. A recent view of a pre-packaged popular lunch item found that it contained over 1500mg of sodium! That is about double the amount a person should have for the day.
Here are some healthy food ideas to include in a nutritious lunch:
- Tortilla wraps – chicken, turkey or ham rolled into a tortilla wrap.
- Vegetable wraps are good, as well – lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.
- Fresh fruit (which is better) or fruit cups
- Sandwiches made on whole wheat bread (made from stone ground whole wheat)
- Crunchy vegetables – celery, carrots, broccoli
(Some of these items may need to be finely cut for younger-aged children.)
However healthy you make your child’s lunch, they may not like the things you put in it. So, to avoid that conflict, sit down with your child and ask for their input. Teach them about healthy choices and see what foods they like best. If you need guidance in this area, you might want to go to your local health department and get information about the food pyramid and new guidelines that have been established. Your doctor can also assist you with getting information.
Public libraries are a great resource in finding nutritional help as well as discovering new food recipes. This can be a discovery time for both you and your child. Keep in mind that quantity and serving size is just as important as the food choice. It’s also important not to deprive your child (or you) of foods that might not be deemed “healthy.” In moderation, an occasional dessert can make its way into the brown bag.
With a little imagination, a lot of creativity and a wealth of knowledge, what’s in your kid’s lunch bag will not only be the most popular one around, but the healthiest one, as well!