Think Outside the Lunchbox

There are several reasons to think outside the box! What would happen if you thought outside the lunchBOX?  Check out the 5 benefits to packing your child’s school lunch, and your own lunch too.

Packing a lunch…

  1. Encourages Responsibility Allowing your child to choose and literally help pack nutritious foods will create ownership and lifelong healthy food habits. Empowering your children to think about healthy food choices now, will help them with food discernment for the rest of their lives. As teens and later adults, they will be better equipped to make healthy food choices, while also being able to plan for on-the-go food preparation. Children as young as three can assist in the packing process. Be patient, firm and encouraging with them through the process. You will be doing them a giant act of loving service! For best results, prepare lunches the night before!
  2. Creates Food Balance. Think in food groups! Give your children the option to pack four or five different food groups. For example: Whole wheat crackers (grain), natural peanut butter (protein/fat), grapes (fruit), a mix of cucumbers and cherry tomatoes (vegetables), with a special treat on the side, once or twice a week.  While deciding what goes into the lunch box, remember that young children do best with one to two options, per food group, at a time.  For example, “Would you like an apple or a banana?” Or, “Would you like pretzels or pita chips?” With partnership, practice and a little thought, actions becomes second nature, and nutritious meals will be eaten and enjoyed.
  3. Boosts Anti-Cancer Food Intake. Most kids do not get enough fruits and vegetables. Packing a lunch is an opportunity to make it count. Your child needs at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, so why not check off two of them at lunchtime? Whole fruits are a better choice than juice, even 100% fruit juice, because they contain more overall nutrition and fiber. For example:
  • Pasta salad. Use any shape pasta your child likes; add cherry tomatoes, olive oil, cubed or shredded cheese, spinach, and any other veggie your child will eat.
  • Pita pizzas. Take whole-grain pita bread, add sauce and broccoli, mushrooms, eggplant, and/or peppers. Top with shredded cheese. Bake in the oven the night before and warm it up in the morning before packing it into your child’s lunchbox.
  • Whole-grain bun with Smucker’s natural peanut butter and banana slices
  • Lean, cooked chicken breast with steamed broccoli and baby carrots
  1. Provides Quality Protein. Protein is an important part of a meal because it provides body repair and satiety (fullness). Balancing protein and complex carbohydrates is important for brain function. For example:
  • Peanut /cashew/almond/sunflower butter on whole-grain bread with smashed fresh raspberries or jam. Be sure to read the ingredients for a food additives, like sugar, or chemicals. Choose the brand that offers straight forward ingredients like: peanuts, oil, salt.
  • Edamame (Soybeans in their pods)
  • Applegate brand lunch meat. It doesn’t contain harmful sodium nitrites that most processed meats contain.
  • Leftover chicken, cheese and raw spinach in a whole grain pita or on top a mini bagel
  1. Saves Money! Skip the individual packages. You will save a lot of money if you are doing the portion control. Convenience foods, like individually wrapped cookies, chips, sandwiches and “lunchables” will NOT save you money. Not to mention. they’re not healthy! Instead, be mindful to make extras for dinner, pack leftovers, use coupons, buy foods in bulk, and freeze foods when you score a bargain. Purchase reusesable containers and please reuse your small zip lock bags if possible.

Nutrition Success Tips

  • Make it mini. Small versions of everyday foods, like tiny sandwiches, have a cute factor that counts with kids.
  • Select a special shape. Cut it with a cookie cutter into a fun shape. This works with sandwiches, pancakes, cheese slices, tortillas and quesadillas, melon wedges, and more.
  • Dip it. Kids love dips. Whether it’s salad dressing, yogurt, hummus, or cheese, pack a small container for veggie strips, fruit chunks, and whole-grain crackers.
  • Mix it up. When food sits in a container, the flavors rub off onto each other. Bitter vegetables can be sweetened with fruit. Try baby carrots with dried cherries, grapes with sugar snap peas or cucumbers, apple slices with carrots, cucumber slices, and pea pods with orange slices
  • Beverages. Make it milk or water. Period.
  • Make them smile. Include a small treat, love note or a joke
  • Communicate! If your kids bring home uneaten foods, inquire about why that is. Is there something they don’t like? Do they not have enough time to finish? Are other kids making unhelpful comments? Address these concerns and rediscover possibilities to make packing a lunch empowering.
  • Join me for the next Smart Cart Grocery Store Tour , Thurs. Sept. 14 5:30pm @ Publix in Rainbow City, Al. Details here


Article published in Anniston/Gadsden Family Christian Magazine September 2017

Danielle Fryer RD, CSSD, CSCS is empowering healthy lifestyles: author, speaker, registered dietitian, sports specialist, fitness pro & yoga teacher. Community focused: Creator of HIKOGA®, Smart Cart Grocery Tours, Doggone Healthy® and the first outpatient Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, private practice in Etowah County! Contributing writer for Gadsden Times and Anniston Gadsden Family Christian Magazine. Additionally, Danielle leads nationwide seminars, workshops and retreats. Danielle is available by appointment for personal coaching, group retreats and speaking engagements. 

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