Packing a Healthy School Lunch
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by Ashley Bade Cronin RD, LDN, CSP, Metrowest Nutrition (www.metrowestnutrition.com)

logo combo barrett and metrowest nutrition_ no text_whitePlease note that Ashley is now available at Barrett in Northborough on Fridays.  To set up an appointment with her, please contact her directly at ashley@metrowestnutrition.com or by calling 617-332-2282.

We have made it through this very, very long winter- and although summer is in sight, there are still plenty of packed lunches left to put together. If you find yourself, or your little one, fatiguing from that go-to PB&J, here’s a few ideas to get you through the rest of the school year!

Remember the ABC’s of Packing a Healthy School Lunch:
Avoid the lunch “burn out” by packing a variety of lunches for your child
Balance your child’s lunch by including at least three food groups per meal
Create a meal plan for the week and prepare lunches ahead of time

Go In With a Plan

-Ask your child for some input regarding what he or she would like for lunch
-Pick up foods you’ll need from the grocery store for the beginning of the school week. Cut up fruits and veggies and pre-portion snacks like baked chips or pretzels in bags before the week starts
-Take the 10-15 minutes to pack your child’s lunch the night before to avoid the morning rush

Variety is the Spice of Life
Spruce up your child’s usual sandwich with some variety:
-Vary bread choices for sandwiches- try pita pockets, wraps, English muffins, raisin or multi-grain breads or mini-bagels
-For younger kids- cut bread into fun shapes with cookie-cutters to keep lunches fun
-Try “filler” vegetables in sandwiches such as lettuce, tomato, peppers or cucumbers to help fit another serving of veggies into your child’s day
-Consider some unconventional sandwiches such as hummus on a pita, low fat cream cheese and jelly, sunflower butter or veggie and cheese wraps

Break the Sandwich Mold

As long as you provide your child with a balanced lunch it doesn’t always need to be a sandwich.
-Pack cheese and crackers, soup and a wheat roll, single serving cereal with fruit and milk or yogurt with granola as the main portion of your child’s lunch
-Dinner leftovers can be a great source for packing lunches. Add leftover chicken to a salad for the next day or use extra pasta to mix with light dressing, veggies and cheese for a healthy and filling pasta salad.

Mixing up the Sides
-Vary sliced fruits, vegetables, 100% fruit leathers, graham crackers, baked potato chips, granola bars, multi-grain tortilla chips or dried fruit to keep life exciting and offer a variety of different nutrients to your child’s lunch
-Desserts are OK for lunches- but may not need to be there every day. Try some alternative sweets such as yogurt, low fat pudding, fresh fruit or applesauce.

New Ideas to Avoid the Post-Lunch Energy Crash
In a recent article from Dr. Sears, it’s suggested to be mindful of the types of protein and the amount of carbohydrates we pack our children (and ourselves) to keep our minds stimulated. Dr. Sears recommends packing protein foods that are high in the amino acid tyrosine such as seafood, turkey, tofu, legumes and tuna, to perk up the brain. Along with this he recommends that keeping the calories appropriate (for children 600-800 calories, for most adults 400-600 calories), keeping to 1-2 servings of a complex carbohydrate (such as quinoa, wheat bread or fruit), including to 1-2 servings of a healthy fat and aiming to eat the protein first, followed by the carbohydrates is the perfect recipe for a brain-stimulating lunch.  Foods that contain tryptophan, an amino acid that sedates the brain, include eggs, milk, bananas, dairy, sunflower seeds and meat. These tryptophan-rich foods paired with a large amount of carbohydrates as part of a higher calorie lunch can lead to a sluggish child after lunch as tryptophan is able to get into the brain at a high rate with this combination according to Dr. Sears.   As all children, and adults, are different, use these recommendations only if you see an improvement in your child’s attentiveness/behavior.

If you’re looking for further nutrition recommendations for your child, please see the contact information below for pediatric dietitian Ashley Bade Cronin RD, LDN, CSP to discuss setting up an appointment at Barrett’s or at one of Metrowest Nutrition’s offices in Framingham or Newton.

Ashley Bade Cronin RD, LDN, CSP
ashley@metrowestnutrition.com
www.metrowestnutrition.com
617-332-2282 ext 6

 

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