by Diane Burdick
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Here’s a great article if you’re a parent (use these tips!) or if you’re a teacher (print these tips for your parents on what to pack for snack and lunch). It’s all about eatin’ healthy…because, in the classroom, children really are what they eat. Healthy food = healthy brains that are ready to learn.
Packing a Lunch or Snack
Packing your child’s lunch with good-for-them options doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will come up with a sack full of food at the end of the day, or that you’ll spend tons of time prepping, either. What you need is a balance: pre-packaged items that are minimally processed. Meaning? Healthy, filling, kid-friendly, but not draining on the crazy morning routine.
Play With Your Food: Cheese Sticks
Whether you cut sticks yourself from a large store-bought brick or purchase pre-packed string cheese, cheese sticks pack a powerful punch of calories and nutrition. For example, string cheese typically comes in a 1 oz service size, which has only 70 to 80 calories but a whopping 7 to 8 grams of protein. Plus, they’re fun to eat. I mean, who doesn’t love creating all those strings?!
Kid-oriented freezable yogurt, such as Yoplait “Go-Gurt,” Danimals “Coolisions,” and organic varieties allow you to freeze the yogurt overnight. As the yogurt package sits in your child’s lunch bag, it thaws out, but is still cool enough to each and taste great. And, it’s great frozen, too– like a healthy popsicle! And, no spoon required. Loaded with calcium, about 10% of the suggested daily amount, kid-friendly yogurt is a sure bet.
Fun with Fruit
If you’re worried about fresh fruit going bad in the house, look for prepackaged fruit instead. For example, mandarin orange fruit cups in their own juice (not artificially sweetened) are around 40 calories, but they offer 100% of the daily value of vitamin C. Flavorful, convenient and oh, so sumptuous!
Some other fruity options:
- A small 1-oz package of dried cranberries is less than 100 calories, but offers 4% of your daily recommended fiber.
- A 1.5 oz pack of raisins offer about 10% of the suggested daily amount of fiber, and only 130 calories.
- And prunes (which are just dried plums) are even better for you than a fresh apple, because they offer almost 2 grams of fiber in just a 1 ounce serving size, that’s twice the fiber of a fresh apple! Look for prunes loose in a package, or in small cellophane wrappers which lock in the juiciness and freshness.
Traditional chewy granola bars, such as the Quaker brand with 25% less sugar, run at only 100 calories (for the peanut butter chocolate chip variety) and offer 10% of the recommended daily fiber, 2 grams of protein, 10% of calcium, and 2% of iron. But at 20% of your daily recommended fiber per serving, the “Fiber One” bars in the chocolate peanut butter flavor are only 90 calories, and, in my opinion, are even tastier than the original.
It’s not just for breakfast anymore. You can satisfy your child’s sweet and salty cravings with a handful of cereal from the pantry instead of greasy and overly salty chips or crackers.
For example, a dry (non-milk) one-cup serving of Quaker Oatmeal Squares provides 90% of the suggested iron and 100% of folic acid. Traditional Cheerios clock in at only 100 calories a serving, with 11% of your recommended dietary fiber. The slightly sweeter Multigrain Cheerios offer 100% of the suggested values for many nutrients such as iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B, folic acid, B12 and zinc.
The takeaway: healthy lunches are a real possibility in your home and classroom. It just takes a few minutes and a few ideas.
And, if you’re teaching nutrition to your class this year, The School Box has a super fun game to try: Food Pyramid Bingo. Because, let’s face it, Mom won’t always be there to pack the lunch. They’ve gotta learn the basics on their own, too.
Diane Burdick, M. Ed. holds a masters in elementary education and a bachelors in history, and is currently pursuing her specialists degree with a concentration in teaching and learning. A homeschooling mother of three, she also enjoys freelancing for online publications.