Escuela Lunch Box Remix

Teaching kids to make healthy food choices throughout the school day begins en la casa with their lunch box. “Start creating nutritious family food habits early in your child’s life, so it becomes a preference for kids in school,” says Judith C. Rodriguez, Ph.D., RDN, Chairperson and Professor of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Brooks College of Health. Here are easy tips for packing your kids’ lunch boxes with healthy eats.

Plan Ahead

“The key is to plan and do bulk prep,” says Rodriguez. Instead of waiting until the school morning, take the time to make five nutritious sandwiches for the week and freeze them on Sunday night. Add soup in a travel cup, cheese and crackers, sliced fruits, sliced veggies and mixed nuts for variety. Dinner leftovers can also be heated in a microwaveable travel cup, if that is possible, at your child’s school.

Incorporate Essential Nutrients

“Include a variety of food groups, such as fruits and veggies, grains, lean proteins and dairy,” says Rodriguez. Cover your bases with:

  • Healthy proteína: low-fat cheese sticks that kids have fun peeling; lean turkey or chicken; beans; hummus; reduced-fat peanut butter.

    Sándwich saludable
    : Roll peanut butter (a child-favorite) and a thin slice of guava jelly, or mashed beans and avocado on a whole-wheat tortilla.

  • Complex carbohidratos including fiber: whole grain crackers; dry cereal; whole wheat bread; whole-wheat bagel.

Sándwich saludable: Roll a slice of lean, low-sodium ham and cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla and freeze.

“Other nutrients of concern to emphasize for growing children include calcium, vitamin D and potassium,” says Rodriguez. Sneak in these essential nutrients with a fruit and yogurt smoothie served in a fun cup featuring their favorite character; fresh fruits such as bananas, peaches and melon; low-fat cheeses; and dark leafy greens such as spinach, which can also be thrown into smoothies.

Be Creative

Try your own combinations of food to find the perfect mix for your child’s individual taste. Rodriguez suggests finger foods as easy side options, such as cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, nuts, raisins, crackers and yogurt packs.

Make your kids more interested in the foods they’re eating by serving them in colorful containers, cutting sandwiches into hearts, stars or Mickey Mouse ears, and even making silly faces on sandwiches with raisin ojos, a cherry tomato nariz and a red pepper boca.

Lastly, pop in a little love in your kids’ lunch boxes. “It’s important to feed children’s soul and spirit,” says Rodriguez. “Include a note with an inspirational message such as ‘I am proud of the way you did x,y,z,’ ‘Remember to eat -- not trade -- the apple’ or a simple ‘I love you.’” Include stickers or stars for an extra sweet smile upon opening their lunch box.