Make healthier school lunches

With summer coming to a close, it’s time for parents to start gearing up for the first day of school and planning back-to-school shopping ‘must-haves.’

After all of the new clothes and classroom supplies have been purchased, one of the last items parents shop for are groceries.

This school year, the American Heart Association is encouraging parents to make healthier school lunches a priority.

This year, the American Heart Association suggests that parents consider cold lunches as a healthy option for their kids.

Packing school lunches gives parents an opportunity to provide them with fun and nutritious options.

Below, the American Heart Association offers some easy, creative, and low cost ways to keep kids happy and healthy at lunchtime:

You might be surprised at how well your child responds to slight variations in their lunches. For instance, you could try to:

Think Outside the Bread:

– 100% whole wheat tortilla wraps (choose wraps low in saturated and trans fats) or 100% whole wheat pita pockets

– Shredded carrots or avocado slices with a turkey or lean roast beef sandwich.

– Use lettuce instead of bread to make a lettuce wrap.

– Buy store brand blocks of low fat, low sodium cheeses. You can save money by slicing it yourself or get creative and use cookie cutters to create fun shapes.

– Instead of lunchmeat, use the leftover grilled chicken, lean pork, or an egg white salad sandwich.

Reinvent Those Leftovers

Turn last night’s dinner into a nutritious lunch option by reinventing the dish. Some ideas:

– Use the leftover veggies to make vegetable soup and put it into a thermos to keep it hot.

– Use leftover grilled chicken to put on a fresh salad with berries or make a lettuce wrap.

Dip Baby Dip

Kids love dips. Give them lots of nutritious opportunities to dip to their hearts content:

-Apple and pear slices to dip into low fat or non-fat plain yogurt or peanut butter.

– Carrot, celery and sweet pepper strips to dip into hummus, fresh salsa or homemade bean dip.

– Whole grain crackers (choose crackers low in sodium, saturated and trans fats) or slices of grilled low sodium tofu (a soybean product) to dunk into low sodium vegetable or tomato soup.

– Unsalted sunflower seeds, crushed whole wheat cereal and sliced banana to mix into low fat vanilla yogurt (no added sugars) to eat with a spoon like a sundae.

For more help, scour the internet, magazines, or cookbooks for healthy lunches and let the kids point out pictures they like.

Encourage them to help you create their lunch and incorporate fun challenges into the process like seeing how many colored fruits/veggies can you incorporate into one lunch.

This is one way you can make this school year a healthy school year.