It’s that time of the year! The weather is slowly starting to change, backpacks replace beach bags, and lunchboxes are pulled out of hiding.
Does packing your child’s lunch feel like a chore? Do you feel uninspired? Packing lunches shouldn’t be a burden! Keep reading for some nutritious, delicious, and quick back-to-school lunch ideas.
Thinking about packing an item from each of the food groups can simplify menu planning. It also ensures that your child is getting a variety of nutrients. Bento boxes are a trendy way to pack lunches this year and make a great visual for packing each of the food groups! However, any Tupperware or container will work just as well.
Do you have to get all food groups in your child’s lunch every single day? No! Aim for 3 to 4 food groups in each meal. Other meals and snacks during the day should round out your child’s diet.
The two broad food categories that you should include in each meal and snack are carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates will provide energy for your child right away and the protein will make that energy last until their next meal or snack! Foods that are a good source of carbohydrates are fruit, grains, starchy vegetables, and dairy products. Check out the “mix & match” list below for protein ideas!
Where do sweets fit into the equation? It’s okay to pack a little treat once in a while! The bento box visual is a great way to keep the portion size in check.
How much does my kid need?
Every child has different calorie and nutrient needs depending on their body type, age, and activity level. Check out the links to MyPlate to determine about how much your child should be eating from each food group per day.
Want more individualized help? Meet with a Dietitian!
If you are packing perishable items in your child’s lunch (milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, deli meat, etc.), you should include two cold sources to keep those items at a safe temperature until lunchtime. These cold sources can be ice packs, frozen juice boxes, etc. If you are packing something that needs to stay warm, use an insulated container.
Check out more on safe lunchbox packing tips from Foodsafety.gov.
Mix & Match!
Have some fun mixing and matching from the food groups! Check out the ideas below to get started.
A place for our consultant Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) to share nutrition science, yummy and healthy recipes, tips on seasonal ingredients, and other nutritional musings. Enjoy!