// By: Emily Fitzgerald, MScFN, RD

The summer has flown by and it’s now September! The thought that commonly comes along with this month is, what will I pack the kids for lunch this school year?!

I’m sure most of you have experienced the packed lunch coming home uneaten or hearing (or not hearing) that it ended up in the garbage at school. Packing a lunch you know your kids will enjoy can be a daunting task. So, what to do?

Getting your children involved in planning their lunch is one of the best ways to ensure it will be enjoyed and will stay far away from the garbage can! Offer nutritious lunch and snack options for them to choose from and even better yet, get them to sit down with you and write up a grocery list with healthy foods to purchase. Get all of the children involved – it’s a great opportunity to start teaching them healthy meal planning skills.

Here are some suggestions to get you started this school year!

Start with veggies and fruit.

Offer a variety of vegetables to be chosen for snacks and lunch. A lot of kids enjoy a dip to pair with their vegetables. As opposed to a traditional Caesar dressing, offer hummus or tzatziki. As for fruit, encourage it is as a sweet snack. Fill a fruit bowl (not a cookie jar!) and place it on display on the kitchen counter. If it’s in sight, the children (and yourself) are more likely to grab for a piece of fruit.

Tip: cut up your veggies when you get home from the grocery store and store them in airtight containers in the fridge. This makes it easy for packing lunches throughout the week and displaying options. It also encourages the kids to grab for them when they come home from school for a quick snack.

Don’t forget the protein!

Protein is a nutrient that will help your children feel full and satisfied throughout the school day. Ensure there are a few protein sources available in the packed lunch. Choose from baked chicken, turkey, hard-boiled eggs, fish, Greek yogurt, milk, beans, lentils, natural nut or seed butters.

Balance it out.

To ensure your children are getting all of the vitamins and minerals they need for proper growth, balance out the meals and snacks. Try to include 3-4 food groups in each lunch and at least 2 food groups at each snack.

Food Group review: Vegetables and Fruit, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives, Meat and Alternatives.

Lunch & Snack ideas to get you started.

  • Whole grain wrap with baked chicken, hummus and veggies. This is a great alternative to the traditional sandwich.
  • Greek yogurt with berries and homemade granola
  • Whole grain pita with hummus/tzatziki, assorted veggies, hard-boiled eggs and cheese – a “picnic-style” lunch!
  • A banana or celery with some natural nut or seed butter
  • Egg salad sandwich – substitute the mayo with plain Greek yogurt
  • Homemade granola bars

Get your kids off to a healthy start by including them in the grocery shopping, cooking and making healthy food choices. The healthy habits they make today will affect their nutrition for years to come!

Here’s to living the grounded life,

Emily