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Easy School Lunch Box Ideas

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A long day in the classroom calls for a nutritious lunch packed full of healthy calories and energy-building foods. America's school lunches have come under fire in recent years for their lack of nutrition. While First Lady Michelle Obama and the federal government have put in place a number of programs to boost the nutritional content of school lunches, the effectiveness of these programs varies widely from school to school. As a result, deciding whether to pack your kid's lunch or let him or her purchase the school lunch is a personal decision that depends, at least in part, on your school menu. However, several factors can help you decide the best way to provide a highly nutritious lunch for your growing child.

Advantages of Packing Lunch

When you pack your child's lunch, you have total control over what he or she eats. While you might not be sitting in the cafeteria with your child every day encouraging him to eat every last bite, you can at least be certain that you're offering your youngster nutritious foods that he or she likes. Packing a lunch also allows you to cater your child's lunch around his or her unique tastes -- something that the school is not going to do if lunch is purchased in the cafeteria. You can offer more variety instead of the typical meat, starch, and fruit or vegetable combination available in school cafeterias nationwide.

When to Buy

Buying a lunch isn't necessarily a bad nutritional choice for your child. However, you should not just assume that the school is providing a lunch that is well-rounded and nutritious. Instead, you should carefully review the lunch menu and decide what meals are nutritionally sound and appealing to your child. Consider these questions when evaluating school lunch menus:

  1. How many fruits and/or vegetables are offered, and will my child be able to choose his or her favorites?
  2. Are foods freshly made in the cafeteria or does the school serve processed, frozen foods? If processed foods are on the menu, the foods likely include too much sodium for your child.
  3. Are whole-grain breads, pastas, and other foods available? Whole grains are rich in B vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all of which, are good for your growing child.

Lunchbox Ideas

Evaluating your child's food preferences and the nutrition offered on the school lunch menu will help you decide whether you want to pack or buy. Chances are you will pack your child's lunch at least occasionally. Today's lunchbox can be filled with more than a sandwich, chips, and a cookie. In fact, there are many healthier options, and all it takes is a little creativity to pack a deliciously nutritious lunch for your child. Get out of the sandwich rut by replacing bread with a whole-wheat pita or tortilla filled with your child's favorite sandwich fillings. Make a pasta salad that your child can eat cold using whole wheat penne and his or her favorite chopped veggies. Other healthy ideas include turkey-and-cheese rollups, fruit salad with a yogurt dip, miniature whole grain waffles, hard-boiled eggs, and cubed cheese.

Conclusion

School-provided lunches have the potential to be nutritious enough for your child, but it's your responsibility to evaluate each weekly menu to determine whether the meal is good for your child. When you provide a lunch, you have more control over what your child eats, which allows you to ensure every school lunch is a healthy one.

Sources:

http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/jtf_sodium.pdf

http://www.fns.usda.gov/healthierschoolday/tools-schools-whole-grain

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