(StatePoint) Kids today have a lot on their plates -- getting good grades, playing in sports and music, making new friends. A nutritious breakfast gets them started for the day, and the right midday meal and snack keeps them going strong. You also want to keep them from becoming “day traders” or tossing out what you’ve carefully packed in their lunches.
Here are some winning strategies for making the best lunchbox grades:
• Sits well: Pick foods that can safely sit at room temperature for several hours, such as whole fruits, veggies, olives, nuts, cheese, whole grain crackers and peanut butter.
• Stays neat: Pack lunch items and snacks that won’t leak in lunchboxes or paper bags. For example, Pearls Olives to Go! are single serving, liquid-free cups of tasty, California-grown black ripe olives. Olives are a much better choice than chips and are a good source of healthful, cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fat.
• Be colorful: Keep kids interested in their lunches by adding the surprise and variety of naturally healthful colors and textures. Try adding crunchy orange carrots, bright red cherry tomatoes, shiny black olives, crisp green beans and other colorful fruits and veggies.
• Gets good results: Lunches will fuel kids for the rest of their school day. Be sure to pick options that will keep them alert, satisfied and motivated. Whole grain breads, lightly salted or unsalted nuts, black olives, and fresh berries are all great choices, as well as hummus and veggie sticks.
• Ask questions: While no one wants to encourage a child’s picky eating habits, asking a few questions can help you ensure that the lunches you pack are actually eaten. Requests for a dessert can be honored on occasion, but keep portions of refined sugar and highly processed carbohydrates at a minimum.
• Be positive: If your child isn’t too old to be embarrassed, consider sending the occasional note in lunchbox note. The sentiment, “I love you!,” nestled between a sandwich and an apple, can really brighten an afternoon.
• Ask for help when needed: Parents are busy, too, and you can make the lunch-packing process into quality time with help from your little sous chef. Having kids help in the kitchen is a great opportunity for learning about food, nutrition, making good choices, and daily planning. It’s also a good time to talk about the week ahead and check in about homework and activities.
With a little creativity, you can keep school lunches easy, fun and mess-free.