Say sayonara to store-bought lunch kits! These DIY versions will make your kid the envy of the lunchroom.
Pre-packaged lunch kits sure seem convenient, but the quality of the food is subpar at best. Popular options include crackers and processed meats and cheeses, coupled with sugary drinks and cookies. The calorie counts vary from 300 to 450 per serving, with 8 to 20 grams and fat, plus 30 to 40 percent of an adult’s sodium needs for the entire day. What’s even more disturbing is the staggeringly long list of ingredients, usually chock-full of preservatives.
Bento-style containers make homemade lunch kits a breeze. Compartments keep food fresh and allow little fingers to snatch up and assemble their favorites. Most set-ups retail for $15 to $25 each at Pottery Barn Kids and Laptop Lunches. Resealable plastic bags and small plastic containers can also get the job done.
Here are 5 fresh lunch combos that keep the menu fun and healthy.
- Thick-sliced roasted turkey, cheese cubes, edamame and yogurt-dipped pretzels (above)
- Greek yogurt, fresh berries, granola and carrot sticks
- Grilled chicken, tortilla chips, black bean salsa and broccoli florets
- Mini PB &J, whole wheat pretzels and grapes
- Pasta salad, green beans and apple
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »
Although it’s easy to give into kids’ pleas for the same old not-so-healthy foods, parents and caregivers should provide a variety of dishes that will help kids grow and develop. Happily, summer offers a great opportunity to break away from the same old chicken nugget and mac-and-cheese routine. The season’s bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables make for deliciously healthy dishes kids will love. Here’s a sampling.
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If you’re looking to up your kids’ veggie intake, read this! A new study found that serving vegetables alongside dip leads to munching on more veggies. Interestingly, kids were also found to prefer dips flavored with herbs and spices over plain, more bland dips.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that adding herbs or spices to a reduced-fat dip increased a child’s willingness to eat veggies. The portion-controlled 3 ½ tablespoon dips served to the kids had 50 calories, 4 grams of fat and 90 milligrams of sodium.
Pre-school children ages 3 to 5 years told researchers from the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University that they liked veggies when paired with a favorite flavored dip compared to eating a veggie without a dip or with a plain dip. Thirty-one percent of kids liked a veggie alone while 64% liked a veggie when it was served with their favorite dip. In addition, 6% of kids refused the vegetable when served with a flavored dip as compared with 18% who refused the veggie when served without any dip.
During a second experiment, researchers found that kids ate significantly more of a previously rejected or disliked veggie when it was offered with a favorite reduced-fat herb dip compared to when it was offered alone.
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Stumped on what to make for the team dinner or confused about the best snacks to bring after the game? Here are tips on the best way to fuel (and refuel) your active little ones.
Team gatherings are a great way to build team morale and make sure everyone gets a good meal the night before a competition. There’s no need for parents to over-think the menu. Provide plenty of fluids (water, 100% fruit juice and milk), some fresh veggies and pasta.
Some parents feel the need to shy away from carbs but this is exactly what athletes need prior to exercise. Pasta dinners are also easy and cost-effective. Add some protein from meatballs, turkey meatballs, chicken breast or chicken sausage, plus a big salad with vinaigrette dressing and voila — all your nutritional bases are covered.
When the weather permits, cook up a team barbecue complete with turkey burgers, veggie burgers, plus pasta and potato salads. Remember to make accommodations for anyone on the team who’s vegetarian or has food allergies.
Don’t forget dessert! A large fruit salad or watermelon wedges and some small baked treats will please the whole crowd. Cookies, brownies or cupcakes decked out with team colors are always popular.
A team brunch might also be a good idea before the team hits the road for a trip. In this case opt for bagels with cream cheese and peanut butter, smoothies, yogurt, fresh fruit, frozen waffles and scrambled egg wraps. All will provide healthy fuel that is easy to grab and go. Don’t forget the fluid here either. Water, 100% fruit juice and if it’s a hot day, sports drinks to take on the bus ride.
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Ever wonder how moms like The First Lady, celebrity chefs and renowned nutrition experts speak to their children about healthy eating? Find out how four amazing women talk to their kids about food, weight and body image.
Q. How you talk to your daughters about a healthy weight and how do you recommend parents talk their kids about healthy weight?
Michelle Obama: I don’t talk about weight at all. I talk about healthy choices. When I talk about exercise I don’t talk about exercise in terms of you have to look good. Exercise is about competition; it’s about learning a new sport; it’s about being introduced to something interesting; it’s about learning about how to compete and why competition is important. We talk in those terms.
When we talk at the dinner table we talk about eating a balanced meal, not because of how you look but because of what your body needs.
Now that [the girls] are getting older they’re starting to conversations [about weight] in their community, so it’s not coming from us, it’s coming from the outside. But I always shift them back to health and tell them the best way to never have to worry about what you look like is just to get good food in your body.
It’s all about balance. It’s not about never having birthday cake, or going out to lunch and not having a burger. I don’t even want them to think about that. I don’t want them to obsess about food. I just want them to live their lives.
So if they’re doing a sport, if they stay active, if they’re eating vegetables most meals and not overeating, if we treat foods as treats — so the weekend I’ll tell them you can have one breakfast that’s a splurge breakfast, just once a week — because you just don’t need to have pancakes and sweet rolls — at the White House, you walk in and it’s like pancakes and a sweet roll and a biscuit — (laughter.) it’s like, who’s idea was this?
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My kids always want to prepare a very special breakfast for me on Mother’s Day. But guess who ends up doing most of the cooking AND cleaning? (hint: me!) Instead of getting upset at the thought of extra chores, I take this opportunity to bond with my kiddos while we whip up delicious memories together in the kitchen.
A few days before Mother’s Day, my kids and I plan out the menu and hit the market so we’re fully stocked and ready to cook. Here are some mouthwatering Mother’s Day breakfast picks, complete with tasks your kids can do.
Recipe: Lemon Blueberry Pancakes (pictured above)
- Gathering ingredients
- Measuring ingredients
- Washing the blueberries
- Cracking the egg
- Stirring ingredients
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My 22-month-old, Hudson, is a great eater as far as I’m concerned. But that doesn’t mean he won’t dive into a bag of Goldfish crackers and devour them all. It takes a certain amount of effort to offer our little ones snacks that are nutrient rich and likeable. Sure, its easy to fall into the rut of Cheerios, cookies and crackers and there is a place for all of this in a balanced diet. I also believe our kids learn to like the foods we give them regularly. So try these healthy snacks out for size and your little one will benefit from the added nutrition a cracker doesn’t always have.
- Beans: Like a Cheerio, beans are a great, packable, finger food. Having a cabinet full of canned beans like chickpeas and black beans is as simple as being stocked up on cereal. Pop open a can, rinse the beans and offer them as part of a meal or packaged in a baggie as a snack for on-the-go. Packed with fiber, protein and lots of nutrients this is a no-brainer. Plus, soft beans like cannellini are easy on gums.
- Dried Fruit: A great alternative to fruit snacks, dried fruits like apples and cherries are a tasty finger food that have a good shelf life, pack easily and of source are loaded with antioxidants and nutrition. Look for no or low-sugar options. Read more »
I make quick, easy and kid-friendly breakfast every day for my 3 kids. If you’re not a believer that you can make breakfast happen in a flash, try any of my tips to make it happen.
Food Groups Matter
It’s not just about throwing together easy foods, but making sure your little ones gets the nutrients they need from a variety of food groups. As a rule of thumb, I make sure at least 3 food groups are represented in any of my kid’s breakfasts. Choose from dairy, whole grains, fruits, veggies, and lean protein. The more food groups you can include, the better.
Quick Recipe Ideas
Simple, no-fuss recipes you can throw together in less than 10 minutes.
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- Will your child ever love spinach as much as you do?
Getting kids to eat healthy has become the Mount Everest of parenthood. Every day is a rocky, uphill battle with daily obstacles thwarting parents’ best intentions: bake sales, kiddie menus, birthday parties and vending machines are everywhere. It doesn’t help that kids are still wired like their early ancestors to gravitate towards sweet foods to maintain their weight in case of a famine and avoid unfamiliar foods that may be poisonous. Fast forward to the twenty-first century with easy access to store-bought processed products and introducing kids to cauliflower can sound as daunting as climbing a mountain.
The good news is that there are plenty of tactics to encourage healthier eating habits in kids.
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Keep kids fueled for fun with easy, pack-able snacks.
Whether on a road trip, a day at camp or playing at the beach, kids need fuel! Keep tummies from rumbling with these nutritious and delicious snacks.
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