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 »
Back to school also means back to sports. From elementary age to college-bound, these tips will help any athlete P.E.R.F.O.R.M their best.
- Pick nutrient dense foods
Athletes need vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep those muscles pumping. Calcium, iron, Vitamins C and D, and B-vitamins can be found in dairy, fruits, veggies, breads and cereals.
Nothing stalls metabolism like an empty tank. Eating every three to four hours is a must for peak performance in the classroom and on the field.
If you’ve got a hectic household like me, you know the CRAZINESS that ensues every morning. Three kids to dress and feed, dealing with last-minute dilemmas plus I need to be in tip-top shape for work. Here are nutrition-packed, quick go-to breakfast options for any sort of time crunch.
If you have 15 Minutes:
There’s just enough time to quickly cook some warmer breakfast fare.
Scrambled eggs wrapped in a whole-wheat or flour tortilla with salsa or cheese. What could be better?
If you’re cooking during your morning rush, choose quick-cooking oats. You can also cook the oatmeal the night before, store in the fridge, and microwave quickly in the morning.
Smoked salmon, cream cheese and sliced veggies make Ellie’s New York Breakfast a delicious and quick option.
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Don’t let packing back-to-school lunches stress you out; we’ve got 10 fun and fresh ideas the kiddies will gobble up.
Start by ensuring your little ones’ lunches are safe from food germs. Here are our food safety tips for packing kids’ lunches.
1.) Yogurt Parfait
Pack up yogurt, with small containers of fresh fruit and granola for crunch, and let kids layer them at lunchtime. Or try making the parfait ahead of time in a screw-top jar for a fun and healthy on-the-go lunch.
Regular or Greek? Find out which yogurt wins our Food Fight
Give grilled cheese a makeover! Combine whole-grain tortillas, veggies and cheese. Melt in the microwave, slice, and voila – excellent finger food hot or cold.
Get more quesadilla recipe ideas
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The hustle and bustle of getting the kiddies back to school can make your head spin. We’re not just talking about the youngsters either. People of all ages are getting ready to start their studies – and let’s not forget about mom and her hectic schedule too! We asked nutrition experts from around the country to share their top back-to-school tips to help ease the stress of this busy time of year.
Start Off Right
Our experts agree, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Healthy Eats contributor Katie Cavuto Boyle says “it’s tough to learn when you’re hungry so remember to eat breakfast; it fuels your mind and body so your school day is productive and enjoyable.” But if you’re like most families, mornings are hectic. Registered dietitian Sherri Hoyt suggests some advance planning. Kids (and parents!) may be tempted to skip breakfast or grab a sugar-laden pastry or fatty breakfast sandwich on the run. Instead, “take time to make time”. . . in other words, plan for tomorrow’s breakfast the night before.
In need of a few quick breakfast ideas? Check out our Top-5 Quick Breakfast Ideas.
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- Feed them well, keep them safe.
A new study published in the August issue of Pediatrics may change the way you pack your child’s lunch this school year. Find out the shocking results and what you can do to keep your child safe from food-borne illness.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin tested temperatures of pre-school lunches in 9 Texas day care centers. Lunches of 235 kids with at least one perishable food items were checked 90 minutes before lunch. The researchers also noted whether lunches contained ice packs. The results were astounding:
- 39% of the lunches had no ice packs.
- 45.1% of the lunches had at least 1 ice pack.
- 88.2% of the lunches were found to be at a hazardous temperature.
- 1.6% of perishable items checked were found to be safe.
- Even lunches with multiple ice packs were found to be at unsafe temperatures.
This means that most kids (at least from the sample studied here) were eating food that was unsafe. This is especially scary since we’re talking about young children who are more susceptible to becoming sick from food bugs due to a weaker immune system. So what’s a parent to do to keep their kiddies safe?
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Ellie Krieger’s Rainbows and Butterflies Pasta Salad, part of a well-balanced lunch.
To get you off to the right start with our September Brown-Bag Challenge, we’ve put together a one-week menu of quick, tasty and nutritious lunches. To make things even easier, pre-plan your meals, make a shopping list and have all ingredients ready-to-go. Are you up for the challenge?
Monday: Tuna Pockets
- Stuff tuna salad into a large whole wheat pita
- 1 medium banana
- Sparkling water
Tuesday: Pasta Salad
- Pair egg salad with whole grain crackers for brain-boosting lunch.
Where I live, school starts this week so I need to switch gears from casual summer fare to brain food. Did I just say “brain food?” Yep, it’s true, certain foods actually improve memory, energy, focus and growth. And these delights all fit in one little lunch bag.
When I plan my boys’ lunches, I always remember this: the optimal meal blends protein and complex carbohydrates. Why? For nutrients and fiber, so the food is digested slowly, providing energy and better motor coordination all afternoon (when they typically have recess and PE). Here are some great options and the science behind them:
EGG SALAD WITH WHOLE GRAIN CRACKERS:
Eggs contain choline, a nutrient that helps brain and memory development (choline is vital for the creation of memory stem cells in the brain; more cells = better memory).
Whole grain crackers boast fiber, which helps maintain a steady stream of energy for hours, and B vitamins which, studies show, improve alertness.
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Take-to-School Taco Bar
When peanut butter and turkey have you and your kids yawning, here are 5 fresh school lunch ideas to add to the mix.
5 quick, easy lunches »