Back to school: How to pack a healthy lunch for your child

Back to school: how to pack a healthy lunch for your child

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - When it comes to back to school one of the common things to expect as your student returns to the classroom is packing their lunch. There's a wide variety of choices and ways to go about packing that mid-day meal for your child, but there are a few things that dietitians recommend you bear in mind.

The first is balance. Aim to include a balanced amount of whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats like nuts or avocados, and lots of water no matter the time of year.

"Kids get dehydrated especially when they go back to school and mom is not offering water all day long. So putting it in their lunch would be a nice reminder at least once during the day," Brittany Robertson, a clinical dietitian at Tucson Medical Center, said.

So how do you achieve that balance of foods in your child's lunch. Robertson suggests that parents have half of their child's lunch be comprised of vegetables. They can be vegetables of any color and kind but they need to be vegetables. Robertson recommends that parents prepare little bags of veggies for their children to choose from and make sure it's only healthy options in those bags. That way your child isn't choosing between a bag of potato chips or a bag of tomatoes and celery.

Along with that, remember that when it comes to fruit, the real thing is better than juice boxes. While they may be popular with kids, Robertson notes that the size and sugar content are too much for a healthy diet.

"They're trying to make them a little bit better and 100 percent juice," she notes of your typical juice box. "The main problem with that though is that a serving of juice is about four ounces. Most of those packages come in eight, 12, 16 ounces. We'd much rather you're getting your fruit serving from real fruit."

When it comes to sweets, Robertson says that once again it's all about balance. Keep sweet treats to being just that - treats. Many of us are aware of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. and as a result of that it's important to watch the amount of sweets we take in.

Robertson notes that if you give your child sweets regularly in their lunch, then they'll crave them regularly. Developing that regular-type sweet tooth can be dangerous in terms of your child's health.

Robertson also recommends that when you pack sweet treats in you child's lunch try to provide sweet treats that can give them energy like chocolate covered raisins or almonds. That way your child doesn't eat a sugary snack and then their energy crashes during class.

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