Thinking about what to pack for lunch as the school year approaches? Sprouts Farmers Market nutritionist Janet Little offers five great tips for putting together a healthier lunch box.
Psst, your kids will thank you.
Protein-rich foods offer more than just an energy boost: They promote better brain function, a mighty metabolism, and help the immune system fight off school germs. I recommend lean protein like grilled chicken or turkey breast to keep kids fuller, longer. Don’t be afraid to “go fish” with your protein choices by choosing salmon or tuna.
Here are some options kids love:
• Low-fat yogurt – One cup contains about 11 grams of protein. Greek yogurt contains up to 50 percent more protein than regular yogurt.
• Canned salmon or tuna on rice cakes – ¼ cup yields 10 grams of protein.
• Edamame – This plant snack packs 11 grams of protein and is also fun to eat!
Take a Dip
We all know how important it is for growing kids to eat their daily veggies, but some of them run away at the sight of broccoli. Try making veggies fun by packing carrots, celery, and snap peas with a side of hummus or Greek yogurt dip for dunking. And add flavor to berries or apples by serving them with vanilla yogurt.
Kids can get tired of the usual snacks, so why not consider introducing raw coconut to make the lunch box more exotic. This superfood contains protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and healthy fats that will keep your child satisfied and energized throughout the day. A few of my favorite coconut treats include:
• 1 tsp. raw coconut stuffed in an organic date
• 1 tsp. raw coconut with cocoa nibs
• 1 tsp. raw coconut with blueberry or raspberries for a fruit salad
• Coconut butter, or a mix of coconut oil and raw coconut meat, as a spread on gluten-free cookies or bagels
Dehydration can affect our kids’ performance in the classroom. Lunchtime and recess are chances for children to refuel and rehydrate for the rest of the school day. Have your child pick out his favorite reusable water bottle and fill it with ice and filtered water. He can take this to school and refill as needed. For picky drinkers, parents can enhance regular water with a spritz of lemon, lime, or cranberry juice. Add bubbles with sparkling water to create a welcome alternative to sugary sodas.
Coconut water is another great option to keep kids hydrated, especially if they are playing sports. It's filled electrolytes, magnesium, sodium, and potassium — like standard sports drinks, but more natural. An 8 oz. serving of coconut water contains 600 mg of potassium, more than twice the potassium found in a banana.
As simple as it sounds, little kids need smaller portions. I suggest making servings bite-sized and easy-to-eat by cutting fruits and vegetables — you can even make them into kabobs. Delight kids with sandwiches and fruits cut with fun-shaped cookie cutters. They'll love the surprise when they open their lunch boxes and it reinforces that eating healthy can be fun.
Kids love to choose which foods to mix n’ match. Explore the bulk section of your grocery store, buy larger quantities, and then pack kid-friendly sized portions into re-usable containers.
— Sprouts Farmers Market have recently opened in the Mid-South. Their two new stores are located at 9050 U.S. 64, Lakeland & 3150 Village Shops Avenue (off Poplar Avenue) in Germantown.