Concerned that the sludge they’re slopping at the cafeteria is ruining your kid’s appetite, and maybe even his waistline? Then it’s time to take control of the midday meal by packing a heroic lunch for your loved ones each morning. Not only will you ensure optimum nutrition, you’ll also be able to cater to his likes and dislikes, which means there’s a darn good shot he’ll actually eat this lunch, rather than leaving it behind in the rush to get to the playground.
A good lunch is a balanced one, formed around a dependable main course and punctuated with a solid supporting cast of nutrient-packed sides, a low- or no-calorie drink, and even a little treat. Mix and match like you would when ordering Chinese takeout — though, unlike General Tso’s chicken and sweet-and-sour goop, this stuff is actually good for your kid. Master the mix and your kid will be the envy of every mystery meat-eating student in the second grade. Here are the four elements to a perfectly packed lunch.
Dependable drinkThis is a high-stakes decision that few parents really think about. Considering the fact that many kids’ beverages have nearly as much sugar per ounce as soft drinks, tossing the wrong drink in the lunchbox could translate into 3 to 5 extra pounds by the end of the school year. Drinks should be either zero- or low-cal (water, diet drinks), high in nutrition (milk, 100 percent juice), or both (tea). Here are the best picks, in descending order.
Avoid a lunch built on refined carbohydrates, as the intake of quick-burning carbs will leave your kid with an energy and attention deficit for the rest of the day. Focus instead on protein, fiber, and healthy fats that will help keep your kid satisfied, keep his metabolism running high, and provide some meaningful nutrition along the way.
Meats should be lean (no salami or bologna), breads should be whole wheat, and condiments should be used sparingly.
Sides with substance Only one in four kids consumes the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, so pack a lunch sans produce and you’re missing a golden opportunity to slip some much-needed nutrients back into their diets. As long as you have at least one piece of fruit or a serving of vegetables, adding a second crunchy snack is fine.
- Small bag of pretzel sticks or Goldfish® pretzels
- Baked! Lay’s®
Excerpted from "Eat This, Not That! for Kids" by David Zinczenko. Rodale, 2008