Thinking Outside the Lunchbox

With the long holiday break coming up, it’s a great time to rethink what your kids are eating at school.

The prevalence of childhood obesity has tripled among youth ages 6-19 in the past 30 years. Obesity that starts in childhood can extend into adulthood and can increase risks for a number of health problems.

The National Institutes of Health has actively been addressing this issue since 2005 through We Can!® (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition). We Can!® is a science-based, national education program that aims to help children maintain a healthy weight in a number of ways.

Whether you’re looking for ways to add variety to your child’s lunches in the new year or need ideas on how to start sending healthy foods to school that your child will eat, here’s some suggestions on where to start:

Go, Slow, Whoa. This catchy slogan from We Can!® makes choosing foods for your kids easy. Not all fruits and vegetables are created equal, so choose carefully when shopping. Try to stick with whole fruits that come packaged in their own skin instead of plastic or paper.

Here’s some fun and kid-friendly ideas for lunches:

  • Apple sandwich with almond butter.
  • Freeze dried strawberries, blueberries, and bananas. Sweet, crispy, and no added sugar.
  • Cut up oranges, apples, bananas, pineapple, or mango.
  • Edamame or sweet peas are crunchy and healthy foods for kids to munch on.
  • Make a little extra at dinner and save it for the next day’s lunches. Roasted sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, high in fiber, and rich in beta-carotene.
  • Kids love to dip, so throw in some edamame or carrots with a small container of hummas or peanut butter.
  • Low-fat string cheese or cheese and crackers.
  • Nuts are easy, filling, and high in Omega-3s. Choose from sunflower seeds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, or almonds. Grind up some flax seeds and roll some no-bake peanut butter balls with a little honey for a nutritious, filling midday snack.

One study concluded that some children and adolescents with ADHD noticed a meaningful reduction in ADHD symptoms after being treated with Omega 3/6 fatty acids for six months. Another study found that Omega-3 fatty acids may have therapeutic benefits on childhood depression.

Growing up I had a Fox & The Hound lunchbox. There’s much healthier and more efficient versions of lunchboxes now than the plastic thermos of yesteryear. Check out this fancy magnetic one from Planet Box.

Try sending a reusable, stainless steel bottle with your kids to school instead of a plastic one. Klean Kanteen is a great choice, as their bottles are lightweight and free of Bisphenol A (BPA). They’re also a member of 1% For the Planet. Fill it with milk or natural fruit juices instead of sugar-filled juice boxes or sodas. Honest Kids has perfect kid-sized organic juice drinks, with five flavors to choose from.

When putting lunches together, keep in mind your child’s activity level. Active kids will need more calories than kids who are less active.

If you’re looking for more ideas and incentives to keep your children healthy and active, visit the We Can!® site.

photos by: Aylanah & wsilver