Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Save a Bunch and Pack Your Lunch! (2nd Edition)

It’s that time of year again… back to school (up until college those were the worst words to hear)! Anyway, back to school means back to routine, which for many, can be a very positive thing when it comes to diet quality. In addition to making sure your child eats breakfast, has healthy snacks, and a well-balanced dinner, make sure they have a healthy lunch! One of my biggest tips to both children and adults is to PACK YOUR LUNCH!

I recommend you make buying lunch a special treat for your child, just as eating out should be a treat for adults and NOT the norm. If your child is old enough, teach them how to prepare a healthy lunch, so that way even if you are too busy to make it, your child can do it themselves. Packing lunch will create autonomy for your child, while also teaching them the life skills of how to prepare a healthy meal. Furthermore, if your child makes their own lunch, they will be way more inclined to eat it!!! I began packing my lunch around age 7 (my mom will confirm), and I can tell you, I have packed my lunch and snacks almost every day since!

Another benefit of packing lunch is the amount of money you will save. If your child gets just the school lunch every day, you may only be spending $2.35-$4/day… but if they buy a-la-carte items, those prices can add up very quickly. Some of my adult clients estimate they spend up to $2,000/year on eating out for just lunch! Furthermore, not to knock school lunches, but a lot of the options are cheese and fat-laden, and not as healthy as a homemade sandwich.
A healthy lunch should include a whole grain, lean protein, fruit, and ideally some form of dairy or dairy equivalent. There is no need for a child to have “dessert” after every meal, so don’t get them into this habit. A treat could be fruit or low-fat yogurt, and once a week something more indulgent. Below are some ideas for healthy and fun lunches for your children.

  • Chicken or turkey sandwich: 100% whole wheat bread w/ low-sodium lean meat, 1 slice reduced-fat Swiss cheese, mustard, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber.
  • Pizza roll-up: Whole wheat tortilla or Flat Out w/ 2 tbsp pizza sauce, 3 tbsp part-skim shredded mozzarella, baby spinach, tomatoes, and a few thin slices of chicken.
  • Strawberries & cream pita: ½ cup sliced strawberries, 1 tbsp. low-sugar strawberry jam & 1/3 c part-skim ricotta cheese inside a whole wheat pita
  • Ham roll-up: Ham, reduced-fat Swiss cheese, apple slices & spinach inside a whole wheat tortilla w/ mustard and/or olive oil mayo.
  • Tuna & Avocado pita: Mash canned (no-salt added) Albacore tuna w/ avocado- put inside pita with sliced cucumber & other veggies. Add spices as desired.
  • Cold quinoa & tofu salad: Mix ½ c cooked quinoa, 1 cup mixed Italian veggies (can use frozen), 2-3 oz tofu, and light-balsamic dressing in Tupperware container.
  • Parfait: Mix cottage cheese or plain Greek yogurt with fruit and high-fiber cereal 
Sides: For any of these meals be sure to include all of the following:
  • 1 fruit (1/2 c- 1 c) 
  • Low-fat yogurt (like Chobani Champions or champions tubes, Stonyfield, etc)
  • Side of veggies (can pair with hummus or other low-fat dip)
Note: You can substitute any lean protein for any mentioned above (low-sodium turkey, ham, chicken, pork tenderloin, fish, tofu, edamame, etc).

So, in the end you will be saving a bunch of calories and money by packing your own lunch and having your child pack their lunch. It won't take very long, and in the end, the payoff is huge. Getting into good eating habits from an early age will make your child more likely to keep them throughout adulthood.

DID YOU KNOW? If you have Independence Blue Cross (Personal Choice or Keystone), AmeriHealth, or Aetna, you can receive FREE nutrition counseling sessions with me at my office in Wayne? Most plans do not require a co-pay or deductible. Back to school is a great time for families to start making healthy habits... I see children and adults of all ages with all different types of issues and concerns.Email me at: to inquire.

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