Small Adjustments to Your Child’s School Lunch Can Make All the Difference

healthy lunch

Which lunch option would most children prefer: pizza, soda and fries, or a PB&J sandwich, carrot sticks and yogurt? 

According to Alicia Walters-Stewart, MD, assistant professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, most kids would enjoy both, but the health difference between the two is quite stark. 

“The PB&J meal offers more of what children need every day – protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables,” Walters-Stewart said. “Kids feel better and stay more focused when they eat a balanced lunch.” 

Walter-Stewart offers the following tips to help parents pack easy, healthy lunches for their children: 

  • Stock the pantry: Convenient, versatile foods to have on hand are unsalted nuts, baked chips, low-sodium canned tuna, peanut butter, and whole-grain bread, tortillas and cereal. 
  • Fill the fridge: Be sure to have plenty of fruit, eggs, carrots, celery, bell peppers, low-fat turkey or lean roast beef, low-fat yogurt, low-sodium low-fat cheese, unsweetened all-natural apple sauce, mustard and light mayonnaise. 
  • Prep for the week: On Sunday, cook hard-boiled eggs for egg salad, mix a bowl of tuna salad and cut up a week’s supply of bell pepper, carrot and celery sticks. 
  • Don’t forget about leftovers: Did you have grilled chicken for dinner last night? Dice up what’s left and put that into a whole-wheat tortilla with some vegetables for a simple, tasty wrap. Consider purchasing small containers for nutritious dips and dressings. 
  • Think outside the box: Most kids like variety. Instead of a sandwich, why not pack a roast beef roll-up without the bread? Or how about frittata muffins? The options are endless, and the Internet is full of creative ideas. 

“Eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult, boring or tasteless.” Walters-Stewart said. “Teaching children to make good food choices is one of the most important things parents can do to help their kids lead healthy lives.”

If your child suffers from obesity, schedule an appointment with the Brenner FIT program at Brenner Children's Hospital.

Walters-Stewart Alicia CDr. Alicia Walters is a clinical instructor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

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Last Updated: 09-18-2014
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