The new school year is just around the corner! Chances are, you’re filling your cart with school supplies and a few new outfits, but what about healthy food options for those new lunchboxes?
My approach towards building a healthy lunchbox is the same as when talking about a balanced plate. A combination of protein, healthy fats and fiber (aka, the perfect trifecta) will satisfy hunger, keep energy levels consistent and maintain focus in the classroom.
Let’s break down how to build a lunchbox with these key nutrients.
Protein – the building blocks for building muscle (as well as every other cell in the body) and satisfying hunger, healthy protein sources include: grilled chicken, ground lean turkey breast or beef, deli turkey, seafood, Greek yogurt, boiled eggs, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Even some grains, such as quinoa, are a good source of protein, providing up to eight grams per serving!
Healthy fats – an important energy source for the body and helping to absorb vitamins and minerals, healthy fats are a crucial component to a nutritious diet. Healthy sources include nuts, seeds, fish, olive oil, flaxseed oil and avocado.
Fiber – Instead of focusing on carbohydrates, I like to talk about fiber because it differentiates healthy versus unhealthy carbohydrate sources. Fiber helps keep you full longer by slowing down the digestive process. Healthy carbohydrate sources that contain fiber include whole grains, beans and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables.
Now, let’s talk about healthy lunchbox ideas!
Make it fun – When encouraging kids to eat healthy foods, sometimes you have to get a little creative! Here are some ways to make it fun for the little ones:
- Make it a skewer using grilled chicken, cucumber and grape tomatoes or deli turkey, grape tomatoes and cheddar cheese or a fresh fruit skewer!
- Use fun shapes by using a cookie cutter to cut sandwiches or apple pieces
Get the kids involved – Encourage your kids to participate in the planning and preparation of their own lunchbox. Have them cut up fruits and veggies or assemble their own sandwich roll up.
Trail mix is a fantastic snack for kids and can be easily made at home by customizing the ingredients your child likes best! My formula for a healthier trail mix is: 2 cups nuts + 1 cup seeds + 1 cup unsweetened dried fruit + 1 cup fun foods (such as popcorn, dark chocolate chips, banana chips or dried edamame).
Make it themed – Nothing is more exciting than taking a culinary vacation to Mexico or Italy, right? Choose foods that fit a particular cuisine to keep it interesting and encourage kids to try international flavors!
Using the perfect trifecta model above, here are some healthy lunchbox ideas:
- Almond butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain (or sprouted grain!) bread with hummus and veggie sticks
- Grilled chicken skewers and two of these almond apricot bites
- Sandwich wrap (get creative by using romaine lettuce instead of bread to create sandwich roll-ups) with homemade trail mix and an apple.
- Make it Mexican with black beans and brown rice, grilled chicken, guacamole and carrot sticks for dipping
- Have a teenager at home? Try out a mason jar salad!