HEALTH

Back to school: Here are tips on how to pack a healthy lunch for your child

Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Manuel Villacorta shares his tips.

 

As the summer months come to an end, there is a certain calm that everyone feels, almost like the calm before a storm. Then, all of a sudden, parents and kids alike have the same realization: it’s that time of year! It’s time for back to school.

The next couple of weeks are always a mixture of different emotions with kids excited and nervous for the new school year and parents feeling overwhelmed with back-to-school shopping, like buying supplies and new clothes. A major component that most parents seem to overlook is the infamous lunch box and what they can pack for their kids.

Parents should be cautious about what their kids are eating, especially when return to school. Sometimes, the food being offered at school cafeterias are not favorable, with options like French fries and pizza that are appealing to children, but nutritionally unbalanced. A study shows that children and teens can consume almost half of their calorie intake while they are in school, mixed between breakfast and lunch options. Making the food selection at school is a hot topic.  So what can parents do to make the best of the situation? Some of the best ways to change it up this school year is by packing lunch and being creative and simple in the approach.

Clients that have children often ask me for advice on what they could possibly give to their children. I usually suggest that they become creative beyond making sandwiches, which are usually overdone and boring. Instead, try making wraps, or pinwheels, using lean meats, cream cheese and veggies. Parents can also be creative simply by adding something new. For a healthier twist on French fries, try roasting tri-colored potatoes in canola oil and toss some fresh herbs on top. The purple potatoes that are included are loaded with anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant. Parents should also think about throwing a wild card into the mix. Adding hummus into the lunch box can provide your child with excitement, as well as protein power.

Keep it simple by using finger foods that are easy to add. Whole fruits and vegetables like strawberries, pichuberries, grapes, carrot sticks, and mini-sweet peppers are a no-mess way of adding a burst of nutrition. These food items are loaded with vitamins and minerals that are necessary for a child’s health. Drawing a happy face on a hardboiled egg can make it fun for your child to eat. It also supplies them with iron and choline, which studies have shown to aid in proper brain development.

The next big hurdle is when the kids come home from school. There is usually a four-hour gap between when your children eat lunch and their next meal. When they get home, have something prepared to give them before they attack the junk food cabinet. One option that I give my clients is slices of apple with a little peanut butter smeared on top or a healthy shake made with milk and strawberries. Another option is using fruit skewers to combine a variety of tasty fruit such as pineapple, melons and kiwi accompanied with a piece of cheese.

Manuel Villacorta is a registered dietitian in private practice, MV Nutrition, award winning nutrition and weight loss center in San Francisco. He is the founder and creator of Eating Free, an international weight management and wellness program and author of three books, Eating Free: The Carb Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Peruvian Power Foods: 18 Superfoods, 101 Recipes, and Anti-Aging Secrets from the Amazon to the Andes and his newest book, Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss.

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