Break away from the PB&J routine and put some variety in your child’s lunchbox.
Niki Kubiak, a registered dietitian and mother of two, gets creative with lunches and makes sure to pack something from each food group. Kubiak’s kids, ages 9 and 11, aren’t fans of sandwiches, so she opts for a mix of healthy snacks.
“Try to get every food group in there. That forces you to be a little creative,” she said.
Kubiak, who writes for livewellnebraska.com, often sends her kids with either pork, beef or chicken jerky. Sometimes the main dish will be a bagel with peanut butter or cream cheese. To incorporate dairy, she includes cottage cheese, low-sugar yogurt or a cheese stick. Fresh raw vegetables and fruit are a staple in each meal.
For kids who do like sandwiches, Kubiak recommends an English muffin, pita bread or wrap instead of bread. Parents can also add crunch to a sandwich with pepper strips, lettuce or cucumbers.
“Sometimes they’re a little more open to trying vegetables that way,” Kubiak said. “It’s a good way to sneak them in, and it adds a nice color.”
Skip the chips and pack pretzels or puffed corn. Peanut butter-filled pretzels make for a more indulgent side. Sliced fruit or vegetables also can be a good substitute. If you still opt for chips or crackers, look for a whole-grain variety.
Kids like to dip food, so hummus with sliced vegetables is a good option. To add more protein — and dipping fun — Kubiak mixes Greek yogurt with peanut butter or ranch powder.
Pudding cups, yogurt and applesauce make for a sweet treat. Kubiak tosses in chocolates in small portions on occasion.
To lessen morning chaos, pack lunches the night before and plan them out a week in advance, Kubiak said. She keeps ideas on her fridge, and brings that list with her to the grocery store.
Kubiak offered three meal options for kids who bring lunch from home:
» Muffins baked with apple pieces or carrots, or zucchini bread with baby carrots, string cheese, apple slices and jerky.
» Tomato or vegetable soup with whole-wheat crackers and peanut butter, cottage cheese and mandarin oranges.
» Tuna with whole-wheat crackers, a fruit cup, yogurt and sugar snap peas.
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