Packing Healthier School Lunches

Last week, Michelle Obama appeared on the Dr. Oz Show to talk about nutrition and the obesity epidemic. During the show, the First Lady presented some school meal makeovers, which gave us a great idea! Why not improve the packed lunch too? A packed lunch can be just as tasty and satisfying as one served by the cafeteria ladies. Here are some suggestions to improve nutrition and create balance:

1. Build a Better Sandwich: We talked about making your PB&J healthier, and now we suggest you do the same with all sandwiches. Swap the white bread for whole grain. When choosing lunch meat, select a kind that is low in saturated fat. Ham and turkey are good choices. When adding cheese, use a lower fat variety. If you do add mayo, use a healthy type such as those made with olive oil. Or use mustard instead! Substituting mustard for mayonnaise will not only spice up the sandwich, it will lower fat and calories! And of course, add vegetables. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and onions can be added to most any sandwich!

2. Sometimes, pack alternatives to sandwiches such as a thermos of hot soup or leftovers from a previous dinner, or pack a substantial salad. Be creative and strive for variety!

3. Instead of bags of chips, supplement school lunches with nuts, pieces of cheese, cut up vegetables, a bag of pretzels or popcorn, rice cakes, a cereal bar or yogurt. You might want to look for kid friendly yogurt like Yoplait’s Go-Gurt or Yo Kids Organic Low Fat varieties. The beauty of these products is that they come in colorful, fun containers and are attractive to children, making it more likely that the yogurt will be consumed!

4. There are many different kinds of nicely packaged sugary drinks on the market but sticking to either water or low-fat milk is a simple way to improve the overall quality of the meal.

5. Finally, pack healthier desserts. Include a fruit that keeps well in a bag lunch such as an apple, a banana, or an orange, or pack small boxes of raisins or another kind of dried fruit. If you want to send cookies along, why not pack homemade oatmeal raisin? But do choose a recipe that is low in sugar and high in fiber! Your cookies will taste much better than the kind that comes in a box and they are better for you!