Anita Shaffer, R.D.
As a young child, I remember back to school time as a very exciting time - new teachers, new friends, new challenges, and sometimes new clothes, school supplies, and maybe even a new lunch box (my very first was a metal box with a handle, decorated with Charlie Brown comic strips - it had a matching insulated bottle). I always looked forward to lunch with my classmates, and opening my lunch box to see what treasures my mother lovingly packed. Now as a mother of three children and a Registered Dietitian, I appreciate how important school lunch is to give kids the energy and nutrients they need to do their best in school, and get through their busy, often demanding day. Below are some tips you can use to pack a lunch with nutrition punch.
Make it a Family Affair.
Planning healthy school lunches your kids will want to eat is an important responsibility that you don't have to take on all by yourself. Involve your kids - even very young children can help plan their meals, shop for food, and prepare their own school lunches as part of their daily routine. These are valuable life skills, and it can help ensure you that once your child heads to school, with a healthy meal in hand, he or she will be likely to eat and enjoy it.
Strive for Five.
Plan ahead to offer a variety of foods that provide protein, grains (especially whole grains), fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy for overall good nutritional balance. At a minimum, be sure to include three of these five food groups in every lunch you pack. Keep in mind that most kids fall short of getting enough whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in their diet, so focus on including these kinds of foods to make most of your child's lunchtime nutrition opportunity. Consider these options when pondering what to pack:
|Protein||Grains (make at least half whole grain)||Fruits||Vegetables||Dairy|
Leftover grilled or roasted chicken, turkey, or lean beef or pork Lower sodium deli lunch meat, such as roasted turkey or chicken or baked lean ham Sunflower or pumpkin seeds Peanut butter Sunflower butter Soy butter Hummus Bean dip, salsa, or salad Nuts Hardboiled egg Tuna canned in water Cubed tofu Lentil salad
Sliced breads Pita pockets Tortillas Mini bagels Hamburger and hot dog buns Crackers Low fat muffins Cold cereals Granola Salads made with pasta, rice, bulgur wheat, wheat berries, or cous cous Cornbread Pretzels
Oranges cut into slices or wedges Sliced apples or pear (dip in orange juice or ginger ale to keep from browning) Bananas Fresh grapes Other fresh cut fruit in season Applesauce or other fruit purees Mandarin oranges, diced peaches, pears, pineapples, or mixed fruit in shelf stable cups Raisins or other dried fruit 100% juice or 100% juice and water drinks with no added sugar
Fresh veggies cut into sticks, strips, or coins- such as jicama, red or green peppers, carrots, celery, cucumber; broccoli florettes, fresh green beans- with peanut butter, hummus, salsa, or low fat dressings for dipping Dark leafy greens Sliced tomato, cherry or grape tomatoes Hummus Bean dip, salsa, or salad Tomato soup or other soups with vegetables (heat and pour into a thermal container) Tomato or vegetable juice Leftover cooked vegetables, tossed in light salad dressing
Shelf stable milk boxes Low fat or fat free yogurt Shredded, sliced, or cubed reduced fat or part skim cheeses Part skim string cheese or other reduced fat cheese sticks Low fat cottage cheese
Choose Good Goodies.
Many kids look forward to enjoying a savory snack or sweet treat with their lunch, and there are some goodies you can pack that contribute positive nutrition to the mid-day meal. Look for foods that contain whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and compare sugar, saturated fat, and sodium content on nutrition facts panels when making your selections. There are many Campbell products that are great choices, including our:
- Bolthouse Farms® ShakeDowns® baby carrots single serving bags of fresh baby carrots with seasonings you shake into the bag that make the crunchy carrots oh so craveable, without adding any extra calories
- Pepperidge Farm® Goldfish® crackers Cheddar Made with Whole Grain
- Plum Kids® line-up (recently added to our portfolio)
Think About the Drink.
At school, your child can purchase low fat or skim milk as a beverage to accompany their packed lunch, and many schools also make other healthy beverages, such as bottled water and 100% juice available. If you choose to include a drink in your child's lunch, look for shelf stable low fat or skim milk and juice boxes or pouches, or select bottled water. When selecting a drink, look for products that contain 100% juice or a blend of juice and water with no added sugar. Our V8® Fruit and Vegetable Blends are a great fit.
Keep it Fresh.
To keep meals fresh and safe to eat, it's usually necessary to keep them cold. Insulated lunch bags help maintain cool temperatures, especially if you include a frozen ice pack. You can also freeze bottled water and juice boxes or pouches and tuck them frozen into the lunch bag. By lunchtime the drink will be thawed, and during the morning the lunch will stay cool.
Best wishes for your child's safe, happy, and healthy new school year!
Anita has over 25 years of experience as a Registered Dietitian. She received her Bachelor of Nutrition Science degree from Drexel University and completed her clinical dietetics training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. Her diverse professional experience in the food service industry includes clinical nutrition practice and management, nutrition education program development, food services systems management, and recipe and menu development for healthcare and school food service operations. At Campbell, Anita is the Senior Nutritionist supporting the North American Food Service Division. She collaborates with the Campbell foodservice team to develop and promote innovative products and menu solutions that provide balanced nutrition for food service operators in the healthcare, school, and restaurant settings.