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How Kids Can Help with Lunch

Back-to-school time is exciting, but it's also pretty stressful for the whole family. Even if you have a routine, the morning rush can still create chaos. To save some morning minutes and teach your child about making healthy choices, help her pack a school lunch ahead of time. Preschoolers age 4 and up are ready to choose their meals, which nurtures a child's growing sense of independence -- and cuts down on uneaten lunches. Explain all of the components she needs -- main dish, fruit, and veggies -- and then let her fill up a container with grapes while you make a PB&J, for example. Grade-schoolers can learn how to prepare their own simple main dishes and sides: Just check to make sure she's chosen a well-balanced meal. Packing her lunch will teach your child about nutrition and help your mornings go a little more smoothly.

Keep a selection of these ingredients on hand so your child can mix and match her own healthy meals.

Staples

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat pitas or wraps
  • Sliced deli turkey
  • Cooked chicken slices
  • Sliced deli ham
  • Peanut or almond butter

Fruits

  • Grapes
  • Apple slices
  • Banana
  • Orange slices
  • Blueberries

Veggies

  • Baby carrots
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Cucumber

Goodies

  • Whole wheat crackers or pretzels
  • Pudding or Jell-O
  • Raisins
  • Graham crackers
  • Mozzarella sticks
  • Applesauce
  • Granola bars

Condiments

  • Mustard
  • Jelly
  • Low-fat mayo
  • Hummus
  • Veggie-dipping sauce

Originally published in the September 2008 issue of Parents magazine.