Kids peer into brown lunch bags Kids peer into brown lunch bags Kids peer into brown lunch bags

7 tricks to pack a healthier lunch

Packing a brown-bag lunch can be a cheaper, healthier alternative to the school cafeteria, but it depends on the foods and snacks you choose. Try these tips for a dentist-approved lunch makeover.

1. Be creative with healthy foods

Healthy doesn’t have to be boring. Use cookie cutters to turn slices of cheddar cheese into stars and hearts. With just a melon-baller and some toothpicks, you can make colorful fruit kebabs out of watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew.

Is your kid obsessed with dinosaurs? Use a dinosaur-shaped sandwich cutter to add a Jurassic flair to lunchtime.

You can also add a personal touch by including doodles, stickers or fun notes with food trivia.

Did you know...?

Strawberries and raspberries are the only fruits with seeds on the outside.

• A banana is technically a berry.

Carrots aren’t just orange. They can also be red, white, purple and yellow.

Close-up of lunchbox with sandwiches and fresh berries Close-up of lunchbox with sandwiches and fresh berries Close-up of lunchbox with sandwiches and fresh berries

2. Remember the five food groups

For a balanced diet, include all the food groups: fruits, vegetables, grain and protein and dairy. Think outside the box. Veggies can be roasted, fruits can be blended and protein doesn’t have to mean deli meat. Include a hard-boiled egg, a tasty bean dip or some tuna salad.

 

3. Go for whole grain

When choosing bread, go for whole grain. Complex carbs take longer to break down, helping your kid stayed focused on classes longer. Plus, whole grains may even reduce the risk of gum disease and oral cancer, according to clinical nutrition studies.

And it’s not just sandwich bread that can be whole grain. Try whole-grain tortillas, pita bread and pasta.

Students eating lunch at elementary school Students eating lunch at elementary school Students eating lunch at elementary school

4. Add dips and sauces

Dips are a great way to spice up your child’s lunch and make eating fun. Hummus, cottage cheese and yogurt make easy, healthy dips. You can also your own savory yogurt (think tzatziki) by mixing plain whole-milk yogurt with herbs and spices. Making your own dips lets you control the ingredients and avoid added sugars. Use drip-free sealable containers to prevent messes.

For dippable snacks, pack baby carrots, celery sticks, strips of bell peppers and apple slices. If your kid loves potato chips, try beet chips, tortilla chips or zucchini chips. Whole-wheat pita cut into strips also makes a great dipper. For more filling options, try using samosas, veggie fritters or chicken fingers.

5. Make it colorful

Colorful foods can brighten up a lunchbox. Entice your kids to eat their veggies by offering a rainbow of choices. Red and orange vegetables are often high in vitamin C (healthy gums), and leafy green veggies are rich in calcium (strong teeth). Stock up on cherry tomatoes, snap peas and dried beet chips for added color.

Kids talking at lunch Kids talking at lunch Kids talking at lunch

6. Rethink sweets

Kids love dessert, but that doesn’t have to mean candy. Satisfy your kid’s sweet tooth with healthier alternatives. Swap out candy with naturally sweet treats like berries and grapes. Instead of a candy bar, try a single square of dark chocolate.

7. Don’t forget about drinks

The high levels of sugar and acid in juice can harm young teeth. Instead of juice boxes, keep your child hydrated with tap water or milk. Fill a reusable water bottle with tap water for an added fluoride boost. When choosing milk, keep it plain. Chocolate and strawberry milk are high in added sugars, so go for unflavored whole milk — a great source of calcium.

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