Preparation provides healthier food for children


Packing lunches can seem like an endless task. And, after awhile, it’s hard to come up with creative ideas– let alone healthy ones. Furthermore, it’s easier to grab lunch-on-the-go, processed foods at the grocery.

With a little preparation, however, you can turn lunches into a healthy staple in your child’s diet–one that will reduce fat and sodium intake, provide good nutrition and help him or her maintain a healthy weight.

Jane Buroker, a pediatrician with Witham Health Services, suggested some tips to turn “brown-bagging” into a new adventure in nutrition.

“Choose foods with higher amounts of nutrients you need– fiber, protein, calcium and vitamin C,” Buroker said. “In addition, also avoid foods filled with saturated fat, sodium and sugar.”

Buroker sharedmore tipsfor parents looking for fresh ideas:

“Wholesome foods:An apple is better than applesauce,” she said. “Applesauce is not as healthy, particularly if it has added sugar for flavoring.”

Leftover lunch: “We tend to be more health-focused with dinner. Look at what you make and determine how it can be repurposed for lunch,” she recommended. For example, make a cold pasta salad with leftover pasta, adding bite-size vegetables, cheese cubes and a little vinaigrette.”

Freezer fun: There’s a host of ready-by-lunchtime items to pull from the freezer.

“Frozen grapes are tasty. Try edamame, which are basically soybeans in a pod–and fun to eat,” Buroker said.

Going nutty: If age- and allergy-appropriate for your child, nuts offer a satisfying combination of fiber, protein and smart fats. And, they can be mixed with dried fruit to add flavor and nutrients.

That’s a wrap: Whole-grain flour tortilla wraps are a great alternative to carbs found in breads.

“You can add anything to a wrap–lean turkey, chicken, black beans or veggies,” Buroker said.

Another important piece of advice Buroker offered: Involve your kids!

“Make them (children) participate in the shopping so they can help pick foods and learn about what’s healthy, and why. They may develop more adventurous taste buds if they are part of the process,” she said.