This is the sixth in a series of back-to-school articles courtesy of Mary Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School, located at 170 Rosewood Terrace, Cheektowaga. Openings for the 2011-12 school year are still available at all levels, Pre-K3 through Grade 8 and Universal Pre-K. For more information, please visit www.mqangels.com or call 895-6280.
The rush of getting the kids out the door in the morning can make packing a healthful lunch seem like an impossible burden. The typical parent will pack around 200 school lunches yearly, and planning them all requires some serious nutritional skills. Not only do parents need to know how to choose healthful fare, but they need to know how to pick foods their kids will actually eat.
“When you plan your child’s lunches, be sure to choose items that are both healthful and fun,” says Edmond Sanctis, co-founder of Sahale Snacks, a producer of all-natural nuts and nut blends. “You want to select foods that are colorful and appealing and that provide energy and nutrients to get them through the day.”
• Get creative with protein. Nuts and beans provide more fiber and less saturated fat than traditional proteins like meat, cheese and eggs. Try making a bean dip from chickpeas or pinto beans and pairing it with crunchy vegetables like carrots, celery, bell peppers or whole-wheat pita triangles. Or add texture and sweetness to low-fat yogurt with a handful of nuts or granola.
• Pack edible ABCs. Fresh fruits and nuts are a fun way for kids to get much-needed vitamins, from A to zinc. For example, oranges pack a wallop of vitamin C, blueberries are full of antioxidants, and almonds are rich in vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and iron.
• Portion control matters. Little bellies require smaller portions. While kids love opening crinkly bags of chips, the serving size may be too large and unhealthful. Instead, look for small portion packs, like .75-ounce bags of healthful nut blends. Choose packaged foods made with natural sweeteners and flavors like vanilla, honey and sea salt, instead of artificial flavors or high fructose corn syrup.
• Drinks are as important as foods. Once you’ve gone to all that trouble to choose nutritious foods, don’t ruin your efforts by tossing soda into your child’s lunchbox. Opt for unflavored low-fat milk, water or 100 percent fruit juice. Many juice products only have small amounts of real fruit juice, so read labels carefully.
• Make veggies special. Add extra flavor and crunch to salads with apple slices, nuts and dried cranberries. Or mix in pre-packaged nut blends or seasoned nuts. For young children, consider blends combining tree nuts with dried fruit, like pomegranate. Older kids might like salads topped with more flavorful choices, such as barbecued almonds.
For more healthful, kid-friendly food ideas, visit www.sahalesnacks.com.
“While you needn’t be a seasoned chef to pack great school lunches, it helps to know a few tricks of the lunchbox trade to get your kids eating more healthfully,” says Sanctis.