While time pressures often make it difficult for parents and caretakers to think of lunch ideas or pack healthful lunches, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Dinner Tonight program can help.
“When deciding what to pack in your child’s lunch, choose foods that fall into the five main food groups – dairy, fruit, grains, lean meats and vegetables,” said Chelsea Stevens, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent, Williamson County. “This will provide an energy balance throughout the school day. And providing lower-fat options with a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables will help keep your child’s brain active during the afternoon.”
Stevens said to make the lunch packing process easier, Dinner Tonight has the following suggestions:
- Prepare vegetables and fruits the night before to save time.
- Add healthy sides such as unsweetened applesauce, cheese sticks make with low-fat milk, crackers, nuts, low-fat yogurt and fruit or veggie cups.
- Use portion boxes or containers to keep servings at an ideal level.
- Thinking outside the sandwich. While sandwiches are quick and easy, adding variety is key for both adults and kids when it comes to eating healthy.
- Using an insulated box or bag instead of a paper bag
- Before eating, children should wash their hands for 20 seconds or the equivalent time for singing their ABCs twice.
- If possible, store the child’s lunch in a refrigerator at home and have them store it in a refrigerator at school.
- If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot.
- After lunch or when the child gets home from school, discard all leftover food, used food packaging and paper bags.
Stevens said to help sweeten up the lunch routine and add creativity to the process, get the child involved in making a healthy dessert, such as Dinner Tonight’s banana apple muffins.
To learn more about Dinner Tonight and see its recipes, go to: https://dinnertonight.tamu.edu/
Through the application of science-based knowledge, AgriLife Extension creates high-quality, relevant continuing education that encourages lasting and effective change.