Today’s blog post comes from Mary Donkersloot, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant with a private nutrition practice in Beverly Hills, California. Donkersloot has helped individuals dealing with diabetes, heart disease, weight management, and eating disorders for more than 20 years. She is also one of ENC’s Health Professional Advisors. She will be bringing us a 2 part post about packing healthy and tasty lunches.
I’ve been thinking about packing kid’s lunches for school, and I thought it was time to tell my story. As a mom and a nutritionist, I liked the challenge of making a healthy, tasty lunch that my son would actually eat. It saved him long lines in the cafeteria, and assured me he was getting the right balance of nutrients.
I had a few personal objectives in mind in packing my lunches. One was to avoid processed food that was high in sodium and low in fiber and nutrients. That meant what did NOT go into the lunch (chips, goldfish crackers, pretzels and cookies) was as important to me as what DID go into his lunch. That said, I recall when my son was in the third grade, he went through a phase of wanting flaming hot Cheetos. Although I never put them in his lunch, I agreed to stop at the market on the drive home from school to get him a package from time to time. He eventually lost interest, and it avoided a food fight. I could always use the claim that it would be embarrassing for a nutritionist to send that kind of thing in a lunch. Even a third-grader could understand that!
I also never included protein bars, cookies or sweets. There were plenty of sweets happening around school, birthday treats, a bake sale, or the little market on the corner once he got old enough to walk there after school.
My next objective was that every lunch would contain a protein, a grain and a fruit or a vegetable. I also made sure there was fiber for fullness, as well as health. Turns out, the fruit and vegetable piece was the most challenging for me. My son was spoiled by the fresh produce he ate at home, carefully selected from my Sunday morning trips (often with him) to the farmer’s market, and he complained that the fruit in his lunch was warm and unappealing; so I tended to send more vegetables than fruit. Since we were in a habit of eating vegetables at home, he was pretty good at eating them at school.
These are things that worked well for my family. Find your own lunch packing habits and stick to them. Your kids will thank you one day for the life-long eating habits and they’ll be able to do their best in school with the right balance of nutrients.
Check back tomorrow for some lunches ideas that will please your child and meet good nutritional standards.