Kids may not readily believe it, but the lunches they make and take to school can be nutritious and fun. These simple tips will help your children stay healthy while enjoying their lunches during each school day.

Ideal Ingredients for a Healthy Lunch

There are four main ingredients to a healthy lunch, which can make it easier to figure out what to include in your children’s lunchboxes as school begins. Instead of making the typical school lunches that we’re all used to, try to include these four nutritional elements: protein, fruits, vegetables and dairy. A serving of each of these in a lunchbox can provide the nutrition and energy that your child needs during the school day.

Fun Pita Pockets

Substituting whole-wheat pita pockets for bread can brighten up a plain sandwich without taking away any nutrients. While peanut butter and jelly might be tough to put in a pita pocket, there are plenty of other sandwich ingredients that will fit well tucked inside, including:

  • salami or pepperoni
  • grated or sliced cheeses
  • lunchmeat like turkey or ham
  • salads made especially for sandwiches, like chicken or tuna

Using pita pockets are also a great way to sneak in some extra veggies into a sandwich, such as tomatoes and lettuce. You can also make a vegetarian sandwich in a pita pocket, adding some calcium and flavor with a bit of cheese mixed in!

Encourage Snacking

Your children may be used to the idea of three “square” meals a day, which basically include a source of protein, a starch, a fruit or vegetable and a drink. Even though this is how we typically structure our meals, it can be fun to change it up by providing a variety of snack foods for lunch instead. The trick to this kind of lunch is to provide very small servings if each item, like a hard-boiled egg, a few crackers with cheese, a couple of cucumber slices with hummus, and a few apple slices with a bit of caramel for dipping. This kind of lunch can provide the required nutrients as well as a fun break from the norm.

Crunchy Alternatives

Instead of chips or crackers, try slices of cucumber or carrots along with a small container of ranch dressing. Celery sticks can always be dipped into peanut butter that’s been specially packed in a lunch while apple slices can be dipped into a small container of caramel. These crunchy fruits and vegetables will also naturally help clean your child’s teeth!

Kelly Wilson is a busy mom of two boys who love to make their own lunches and take them to school. For more information about how healthy food can help keep plaque off your child’s teeth, visit Dr. Randy Morgan, a Dentist in Newberg, Oregon.