The new school year has started, and it’s the perfect time for parents to think about how to pack school lunches with creative, healthy options. I recently read a story in Medical News Today with some great advice and tips worth sharing.
Dr. Joel Lavine, chief of pediatric gastroenterology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, reminded parents that you don’t have to completely cut back on snacks and sugars to ensure that your child eats a well-balanced meal. “Kids can still get the sugars they crave from low-fat snacks and fruits, while parents are satisfied with the nutritional content," he explained.
In addition to finding healthy food choices, some parents face the challenge of providing meals for their children with digestive conditions such as Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome. "Try to avoid sending trigger foods," said Dr. Aliza B. Solomon, a pediatric gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Komansky Center for Children's Health. "For someone with active Crohn's disease, this might mean avoiding high fiber food or fresh fruit. Children with irritable bowel should avoid foods with polyols, such as sorbitol and xylitol, often found in sugar-free gum, which can lead to bloating."
Nutritionists at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital offer more tips on making your kids' lunches healthier:
- Salty Snack Substitutions. Instead of packing potato chips or pretzels, which have no benefits, try air-popped popcorn (with a little sea salt and olive oil). This provides fiber as well as healthy fat, while providing less sodium than most processed chips and pretzels.
- Food Allergy Alternatives. For kids with peanut allergies who like their PB&J, try a sunflower seed puree or even a yellow pea puree product available on the market.
- Kids LOVE Color! How about this for a sandwich alternative: "Rainbow wraps" -- spread hummus and ranch on a whole wheat tortilla and fill with chopped tomato, shredded carrots, lettuce, avocado, cucumbers and shredded red cabbage.
- Be Wise with Bread. Make sandwiches with whole grain bread instead of white bread. Choose breads that list whole wheat as the first ingredient. They're rich in fiber, B vitamins and iron.
- Choose Lean Meats. Chicken, turkey and tuna or salmon packed in water are healthy choices for protein-packed meals.
- Consider the Calories with Cheese. When adding cheese to sandwiches, opt for low fat or fat-free varieties. Cheeses are high in calcium, which is an important mineral for growing children, but they can also contain a great deal of saturated fat. Low-fat alternatives make a great choice, containing 3 grams of fat or less per ounce.
- Encourage Their Involvement. Work with your children to pick healthy choices:
- Go shopping with them
- Let them help you prepare meals
- Encourage new choices
- Offer them a variety
- Embrace their curiosity and creativity