It’s Almost Time To Start Thinking About School Lunches

By DeDe Hausmann

Before we know it, kids will be headed back to school.  The National School Lunch Program, which most public/private schools work with (for federal funding), requires that nutritious and economical meals must be prepared.  We work closely with Indiana School Nutrition Directors and cafeteria personnel so we know that they strive to make sure students get great tasting, nutritious and economical meals to enjoy.  Encourage your kids to try school lunches.

Some families choose to prepare school lunches at home so how about some suggestions to make that job easier and keeping nutrition in mind.

  1. First and foremost: REMEMBER FOOD SAFETY. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold by using insulated cooler bags.  Place an ice pack or use a pre-cooled thermos with foods that need to stay cold (as in yogurt dip or cottage cheese).  For hot items, such as soups, chili, chicken tenders, rice bowls, mac and cheese, pasta noodles, etc., place these in pre-warmed thermos containers.

  2. Reduced-fat string cheese, cheese cubes or slices (cold pack needed) are a great way to supply milk’s NINE nutrients along with great taste.  Include some hearty wheat or other grain crackers.
  3. Have left-over pasta or bean salads or maybe you’ve made some great hummus?  Again, they need to be kept cold so place them in a pre-cooled thermos.
  4. For crackers or breads, always check package nutrition labels.  Don’t just go by the name on the box.  Look for at least 1 gram/dietary fiber/serving.
  5. Pack fruits and veggies and keep those cold with a cold pack or in a pre-cooled thermos.  You’ll be getting lots of vitamins and minerals (and dietary fiber) into your kids and you don’t even have to tell them!!!!
  6. Low on groceries?  Most have peanut butter and jelly on hand, so don’t despair.  No bread?   Place PB&J between hearty crackers.
  7. Your kids love meat sandwiches?  Use good grain bread and consider using reduced-fat mayo or mustard as condiments.  Include a cheese slice, good greens as in spinach, romaine lettuce, etc. (the greener = more nutritious), and maybe a tomato slice.  Pack well and place with a cold pack in that insulated lunch bag.
  8. Chips???  Again, read those labels, choose reduced fat and don’t forget to check for dietary fiber!!!
  9. Let your kids help plan and prepare their lunches and you’ll know for sure that they will be eaten!!!

Remember that school lunches are healthy, great tasting and economical so encourage your children to try them at least occasionally.  And always remind them, whether they bring their lunch or buy it at school, to grab a container of icy cold, super-nutritious milk, whether it’s white or flavored.  Almost all schools are serving 1% or fat-free now and kids need those nine nutrients to help their bodies grow and be healthy.  We want our kids to do well in school and if they eat a nutritious lunch, that will foster that.

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