Sunday, December 21, 2014

Thinking outside the (lunch) box

Are you sick of packing sandwiches for lunch? Nutritionist Beth Wallace Smith offers some new ideas for your child's lunchbox.

Thinking outside the (lunch) box

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Back to school mode is in full swing, and more likely than not, there are a few parents that are standing in their kitchen thinking about the 180 school lunches that they will make their child this year.  While school lunch programs are moving towards healthier choices, many parents and kids still prefer the DIY lunch from home. 

Not only is lunch an important mental break for your child, but a healthy lunch will help to fuel their brains and allow them to stay sharp and focused during the remainder of the day.  Since no parent wants to have a lunch box returned untouched, I’ve come up with some ideas for your most difficult lunchtime scenarios.

The Peanut-Free School: More and more schools are finding the need to eliminate peanuts and other tree nuts in order to avoid reactions in children with severe allergies.  Hummus can be a hearty, healthy, kid-friendly alternative when peanut butter isn’t allowed.  Pair a small container of hummus with pita wedges, sliced cucumbers, and carrot sticks, or chop up some lettuce, tomato and other veggies to fill a pita. 

Tired of the Same Sandwich: No child wants to open their lunch and see two pieces of bread staring back at you day after day. Take a break from the standard sandwich, and swap it for a sandwich kabob.  Start by skewering some cubes of bread; add pieces lettuce, a cherry tomato, two small pieces of turkey or chicken, a cube of cheese, and finish with another piece of bread. Two kabobs with a side of fruit and milk will be a filling, complete meal. 

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In Need of Something New?: Sometimes the standard lunch items won’t cut it.  Try mixing things up with a quick and easy pasta salad as the main dish.  A mix of whole wheat pasta, cheese, and chopped vegetables like peppers, peas, carrots, celery, chick peas topped with pesto dressing provides a meal that includes three food groups in one bowl. 

Use Your Leftovers: Certain dinner items can serve as double-duty and make for a delicious lunch box addition the next day.  Mexican foods like cheese quesadillas with a side of salsa for dipping will still be tasty for lunch.  Roasted or baked chicken can be repurposed into a wrap with lettuce, tomato, and low-fat ranch. If your child has access to a microwave, pair an extra baked potato with a small side of veggie chili and cheese for a fiber-rich loaded baked potato. 

Let your kids take the reins: Once a week; have your kids help making their own lunches.  Take out the cookie cutters for fun shaped sandwiches; let them pick a new vegetable and dip to add, or have them help you dip half of a frozen banana in chocolate for a special dessert treat.  Giving them some input on their meal choice will maximize the likelihood that they won’t trade it away. 

Happy Back to School!


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Beth Wallace Smith, R.D. Registered Dietitian at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Sarah Levin Allen, Ph.D., CBIS Assistant Professor of Psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Temple University Hospital
Peter Bidey, D.O. Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Christopher C. Chang, MD, PhD, MBA, FAAAAI, FACAAI Associate Professor of Medicine in division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology at UC Davis
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist of The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Gary A. Emmett, M.D., F.A.A.P Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Mario Cruz, M.D. Pediatrician, Associate Director of Pediatric Residency Program at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children
Magee DeFelice, M.D. Division Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Chief of Pediatric Emergency Services at Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Adolescent Medicine Specialist at Crozer-Keystone Health System
Jessica Kendorski, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D Associate Professor in School Psychology/Applied Behavior Analysis at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, R.D. Registered Dietitian at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Jeanette Trella, Pharm.D Managing Director at The Poison Control Center at CHOP
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D., ABPP Director of Integrated Health Care for American Psychological Association
Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D., Ph.D. Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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