How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch
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Dr. Ann shares with you how to better your kids' lunch at school


As a nutrition expert, family physician and mother of four, I want to give you some guidance in building a better school lunch for your kids. There are four features, a healthy school lunch should always include first, a healthy protein package, second, some produce, the more the better, third, a calcium rich food and fourth, a fun food. And you know what? Do what I have done. Train your children to learn these things too. In other words, I have four kids, even in the youngest the one, if you look at here and said, ‘Lucy, tell me the four, essential features of a healthy school lunch.’ She would read right up, “Okay mom, a healthy protein package, some produce, a calcium rich food and a fun food, right? So remember those four things. Now, where are some of my top picks within those categories? Healthy protein package, lots of great choices. How about a sandwich made with lean deli turkey, chicken, roast beef, egg salad from omega 3 eggs. Omega 3 fat that is so important for their brain health, right? Kids tend to love egg salad. Don’t forget about tuna salad, another great way to get omega 3 in it but we you get your canned tuna, do the chunk like instead of the white albacore. The white albacore has a bit too high mercury levels we think for kids. And what about the good old standby one of a line most favorite sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly but instead of jelly we use spread of a fruit and when you make these sandwiches, of course, you’re going to do 100% whole grain bread. Please don’t tell me that you still buy white bread. White bread is only good for one thing and what is that, making dough balls. You see those dough balls, those nasty things we used to make when were younger. When they just had white bread available and we should throw them in our classmates, all right. So you use 100% whole grain breads and keep things lively and more interesting. You don’t have to always use bread, what about whole grain tortillas. They make 100% whole grain bagels and pitas and English muffins right and of course wherever you can in that sandwich, put in some veggies, tomato, lettuce, pickles, onions, right? All right, what about produce? You really can’t go wrong. Any produce you select is going to provide some healthful goodness but some strategies that will help you sort of jack up a nutritional power; go for the produce with the deepest, richest color. When you see color in produce you are seeing health. More color, more health. So some of my favorites ones would be for example veggies, lot of color and things that are easy for kids to pick up with. They tend to like finger foods. Foods they can manipulate and pick up with their own fingers like baby carrots, celery sticks, red bell peppers strips, cherry tomatoes, broccoli ferrets and remember they love dips. So when you are trying to throw in some veggies, why not throw in a little container of humus or a little container of low fat rinse dressing. Again, kids like to do things. They think things like dipping is fun. As far as fruit, any fruit of course is fine but the superstars I think would be berries, cherries, plums, any whole citrus, mangoes, kiwi, apples, cantaloupes, red grapes, lots of grape choices. What about a calcium rich food? You know kids do not get enough calcium. We know this and osteoporosis is nothing more than a pediatric condition with geriatric consequences meaning most people have osteoporosis as adults because of what they did or did not do right when they were children, okay? And we know that majority of the solid structure of our bones is actually formed during childhood. So calcium rich foods they need it. What are the logical choices? Cheese but be careful. Avoid the full fat varieties and thankfully you can now get this wonderful array of all these cheeses made from 2% milk and also some cool kid friendly like shapes and things like that. You got cheddar cheese, cubes and sticks and you got part skim mozzarella cheese that you can even get the old classic American cheese made from 2% milk. Another great calcium rich food of course is low fat yogurt. Kids love foods with the smooth, creamy texture. Most kids will dig yogurt as far as a calcium source and of course to drink, what about 2% of skimmed milk. You can also provide calcium fortified soy milk. They make that little convenient, little lunch box, friendly containers. Calcium fortified orange juice. There are lots of brands of orange juice that are now fortified with calcium, all right. What about a fun food? This is our fourth thing and you know, healthy eating should be fun too and there are lots of foods that can contribute to the healthier child that many of them will sort of think of as being fine. Why not a small piece of high quality dark chocolate, right? I love dark chocolate. I get my kids to do dark chocolate before any major test. I think it boosts brain power, all right. What about a small bag of trail mix, a granola bar, a box of raisins or some other dried fruits that they like, what about their favorite dry cereal? You could do a Pria bar, you could do a 100% fruit sticks, baked chips and you know they now even have gold fish. Gold fish are kid’s favorite. They have been the whole grain right and they’ll never know the difference. So try that. So parents, remember this, remember this, you have more power than anyone else in guiding your children to be more healthy. For ICYou, this is Dr. Ann.