The school cafeteria has been getting a much-needed makeover with Michelle Obama’s new nutritional guidelines, which call for school lunches and breakfasts to contain less fat and sodium and more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. But what about the millions of kids who carry a lunchbox from home? It might be time for parents to rethink the contents of their little ones’ brown bags and bento boxes as well.
The innards of my own childhood lunchbox (flashback to the 1970s and '80s) almost never varied: A bologna sandwich on Wonder bread, a bag of Fritos, an orange (hallelujah, something natural), and ice-cream money. Somehow, this repast carried me through my school years—but wholesome it was not.
“When we think of healthy eating in general, a simple approach is to get as many whole foods as possible,” says West Hurley and Stone Ridge-based nutritionist and certified health coach Lysa Ingalsbe. “If we take this philosophy to packing a school lunch, it will help guide our choices.”
For the lunchbox-challenged, Ingalsbe offers a few ideas:
The Main Event: A sandwich, soup, or tortilla/burrito. For sandwiches, think hummus with tomato on whole wheat bread, avocado with cheese, tempeh or turkey reuben, or homemade chicken or tuna salad. Wrapped in tinfoil while still hot in the morning, a tortilla filled with beans, greens, and cheese will stay soft; placing the burrito in a preheated thermos helps to retain its warmth as well.
Fresh Extras: Clementines, sliced apple with lemon, applesauce, carrot sticks, celery, or sugar snap peas.
The Crunch Factor: Whole grain pretzels, whole grain crackers, or corn chips.
The Wash-Down: A bottle of water (nix the juice box or soda).
The true test of lunchbox success is a simple benchmark: Will your child eat it? No matter how virtuous your intention, all efforts come to naught without the approval of your little food critic. Good luck.
To contact Lysa Ingalsbe, RN, CHHC, visit bodyandsoulnutrition.com or call (845) 594-2127.