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12 Tips for Packing a Healthier School Lunch

Packing a lunch for your child each day can be frustrating when they refuse to eat what they should. We have 12 tips and strategies to help you pack a balanced lunch to keep them full, focused and happy.
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Packing a lunch for your kid(s) each day can seem like a lot of extra work, but with the average school lunch lacking in many essential nutrients, packing your own is the best way to know your kids are getting exactly what they need. Follow these 12 recommendations to give your children a balanced lunch that will help them pay better attention in school and keep them from running for the junk food.

1. Pick foods with fiber. Fiber keeps the blood sugar at a more stable level to prevent spikes and crashes in their energy levels, allowing them to focus better. Whole grains like quinoa are a great source of fiber.

2. Remember the protein. Protein is another source of energy that also supports the development of lean muscles. Edamame (soy beans) are a wonderful source of protein that are also fun to snack on.

3. Consider minerals. In addition to building strong bones and teeth, minerals like calcium and magnesium are needed for the central nervous system and can help your child feel calm and relaxed. Consider a small serving of cheese or a salad with baby spinach for minerals.

4. Make it fun. If you have the time, putting a little extra effort into the presentation of your kids' meals can go a long way to make them eat it. Something as simple as cutting fruits and vegetables into shapes like stars can help them seem more appealing.

5. Keep it colorful. A balanced meal is one rich in vibrant colors and a variety of textures so give them the rainbow each day and they'll enjoy a wealth of antioxidants to boost their immune system.

6. Add more flavor. Spices like turmeric and ginger can help calm and upset stomach and aid in digestion. They also have wonderful anti-inflammatory benefits. You can also try cinnamon, which is another way to stabilize blood sugar.

7. Be sure it's easy to eat. Foods that are interactive without being difficult to eat are best for kids, especially little ones. This keeps them engaged in their meal and ensures they take their time eating.

8. Plan ahead. Planning is key to keeping your whole family on track with healthy eating. Pick one day a week to go to the market and prep your meals. If you can't make several lunches in advance, set aside the same time each night to prep.

9. Include a beneficial beverage. What your child drinks with their lunch is just as important as what they eat. Water is best to keep them hydrated, especially if they're running around during recess. Add some fresh fruit or herbs to flavor their water like a bottled drink without all the sugar and calories.

10. Look after their gut health. Probiotics, the good bacteria within the gut, keep the immune system strong and the digestive system running regularly. Consider adding yogurt or another probiotic food like kefir or some pickles to their lunch to get these benefits.

11. Change their perception of dessert. Including fresh fruit with some dark chocolate chips or a no-bake cookie made with steel-cut oats will give them that "reward" they're looking for at the end of the day without the empty calories.

12. Let them help. Get your kids in the kitchen to help them learn about the foods they're going to eating and, hopefully, get excited about it. It's never too early to teach the value of a balanced diet and they'll feel proud to show off their work to their friends.

These tips can help you create more exciting and healthful lunches your kids will love. Enjoy!

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