Packing a Healthy Lunchbox

Providing your little one with a healthy and balanced diet during their formative years is a great way of contributing to your child’s lifelong health, and one of the best ways to do this is by packing delicious and healthy school lunches that offer nutritional value.

Before You Begin

Your child’s preschool days are a perfect time to influence their food preferences; expose your preschooler to healthy food choices by making sure that you include a little something from each basic food group in their lunchbox. As with adults, children should get daily servings from each of the five food groups: grain, vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat, and fats and sweets.

The Rules

When packing your child’s lunch, try to keep the following rules in mind:

  • Offer Variety: Have your little one eat different types of food in order to make sure they are getting a nutritious and well-rounded diet. Try to avoid falling into the trap of limiting your preschooler’s lunchbox contents to foods that your preschooler traditionally prefers. The trick is to get your preschooler excited about new foods.
  • Keep It Balanced: This is probably one of the most important rules when it comes to good nutrition. Your child’s diet should contain more vitamins, minerals and fiber, and less fats and sugars. Ideally, you should design your preschooler’s diet to cover all five food groups present in the food pyramid.
  • Flexibility is Key: There are many choices within each food group that you can offer your preschooler, so when your child shows a strong dislike for a particular kind of vegetable, for example, you can choose one of the many other vegetables out there instead.
  • Limit Fats & Sweets: Occasional and small amounts of fats and sweets are actually conducive to good health, but keep a close watch on how much you give your child. Cookies, sodas, candy, and chips should not be daily additions to your child’s lunch box.

Lunchbox Inspiration

Here are a few ideas on what you can include in your preschooler’s lunchbox:

  • Remember, bread is not your only choice. You can choose bagels, wraps, multigrain sandwich crackers, pita bread, or even scones, so mix things up and bring a bit of variety to your preschooler’s lunchbox.
  • Don’t rule out using leftovers. There’s nothing wrong with using last night’s lunch or dinner leftovers as wholesome ingredients for your child’s lunchbox. Homemade pizza slices, pasta salad and quiche are all fine eaten cold.
  • Try using a lunchbox that keeps food chilled. If you have one, then add regular or flavored yogurt, cream cheese and other types of foods that usually should be stored in cold temperatures.
  • Be creative. You can make sandwiches, veggies and fruits more interesting by using differently-shaped cookie cutters. Not only would it make items more fun to eat, it could also help get your preschooler enthused about eating foods that they normally don’t like.

Choking Hazards

Beware of small, dry, hard, sticky or tough foods that might cause choking. These include whole hot dogs, hard candy and lollipops, whole nuts, whole grapes and cherries, chewing gum, popcorn, spoonfuls of peanut butter, and chunks of food like meat or fruit. You can reduce the level of danger that these foods pose by cutting grapes and cherries in half, chopping nuts, spreading peanut butter thinly on bread or crackers, slicing or chopping chunks of food into smaller bits, and cutting hot dogs into quarters. Hard candy, lollipops, chewing gum and popcorn should never be served to children under 5 years old.