Westchester Hospital Dietitian Discusses Healthy Lunches for Back to School

Posted on: August 25, 2013

Packing A Healthy Lunchbag

by Stephanie Perruzza, MS, RD, CDN, Northern Westchester Hospital


September is back-to-school month …getting organized around books, supplies and first day back-to-school outfits, etc., etc…  We want to make this one task easier:  Packing the lunch bag.

You know that with a healthy meal, your child gets the energy s/he needs to make it through the day and thrive.  A healthy lunch can allow your child perform and study well, be more attentive in class and even maintain a healthy weight.  Save these tips below and your child will keep that healthy lunch rather than ditch it or swap it for a bag of chips or soda:

  1. Make at Home – this is the best way to ensure the quality of your child’s meal.  Food items in school cafeterias and snack machines may be loaded with excess calories, sodium and fat.
  2. Keep It Simple – no need to go overboard when packing a school lunch!  Having a few “go-to” meal ideas or using last night’s leftovers are simple and easy to pack up.
  3. Team Up Together – children are more willing to eat or try something new if they’re involved in preparing.  Give your child a few healthy options and let them decide what they want.

5 Lunchbag Bonuses:

Add these energy-filled items to the lunch bag this school season: 

#1 Wraps
A nice change-up from regular bread.  Try different flavor varieties, like tomato and spinach.  Fill it with a lean protein such as turkey or chicken and plenty of veggies like carrots, spinach, cucumber and tomatoes.  Use a low-fat spread such as hummus or light salad dressing.

#2 Veggies and Dip
Veggies like carrots, broccoli, celery, bell peppers and sugar snap peas are crunchy and packed with fiber to curb hunger.  Pack with a low-fat dip such as bean or a yogurt-based ranch dip.

#3 Fruit and Nut or Trail Mix
Unsalted seeds and nuts provide a great source of protein. Add in your child’s favorite dried fruit and even dark chocolate chips for a little sweet treat. Stick to a serving size of ¼-½ cup (about one child’s handful).

#4 Yogurt Parfait
Layer nonfat regular or Greek yogurt with your child’s favorite fruits.  For additional toppings add low-fat granola, unsalted nuts like almonds or walnuts or a high-fiber cereal.

#5 Pre-made Salads
Toss fresh pasta, couscous, or quinoa with tuna, chicken and vegetables for a cold satisfying salad. To save time, prepare a large batch ahead of time and portion out for the week.

And Remember…
Beverages! It’s important for your child to stay hydrated during the day. Good drink choices include plain or flavored water, fat-free chocolate milk (for extra protein and calcium) or 100% fruit juice with no added sugar.

Try These Healthy Alternatives to Store Bought Snacks.

Also be sure to check out our NWH‘s multitude of recipes on our nutrition page.

Ants On A Log, Courtesy of Allrecipes.com

5 stalks of celery
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup raisins

Cut celery stalks in half. Spread with peanut butter. Sprinkle with raisins.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 2 stalks
Calories 182
Protein 7g
Fat 13.2g
Sat Fat 2.8g
Mono Fat 9g
Carbohydrates 21.8g
Fiber 2.4g
Sodium 152mg
Cholesterol 0mg

Pineapple-Raspberry Parfaits, Courtesy of Eatingwell.com

2-8 oz. containers nonfat peach yogurt
½ pint fresh raspberries (about 1 ¼ cups)
1 ½ cups fresh, frozen or canned pineapple chunks

Divide and layer yogurt, raspberries and pineapple into 4 glasses. Serve chilled.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 parfait
Calories 109
Protein 5g
Fat 0g
Sat Fat 0g
Mono Fat 0g
Poly Fat 0g
Carbohydrates 23g
Fiber 3g
Sodium 58mg
Cholesterol 2mg

Whole Grain Marshmallow Crispy Bars, Courtesy of Myrecipes.com

3 Tbsp. butter
1 (10.5-oz.) bag miniature marshmallows
1 (15-oz.) box multi-grain cluster cereal
1¼ cups dried cranberries, dried
Vegetable cooking spray

1. Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows, and cook, stirring constantly, 4 to 5 minutes or until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Stir in cereal and 1 cup cranberries until well cooked.

3. Press mixture into a 13-x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Chop remaining ¼ cup cranberries, and sprinkle on top. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes or until firm. Cut into 24 bars.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 bar
Calories 142
Protein 2.7g
Fat 2.9g
Sat Fat 1g
Mono Fat 0.9g
Poly Fat 0.4g
Carbohydrates 27.9g
Fiber 1.9g
Sodium 22mg
Cholesterol 4mg