If packing your child a balanced and healthy lunch (and one they will eat) feels like a challenge, there is an easy ratio to follow that should help ensure your little one gets their necessary nutrition.
Aubrey Phelps, a functional perinatal and pediatric nutritionist, tells HuffPo, “Your job as a parent is to offer healthy, nutritious foods as often as possible, on a consistent schedule. But it’s up to your child to decide what to do with them.” She says it is best to keep packed lunches simple and tells parents that “focusing on specific vitamins or minerals can miss the big picture.”
If you follow the ratio below -- which is based on a macronutrient formula -- your child is likely to stay full, focused, and energized while they are at school.
50 percent veggies and fruit
The experts suggest packing carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, grape tomatoes, cucumber, grapes, apple slices, watermelon, berries and aim for 2 different types of veggies and 1 type of fruit. Of course, fruits and veggies are great for providing antioxidants, essential vitamins, fiber for digestion, and also hydration.
25 percent lean protein and healthy fats
Healthy options include chicken, turkey, tofu, edamame, hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, string cheese, nuts, and seeds. These foods provide "amino acids for growth and muscle repair, zinc for immunity, and iron and vitamin B12 for energy," HuffPo notes.
25 percent starch or whole grains
Great options might be whole grain bread, cereal, granola, brown rice, quinoa, crackers, air-popped popcorn. These will give your child energy and help with digestion and balancing their blood sugar.
In addition to the food ratio, the experts stress that keeping your child hydrated throughout the day is vital. Make sure to pack a reusable water bottle in their bag and encourage your child to keep it on their desk in order to ensure they drink plenty of water throughout the day. If getting your child to drink plain water is challenging, try fruit-infused water, sparkling water, coconut water, or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice.
HuffPo's nutrition experts also note parents should not stress about the foods of each specific meal or what their child ate in a single day and instead try to remember that nutrition is cumulative. They encourage parents to step back and look at what their child is eating over the course of a week and to not stress too much about packing the "perfect lunch."