Wednesday, February 20, 2013



Last month I wrote a column about great breakfasts.  Now let’s talk about great lunches.  Since February is American Heart Month, we are going to keep the conversation going about how to keep our ticker ticking.  For a healthy heart, parents need to be aware of the importance of getting to – and staying at – a healthy weight.  What we feed our kids is a matter of great importance, because if they are categorized as obese when they are children, they are much more likely to be obese as adults.  Eating 3 small meals and a couple of small snacks every day is key to a successful plan for staying at a healthy weight. 

LUNCH IS A MEAL WE NEED TO EAT EVERY DAY.  Are you a parent who packs a lunch for your child (or children) every day?  What about your own lunch?  Do you skip lunch?  What are your kids eating for lunch?  Are you eating a lot of junk foods?  Sodas?  Cookies?  Are there Burger King wrappers in the car when you pick up your kids from school?  We are the role models for our kids, so whatever you eat, your kids are watching you, even if they don't say anything now.  

LUNCH IS ONE OF THE MEALS WHEN WE NEED A SERVING OF CALCIUM.  When you are planning lunches, for your kids or you, remember to include the calcium.  Kids need their 3 servings of calcium every day for healthy bones and teeth.  Adults need 3 servings of calcium for our heart health.  We all need calcium to get a good night’s sleep!  Remember that there are dairy sources of calcium (think milk, cheese, and yogurt) and non-dairy sources (think almonds and broccoli). 

GREAT LUNCH TIP #1:  Use dinner leftovers as the basis for a healthy lunch.  At my house, I plan dinners and cook a little extra so I can take leftovers for lunch the next day (and make all my coworkers ask me what smells so good!).   When I make a fresh fruit salad or a chopped green salad, I always make a little extra for lunch the next.  Package up a couple of slices of your child’s favorite cheese.  Place a serving of freshly prepared tuna salad in a beautiful container, add an oat bran pita cut into quarters, and you’ve got a healthy lunch that will have all the kids in the cafeteria (or your coworkers at the office) wanting to trade lunches. 

Use Barilla Whole Grain Rotini for a delicious pasta salad your kids will love!
GREAT LUNCH TIP #2:  Include whole grains in your kids’ lunchboxes.  One great suggestion is to make a whole grain pasta salad for dinner.  Just make a little extra for lunches the next day.  After dinner, let the kids pick out their favorite container and pack up some pasta salad for their school lunch, adding the right amount of parmesan cheese on top. 

Creating customized LUNCHABLES can be fun using in-season fruits and veggies!

GREAT LUNCH TIP #3:  Pack either fresh in-season fruit or vegetables as part of a healthy lunch AND as a source of dietary fiber, which is what fills us up.  Right now in Florida, we’re getting the delicious Plant City strawberries in the markets and I can’t get enough of them at my house!  Pears are a fabulous source of dietary fiber.  Cut up a fresh apple into slices (add a little lemon juice to prevent oxidation) and pack a few slices of your child’s favorite cheddar cheese for a great lunch combo.  Or pack celery strips with a 1 ounce container of almond butter. 

All these ideas have received the Growing Healthy Kids Seal of Approval and are recommended for kids everywhere!  

For more healthy lunch box ideas, here are 3 resources parents can use:

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich,
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.