How to Make a Good School Lunch

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A good school lunch will incorporate some type of fruit that doesn't have too much sugar, a good source of protein, and a healthy snack. Discover how to make a homemade trail mix for school lunches with help from a registered and licensed dietitian in this free video on healthy eating and nutrition.

Part of the Video Series: Healthy Eating
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Video Transcript

My name is Christine Marquette and I'm a registered and licensed dietitian with Marquette Nutrition and Fitness and I've been asked how to make a good school lunch. A few tips to keep in mind, part of it depends on the age of the student. If we're looking at elementary school students then you want to make sure that the portion sizes are age appropriate. You want to include some type of fruit. You can use the individual fruit cups. They do have those on the market that don't have much sugar, or they're very low sugar for example, extra light syrup. It comes in the fruit cocktails, it comes in the small individual orange slices. Those are perfectly fine to include in a lunch. They don't parish easily, they don't need refrigeration, they're easy to pack you don't have to worry about them getting smashed of squished, so that's one thing that you can use. If you're using a fresh fruit things like apples. Again, apples are similar in the sense that they are not easy to squish, you don't have to worry about them needing to be refrigerated if it's the whole apple. So that would be a good thing to include in a lunch. Another thing would be making sure the child has a good source of protein and a good source of fiber from whole grains. So a sandwich made from whole grain bread, that will provide your whole grain fiber. The filling can provide the protein. That could be something as simple as peanut butter or it could be some time of cold cuts, it could be tuna fish, it could be cheese if your child likes cheese sandwiches. So there's a variety of different types of proteins that you can use to make the sandwich with. If you're choosing something that needs refrigeration such as cold cuts or cheese make sure that you do use a cold pack or a little freezer pack to place in your child's lunch. A lot of times kids may have a snack hour so you may want to include some things that they can have for a snack at different times of the day. If they like crunchy snacks you can use something like pretzels or you can use baked gold fish. Now these are not necessarily the most nutritious foods but they are a fairly healthy snack in that they're low fat. If you choose the low sodium varieties then they're not going to have a lot of extra salt and they're not necessarily going to be a high source of trans-fat. Usually these things are low in all types of fats and they are fortified with some different vitamins and minerals so that can be a good snack for their snack hour. You could also include some sort of nuts if the child doesn't have any nut allergies and there's no opposition in the school to including nuts. You could also include string cheese as a healthy snack, or dried fruit, little boxes of raisins. Now if this is an older student, say middle school or high high school student, they're going to need a larger lunch and it will depend on what their activities are, if they are in any type of sports or if they're in any after school activities where they're going to be at school much longer, then say a younger child would be. That lunch needs to be a bit larger. Still needs to have the fruit, still needs to have the protein and the fiber from the whole grains. You still want to include some type of snack item but again the portion sizes would need to be a bit larger, you may want to include some items such as yogurt for some additional calcium, a little bit of additional protein. You may want to include actual bags of trail mix, this can be a homemade trail mix that you had your own nuts, your own dried fruit in there. You may want to include multiple sources of calcium so not just yogurt but additional, string cheese is an example. The sandwich itself needs to be a bit thicker filling than in the younger child's lunch. So those are just a few things to keep in mind when packing a good school lunch.

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