Packing a healthy lunch – The Food Sensitive Shopper

What’s in your child’s lunch box?

No, don’t tell me…I may not like the answer.  Today let me help you create a nutritional bounty for your child’s lunch….

Sliced CarrotsFruits and Vegetables

Let’s start with what should be the bulk of your child’s lunch (no matter what age).  Fruits and vegetables should make up half of the meal or in this case the lunch box or bag.  I’m not talking about peaches in heavy syrup or potato chips.  What I am referring to is what nature has given us…whole apples, bananas, pears, carrots, celery, broccoli and more…

I love fruits and veggies…so does one of our sons but not the other.  Can you relate? Some children and teens have sensitive palates so try dehydrated fruit and veggies like apple chips, banana chips, kale chips and snap pea sticks.  Sweet potatoes can be mashed or roasted and placed in a thermos.  Home made baked potato chips are an excellent source of vitamins and better than store bought brands.  Pack allergen safe dips in a small reusable container because often kids love to dip and will eat more veggies just because they are dippin‘ .   Smoothies made with fruit and veggies in a cold thermos are refreshing, filling, and packed with nutrients….yum!

Grains  grainsbeforemilling

Instead of sandwiches every day how about some alternative whole grain lunch ideas?  A thermos of tabbouleh, couscous, or quinoa veggie salad can really add variety to the weekly lunch menu.  For simplicity try rice or corn cakes with a safe spread like Tofutti dairy free cream cheese and a sprinkle of raisins or smear of apple butter.

For your bread loving kiddos- shop for breads with safe ingredients that include whole grain.  Our favorite is kosher, parve, gluten free Canyon Bakehouse multi-grain brand for its taste and moisture content.

Proteins  dinnerplate

Consider lunch with beans, chicken, turkey, or fish.  These proteins are lower in fat, sugar, salt and cholesterol .  Try pairing pinto beans with brown rice and salsa; add black beans and corn to quinoa with a sprinkle of Daiya dairy free cheese; or garbanzo beans with greens.  Left over roast chicken is delicious in salads, soups or sandwiches. Convincing your children to avoid the daily dose of pizza, hot dogs, burgers, and luncheon meats can be tough but they will get used to a variety of flavors, textures, and low fat options.  They may even start to prefer some of these new options.

Did you know that the serving size  of proteins should be the size of a deck of cards?  Click on the deck of cards for accurate protein portions by age group and gender:


One deck = one serving

 Don’t forget calcium

Do you ever wonder how much calcium your child needs per serving?  Our son is allergic to dairy so I often do. Both children and teens need calcium for growth.  The body absorbs calcium better in lower doses spread out through the day and that means calcium rich foods at lunch.  I have some ideas…

1. Dairy free ‘milk’:  fortified rice, almond, coconut, soy, or flax milk.  Some come in 8 oz containers for easy lunch box packing.  If lactose intolerance is a problem try lactose free cheeses, lactose free milk or kefir for easier digestion.

2. Calcium enriched foods:  Canned salmon (instead of tuna), spinach salad, and whole grain bread.

3. Dairy free calcium enriched yogurts, faux cream cheese, and alternative cheeses.

Be sure to read nutrition labels to add up calcium content of foods eaten throughout the day.

I recently watched a show called ‘Barefoot Contessa with Friends’ with Chef Tyler Florence.  They made coleslaw with lots of dark green leafy veggies (lots of calcium) then made a lemon vinaigrette dressing  (lemon contains vitamin C which aids calcium absorption).  I made a version of this recipe and it was delicious.  It is also easy to pack in a container for lunch.  Here is the recipe:

Whether you are packing a lunch for your children, yourself or the whole family we hope we helped spark interest in providing a nutritional boost and some interesting flavor, color, and nutrition to the mid-day meal.

Want your child to learn more about healthy foods?  Click on the MyPlate Kid’s Place graphic; there are fun games to play:

To learn about USDA MyPlate nutritional guidelines go to:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”


Category: Food

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