AS MY KIDS head back to school each year,
I’m usually pondering three questions: Who
will they get as their teachers? Will any of
their friends be in their class? And, finally,
what am I going to put in their lunches?
The first two usually work out OK. But
that lunch thing? That’s the one that keeps me
up at night.
It needs to be nutritious. According to the
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA)
Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, a
healthy lunch includes whole grains, lean protein, dairy and lots of veggies and fruit.
It needs to be compact, while protecting
both the temperature and integrity of the food.
Most important, it needs to be something
the kids will actually eat.
That’s the tough part, says Katie Sullivan
Morford, a registered dietitian, mom of three
and Costco member. Her book, Best Lunch Box
Ever (Chronicle Books, 2013; not available at
Costco), offers tips for creating enticing lunches.
She notes that it’s also the one meal the
kids eat out of sight of their parents. At breakfast and dinner, we can encourage our kids to
take in more of the healthy stuff. But at lunch,
they have only their taste buds to guide them.
It’s time for some professional help. I call
Morford, an experienced schoolteacher, and,
of course, the buyers at Costco.
A (whole) grain of truth
In her book, Morford writes that whole
grains are an essential part of kids’ lunches,
because they provide a steady source of
energy and “are the No. 1 fuel for those hard-
Bread can be great—if it’s the right kind.
“If [the bread label] says ‘whole wheat,’ it
means that the bran and the germ of the grain
are intact and therefore it has all the fiber and
the nutrients you want,” she says.
The next challenge is to get the kids to eat
that healthier bread.
“For kids who have been raised on white
bread, it can be kind of a hurdle,” Morford
agrees, adding that it’s OK and maybe necessary to make a gradual switch.
“It can be something as simple as making
one of the slices on a sandwich whole wheat
and leaving the other white. Eventually kids
develop a taste for these things,” she says.
Whole grains aren’t limited to bread,
either. Popcorn is another great, kid-friendly
source (just be sure to limit the butter and
salt), as are certain crackers, pasta and oats.
Ways to beat the brown bag blues
Kerry Johnson, who writes about health,
consumer and lifestyle topics, fills this
month’s consumer reporter slot. Send
questions about this article to:
Kerry Johnson and her
children, Rowan and
Olivia, work together con-
structing school lunches.