How to spice up a school lunch while keeping it healthy for the kids


by Mia Gradney / KHOU 11 News

Posted on August 21, 2012 at 8:15 AM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 21 at 8:35 AM

HOUSTON – Prepackaged, kid-friendly lunches are high in sodium and a bologna sandwich is just boring. Why not serve up something special your kids will enjoy and you can make in no time?

Andrea Desantis, a mother of two school-age children, recently learned from friend and registered dietitian, Monica Bearden, how to build a better lunch.

“It comes down to the same old thing. How do you spice it up? What will your kids eat that is nutritious?” Desantis asked. “You don’t want the lunchbox coming back full. You want them to have that mid-day burst of energy that they need.”

Making a nutritious, yet appetizing lunch is a challenge, but not mission impossible.

“It’s very important when you’re making a school lunch, it doesn’t take that long to make and it’s very simple to make,” Bearden said.

Bearden showed Desantis how to make a kid-friendly sandwich version of a Caprese salad. She used a couple of tomato slices plus a sprig or two of fresh basil. Together they helped balance out the sodium, a major culprit in kid’s meals.

“We eat too much sodium and not enough potassium.” Bearden said. “There’s research to show that if you’re eating more sodium than potassium you have a higher risk of chronic diseases down the road.

Strawberries offer plenty of potassium too. If getting your children to eat fruit is a headache, sweeten it up a little.

“I usually add a few marshmallows to my fruit after I have sliced it up,” Bearden said. “It breaks up the color and makes it more visually pleasing and it excites the kids, because what kid didn’t like marshmallows?”

Peanut butter is also popular with children but since peanut butter is no longer welcome in most public schools, Bearden serves up a tasty alternative.

“Sunflower butter is a great alternative to peanut butter if your school has peanut allergy or tree allergy restrictions,” she said.

If your kids are sick of sandwiches in general you can try making them their own flatbread pizza. Bearden told us another option for lunchmeat is to use low fat turkey pepperoni. It’s still high in sodium, but you can add plenty of fruits and vegetables to balance that out.

Don’t forget about the whole grains. They’re just as important as the fruits and veggies.

“The kids aren’t only going to get a boost of energy during the middle of the day from them, but it’s going to be sustained energy,” Bearden said.

Other options include whole grain wraps paired with veggies, and even chocolate! It’s just another lunch idea sure to get a passing grade from your child.

Click here for more lunch ideas and recipes.