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Summertime lunches don't have to be a headache!
Summer’s here and that means no more school lunches. The transition to providing your child a lunch doesn’t have to be a tough one. We talked to Ayelet Goldhaber, a registered dietitian at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone for her insight into providing food for your children during the summer months.
Structure Is the Key
One of the biggest obstacles to good nutrition over the summer is the likelihood of skipping meals, particularly lunch, as schedules become more flexible and unpredictable. Goldhaber recommends that parents avoid substituting snacks for lunch.
“Structure is the key here,” Goldhaber says. “Kids of all ages, from infant to toddler to young adult do well when they know what to expect and when...Not only does lunch often get skipped in the summer, but we are more likely to give in to quick fixes like sugary snacks and drinks to pacify hungry kiddos on the go.”
One helpful way to ensure that kids are getting a healthy lunch is to insist on a strict schedule for mealtimes. This ensures a degree of dietary continuity between school and summer.
“The key is to always schedule a time for lunch,” Goldhaber explains, “even when activities and daily schedules are changing around you. This will maintain the expectation to eat, just like lunch period at school, and ensure healthy lunch remains a constant over the summer months.”
Think in Parts
One difficulty in preparing children’s lunches is coming up with what to serve them. Providing a variety of meals may seem like a daunting task, but Goldhaber recommends thinking in terms of parts of lunch rather than trying to plan a full meal.
“It is always a good idea to pack a few options...ensuring at least some nutritious food gets in, even if not the whole lunch.” Goldhaber recommends foods that take little effort to prepare. Usually, these foods can be inexpensive. “Think cheese sticks, crust-less sandwiches with a protein-rich filling (nut butter, turkey), already sliced and peeled fruit, and fresh veggies with a fun dip.”
Breaking a meal into options can help parents maintain diversity in what’s being served for lunch without much work or money. This approach can also make it easier to ensure that lunches are nutritionally complete.
Watch out for Drinks
One of the biggest spoilers to your child’s nutrition comes from sugary drinks, especially in the summer. Whether it be at camp, birthday parties, or barbecues, children are constantly being served sugary sodas, lemonades, and iced teas.
Goldhaber recommends sticking to flavored water and seltzer for the kid who won’t drink plain water. She also recommends making homemade no sugar lemonade or iced tea with the kids. Preparing food items with your children will not only save you work, but it will also teach them how to prepare healthy food choices for themselves.
Food Ideas for Summer
One of the biggest difficulties in preparing children’s lunches is ensuring they get a balanced meal that represents all the food groups. To help you out, we have provided a list of healthy and easy to prepare food choices for those summer lunches.
- Cheese sticks
- Fruit cups
- Celery sticks with peanut butter or cream cheese
- Meat and cheese sandwich with lettuce and tomato
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Cheese and crackers
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Sliced cucumber
- Egg salad
- Tuna salad
- Potato salad
- Veggie dip
- Trail mix
- Banana bread
- Cucumber-lemon water
- No-sugar lemonade
- Iced tea
- Strawberry-mint water
- Fruit smoothies