Pack a healthy lunch box -

Eat to win this academic year

With kids returning to school, so arrives the stress of deciding whether to let them eat at school or pack the lunch box, which creates a new set of parental challenges: how to fill the box with both delicious snacks that are ones kids will also enjoy, while choosing a healthier alternative.

In the #tasteofkeybiscayne feature published in the August 1 issue of Islander News, Adita Yrizarry-Lang provided lessons on “Planning the family kitchen for success.” Her column offered basics for how to take on the task of preparing a tasty lunch box that is both delicious and healthy.

As lunch boxes go, many start with the most basic of lunch entrees: the sandwich. But how do we make sure the sandwich provides the healthier options children need to properly function throughout the day?

Many focus on the outside; what bread to use. Grains are extremely important for better nutrition, but stressing about what bread to use is not as important as the ingredients inside a sandwich, since these, not the bread itself, are the most significant drivers of calories, fat and sodium, according to research from Nutrition Strategies Inc. Wraps also provide an effective and healthy substitution for bread.

Rethink the sandwich ingredients. Make more nutritious choices with sandwiches and positively impact consumption of calories, fat and sodium is oftentimes a matter of changing the way you stack ingredients between the bread. Consider this sample sandwich:

Two slices of whole-grain bread, 2-3 slices of lean, low fat and low sodium lunchmeat, two slices of cheese, a few spinach leaves and a slice of tomato. Add fuel and healthy fats to the sandwich with avocado slices.

The prepared meats category is diverse and offers choices to meet nutrition needs, tastes, budgets and personal preferences. Island residents can find healthy and high quality cut-to-order lunch meat options in the deli sections of both The Golden Hog and Winn Dixie. Focus on including low- and reduced-sodium products, low- and reduced-fat products, American Heart Association-certified, organic, and Kosher, grass-fed options.

Even an old favorite like a PB&J (peanut butter and jelly) sandwich can be built healthier. Try this new twist: almond butter and strawberry jelly roll-up.

Almond and Jelly wrap -
  • Lay an 8” whole wheat flour tortilla on a flat surface
  • Spread 2.25 heaping tablespoons of natural almond butter.
  • Then spread a low, or no sugar, jelly. A healthier and tasty alternatives are those sweetened with fruit juice.
  • Optional: sprinkle some thinly sliced strawberries on top of the jelly.
  • Roll-up the tortilla, folding the corners as you roll. Let the almond butter act as a sealer.
  • Slice as desired.
Almond butter - Golden Hog
Fruit juice sweetened jelly

A little pre-planning will go a long way in reducing the lunch box stress.

There are also healthier and better choices in the lunch options provided in school cafeterias. For example, Miami-Dade County public school meals now include vegetarian and vegan healthy options like vegetarian wraps and fruit smoothies.

We wish all Key Biscayne students a healthy school year!