Lunch box for kids

Lunchbox Lessons for Kids

In Children, Nutrition, parenting, Uncategorized by Compleo Physical TherapyLeave a Comment

Did you know the average adolescent consumes too much sugar, saturated fat, and sodium? Many children do not eat enough fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. This is why we are seeing pediatric obesity on the rise.

Parents/caregivers are the first line of defense in creating healthy food habits. There are three pillars of healthy eating we like to follow. They are variety, balance, and moderation. Let’s break these down to help you understand what to look for when creating meals for your child during school and throughout the year.

  1. Variety: Choose a variety of foods from a variety of food groups. Key nutrients to look for include calcium, vitamin D, iron, protein, and fiber.
  2. Balance: Select foods with nutrients that complement each other. Foods should work together to provide energy and satisfaction, with the goal of providing appropriate amounts of micronutrients to maintain adequate growth and development. 
  3. Moderation: All foods have the ability to fit into a healthy diet. Avoid restricting as it can often lead to food hyper-focus, sneaking foods, and binge eating. Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” Including high-sugar/sodium convenience items are okay. Too much of any food can be harmful to health. Be aware of portion distortion. Remember to apply variety and balance principles to achieve moderation. 

Following the 3 pillars of healthy eating will help you to create nutritious and balanced meals. This is important because no single food can provide all the nutrients the body needs for optimal health. 

National School Lunch Program (NSLP) must follow nutrient guidelines, including:

Established minimum intakes for:

  • Calories, protein, calcium, iron, vitamins A & C

Established maximum intakes for:

  • Sodium, total and saturated fat

The NSLP provides variety, balance, and moderation. Plus, different menus and daily options include all 5 food groups and may introduce children to foods they may not offer at home. Also, the NSLP is typically low-cost and convenient. It may also be free to those who qualify, saving you time and energy at home.

So how do you encourage balanced choices in the cafeteria? 

  1. Review the menu at the beginning of each week and decide which days will be “pack” days vs .”buy” days.
  2. Encourage your child to choose one item from every food group, reminding them they don’t have to eat it (but giving them the option to do so).
  3. Help your child make tentative menu selections ahead of time.
  4. Use this opportunity to talk with your child about the functions of foods and the importance of variety.

What kind of lunch can I prepare for “packed lunch” days?

  • Example 1: Fruit: grapes | Grain: bread | Protein: nut butter, cheese | Dairy: cheese, veg dip | Veg: carrots & celery.
  • Does it meet our 3 Pillars? Yes. Colors, food groups, textures, macros, +sodium, +Ca/VitD, -sugar, +convenience.



  • Example 2: Fruit: berries | Grain: tortilla, crackers, granola | Protein: meat, cheese, nuts | Dairy: cheese | Veg: tomato, cucumber
  • Does it meet our 3 Pillars? Yes. Colors, food groups, textures, macros, +sodium, +Ca/VitD, +convenience.



  • Example 3: Fruit: blueberries | Grain: crackers, bread | Protein: cheese, meat | Dairy: cheese | Veg: cucumber, carrots, pepper, tomato.
  • Does it meet our 3 Pillars? Yes. Food groups, textures, macros, +sodium, +fiber, +convenience

We know finding time to come up with meals can be difficult, so we’ve included a few recipes to try. Click the link Lunchbox Lessons Recipes for more recipes.

Finally, it is your job as the parent to decide WHAT and WHEN to offer food. It is your child’s job to decide IF and HOW MUCH they are going to eat. This allows the child to recognize and honor their hunger cues. So, when do you need to intervene? Consider asking your Pediatrician for a Dietitian referral if your child has: the following.

  • Abnormal weight gain/loss
  • Eats <3 foods from any food group
  • Low energy
  • Excessive bruising
  • Changes in academic performance
  • Picky eating

We wish you all the best during this school year. Hopefully, this helps both you and your family. For more information and recipe ideas, schedule a visit with our Pediatric Dietitian, Lauren Sams, today.

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