September 18, 2014

Back to school decisions: Hot vs. cold lunch

The transition back to school is an opportunity for change. If there are unhealthful habits that have snuck into your family's life over the summer, take a time-out to identify what they are.

For example, perhaps summer was very busy with family engagements and your family got into the habit of dining out three or four nights per week. Try to use the transition back to school to keep everyone at home for dinner.

When returning back to school many have to decide if they are going to eat hot lunch versus bringing a lunch from home (cold lunch). Some families decide to do a mixture of both. In order to ensure a healthful lunch, it was previously recommended to pack a lunch. However, after the multitude of revisions to the school lunch program, public school lunches have improved greatly. The school lunch program now serves portions of food in accordance with the child's age. It also must provide low-fat dairy, a fruit and a vegetable at every meal. Within the year, the school lunch program will also be incorporating more whole grains and working to reduce the amount of salt, or sodium, in the food. When assessing the school lunch program at your child's school it is important to ask your child if:

  • They enjoy the food.

  • They take and eat both the fruit and vegetable option daily.

  • They choose low-fat white milk to drink.

  • They get second helpings at lunch.

Their answers can help you to decide whether a cold lunch may be a healthier option. The ideal cold lunch includes a serving of whole grain, lean protein, fruit, vegetable, low-fat dairy and healthy fat. When it's all packed up it may look like:

  • Half a peanut butter and banana sandwich on wheat bread

  • Low-fat string cheese

  • Baby carrots

  • Water bottle

If you are looking to liven up your child's lunch box check out this month's recipe!

September recipe: Kid-friendly wraps

The following ingredients can be used to make a variety of wraps, including:

  • Turkey and cheese roll-up

  • Philly beef and cheese with peppers wrap

  • Hawaiian wrap with ham, cheese and pineapple

  • Personal pizza wrap with turkey meat balls, shredded cheese and assorted vegetables

  • Veggie wrap with hummus and assorted vegetables

  • Taco wrap with refried beans, Greek yogurt, shredded cheese and vegetables with guacamole and salsa


  • 1 low-fat, whole wheat tortilla (small or medium)

  • 1 serving of lean protein (turkey, chicken, lean ham, lean roast beef, turkey meatballs, peanut butter, refried beans)

  • 1 serving of low-fat dairy (shredded cheese, sliced cheese, soft cheese spread, Greek yogurt)

  • 1 serving of vegetables (spinach, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, bell pepper, tomato sauce)

  • 1 serving of healthy fat (1 tablespoon hummus, ¼ avocado, 1 tablespoon guacamole)

Lay the tortilla flat and then spread the healthy fat of your choice on the tortilla. Lay the lean protein on top of the spread. Place the low-fat cheese or yogurt on top of the lean protein. Spread the vegetables over the dairy evenly. Then, fold one side of the wrap towards the center about one inch. Begin to roll the wrap tightly beginning at an edge to the left or the right of the fold.