Send your kids off packing healthy lunches, snacks

By Lt. Col. Karen Hawkins
U.S. Army Public Health Command

Is eating on the run the norm for your family? Busy family schedules often lead to fast foods and convenience foods. Unfortunately, many of these on-the-go food choices may not provide important nutrients children need for good health.

Here are a few ideas to create quick, convenient meals and snacks. Many of these can be assembled in 10 minutes or less.

• Banana and nut butter wrap. Mash a banana and mix with any nut butter (this is a great opportunity to try a different butter ― like almond butter, which is high in vitamin E and protein). Sprinkle with dried fruit or coconut for a different flavor. Spread it on a whole-wheat wrap or flat bread, roll it up, cut it up and bag it.

• Turkey, ham or chicken with hummus or Greek yogurt wrap. Spread some hummus or Greek yogurt on a wrap, add meat slices, any cheese (optional), lettuce or spinach and cucumber slices. Roll it up and bag it. Hummus or Greek yogurt adds a unique flavor, so if your children do not like it, use mustard or a small amount of mayonnaise.

• Pita pocket with curry chicken salad. Take chopped chicken and mix it with a little curry, Greek yogurt, chopped celery and chopped carrots. Put it in a whole-wheat pita pocket with spinach or romaine lettuce.

• Baby carrots, cucumbers chunks, grape tomatoes, hummus, whole-grain crackers and pita chips. Put some hummus in a small container to use as a dip. Bag the carrots, cucumber chunks and grape tomatoes. Also pack some whole-grain crackers or pita chips for energy-packed carbohydrates.

• Low-fat yogurt, cheese, sandwiches. Keep low-fat yogurt, cheese and sandwiches cold by using an ice pack, frozen juice box or frozen milk box.

• Trail mix. Mix almonds, peanuts, dried fruit and whole-grain cereal for a nutrient-dense, energy-packed food and bag it. This is a great “take it anywhere” kind of food.

• Other snacks. Cheese sticks, nuts, frozen yogurt, soy or almond milk, 100-percent juice in boxes, dried fruit, fresh fruit and canned fruit all make great snacks and additions to lunches.