Like many parents, you may be tempted to send your child to school with a lunch packed from home so you have more control over what they eat. But if you do so, make sure you're not including things that may seem healthy but aren't as nutritious as you think. Research has shown that many packed lunches contain more calories, fat and sugar and less protein, fiber and calcium than lunches from the school cafeteria.
Take our quiz to find out how healthy your child's lunch really is.
100% fruit juice is a good option for a lunchtime thirst quencher.
False: Even 100% juice can pack as much as 20 grams of sugar or more per drink. Instead of juice boxes, pack a bottle of water flavored with pieces of your child’s favorite fruit. Or fill a small thermos with half juice and half water. Then gradually reduce the amount of juice over time.
Not all 100% whole wheat breads are the same.
True: Many 100% whole wheat breads are loaded with sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. In fact, they can contain up to a teaspoon of sugar (4 grams) in one slice! Check the nutrition label and choose breads with no more than 1 gram of sugar per slice.
Peanut butter and jelly is a nutritious lunch choice.
False: A PB&J sandwich may sound harmless, but the bread, jelly and peanut butter can easily add up to 23 grams of sugar—almost as much as in a half cup of ice cream! Build a better sandwich by choosing bread with no more than 1 gram of sugar per slice, natural peanut butter without added sugar and a sliced banana or strawberries instead of jam. Almond, cashew and sunflower butters are also good alternatives to peanut butter.
Squeezable yogurts have more sugar than protein or calcium.
True: Most squeezable yogurts contain 9-10 grams of sugar, about 2 grams of protein and minimal amounts of calcium. Better to opt for Greek yogurt since protein and calcium contents are much higher.
Granola bars are a good addition to the lunch box.
False: Most granola bars have stats more like candy bars. They typically have more added sugars, fillers and hydrogenated oils than whole grains, protein or fiber. Instead, make a homemade trail mix with dried fruit, whole grain cereal, nuts, seeds and a sprinkling of dark chocolate bits.
Fruit gummies can be counted as one serving of fruit.
False: Fruit gummies are packed with sugar and most aren’t even made from fruit. Instead choose the real deal—pineapple and strawberry kebabs, apple slices, orange segments or unsweetened applesauce.
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Date Last Reviewed: July 19, 2018
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor