What Nutritionists Pack Their Kids for Lunch
Registered dietitians have picky kids too! When my son was younger, he would never eat fruit when he was younger, but he would go for green vegetables. Go figure!? For his lunch, I would pack broccoli because I knew he would eat it. I asked other RDs from around the country pack in their kids’ lunchboxes, and some of their answers may surprise you.
It’s no surprise that fruit tops the list of RD-approved lunch fare.
“My 2 year-old son Lucca loves fresh raspberries, so I pack him a container of organic raspberries every day he attends daycare. If the berries don't look good at our local grocer, I'll slice up organic strawberries, which he also loves. He puts the raspberries on his finger tips and eat them off one by one.”
--Jenny Shea Rawn MS, MPH, RD is a Cape-Cod, MA, based Registered Dietitian, nutrition communications consultant and healthy food blogger at MyCape Cod Kitchen.
“I always include a fresh fruit that’s easy to eat, like watermelon chunks, grapes, or fresh or frozen mango, depending on the season. Adding fruit helps curb sweet indulgences and boosts water intake.”
“Smoked salmon cucumber tortilla pinwheels are a favorite lunch of my girls. I spread whipped cream cheese on a corn tortilla or a whole-wheat wrap, top it with thinly sliced smoked salmon, and a few cucumber sticks. Roll it up and slice into pinwheels. They come home with an empty lunch box every time! I usually add some more cucumbers and/or tomatoes in the box, along with a serving of fruit to round out the meal.”
--Culinary nutrition expert and mom of twins Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN founder of Small Bites by Jessica
“My girls are dippers, so the number one way to ensure they eat most everything in their lunchbox from celery sticks to grilled chicken strips is to include some sort of dip. Ranch, hummus, and guacamole are favorites in our household and regular suspects in the lunchbox. I always feel like I'm getting a two-for-one when they eat hummus or guacamole with vegetables since they're packed with good-for-you ingredients like chickpeas and avocado, respectively.”
“I try to pack carrots or bell pepper strips packed with a small container of ranch dressing for my older son. It's tempting to skip the veggies because you think your kid won't eat them--but even if they eat a couple of bites, that's a win, because they're learning that veggies show up at other meals besides dinner and they're eating them because they want to (not because someone is sitting next to them at the kitchen table coercing them).”
“I love making my kids whole wheat pasta salad. I mix in garbanzo beans, chopped black olives and any veggies that I have on hand. For dressing I use red wine vinegar, EVOO and Italian herbs. I use kid-friendly shaped pasta like fusilli or penne. Including the beans in the pasta salad makes it a complete protein with all the essential amino acids.”
Some RDs got right down to kid-friendly basics — with a twist.
“A favorite in our house is a nut butter banana wrap: spread nut or seed butter on a whole grain tortilla or piece of flatbread, set a banana across the center, roll it up, and cut it in half. The wrap provides whole grains, protein, healthy fats, and a fruit. I round out the lunch by including a side of crunchy vegetables and either a milk or yogurt to add calcium and a bit more protein.”
-- Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD, author of the book Best Lunch Box Ever and the blog Mom's Kitchen Handbook
RDs also practice what they preach and pack their kid’s a well-balanced lunch, as presented by USDA’s MyPlate.
“I try to mimic MyPlate, and aim for half of their lunch to be fruits and vegetables, even though more often than not those same fruits and vegetables come home again at the end of the day. The vegetables in particular are the hardest part — we’re in a rut of choosing either carrots or tomatoes, and even then they get eaten maybe 50% of the time.”
--Elana Natker, a dietitian in the Washington, DC area and owner of Connect with Sage
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.