SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Making healthy lunches for kids as they head back to school doesn't have to be difficult or expensive.
Anna Araujo, a registered dietician and nutritionist in Poway, says planning ahead can take a lot of the stress and hassle out of it.
"I think many people get confused when you're right there and the kids are having breakfast and you're trying to scrape some kind of lunch out for them," she says. "But if you plan ahead, it changes a lot."
Araujo has three simple rules that she says will take the stress out of packing lunches each day.
Araujo says you should make a menu for what you want to put in your children's lunch each day. From that, you can make a shopping list to make your time at the grocery store more efficient.
Search For Sales:
Sticking to a budget is easier when you have the list and menu, but it can be even more productive if you look through ads and find sales on what you want to buy. You can also adjust your menu to feature sale products each week. Also, shop for produce that's in-season and will be cheaper at stores.
Pack Lunches in 4 Parts:
Araujo says each lunch should have four parts; whole grain, calcium, protein and fruits and veggies.
Grains can be from whole wheat bread, rice or popcorn. She says when shopping for bread, make sure there are more than four grams of fiber per serving.
Calcium can come from milk, cheese or yogurt. Araujo warns parents to use plain, non-flavored yogurt to avoid excess sugar. She says you can add granola or fruit or nuts to make it more appealing to kids.
For protein, Araujo says to mix up your choices. She recommends things like rolled up turkey slices, tuna fish, hard boiled eggs, beans or even hummus to add protein to the meal.
Fruits and veggies don't have to be a hassle either. Araujo points people to baby carrots, berries, celery sticks and grape tomatoes; anything that can be finger food for kids. She's also okay with adding a dip like a low-fat ranch or peanut butter to entice picky eaters to eat their veggies.
Overall, she says it's important to introduce a variety of foods to your kids, so that nutrition becomes an ingrained habit throughout their life.
And knowing what you're going to do when each day starts will make the mornings less stressful.
"Childhood sets the base for the future in terms of eating habits. So if you teach your kids to have a variety of foods, they learn to eat most food groups and then you have more nutrients."