1. Get Your Kids Involved. Don't just serve food to your kids, or give them money to buy lunch. Get them involved in the "food/family" process.
That means having them help prepare the shopping list, plan meals, go along to the supermarket and help cook the meal. In a study by Nicole Larson, Ph.D., MPH, RD, and colleagues at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, frequency of preparing food was related to lower intakes of fat and higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, fiber, folate and vitamin A.
More: Calorie Bargains for Kids
2. Eat Breakfast. You and your kids should be eating breakfast. It's easy to prepare and it will improve your life. The journal Nutrition found that medical students who didn't eat breakfast were more likely to be fatigued. And according to research reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, people who miss breakfast can be more exhausted and irritable than those who don't.
Eating breakfast makes you more productive and can even help to improve your memory. Try to plan what you're going to eat in advance. You can even write a note the night before and put it on the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator.
Here are a few suggestions for healthy breakfasts: banana (or any fruit), instant oatmeal (e.g., Better Oats-www.betteroats.com), low-sugared cereal and skim milk (Shredded Wheat with berries). Yogurt is packed with lean protein (nearly 30 percent of the recommended daily value) and calcium (nearly 25 percent to 40 percent of the recommended daily value). Stonyfield Farm Organic Smoothie Varieties are tasty, and kids love them. Also try YoKids Squeezers at only 60 calories per tube.
Need it on the run? Try Dunkin' Donuts Egg White Veggie Flatbread (290 calories) or the Egg White Turkey Sausage Flatbread (280 calories). Starbucks has The Perfect Oatmeal for only 140 calories with 4 grams of fiber-and very tasty. Just avoid the added sugar topping and the dried fruit. Starbucks' Greek Yogurt Honey Parfait is 290 calories and also good. Or try their Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon with Egg Whites on English Muffin (340 calories).
3. Plan Lunch. Have your kids help you pack their lunch the night before. Don't scramble in the morning. Initially, planning may require some extra time, but after a week or two it'll be smooth sailing. You might even try to create weekly menus with your kids, along with a shopping list to make preparation fast.
Sandwiches are an easy and nutritious lunch option. Always choose whole-wheat breads. You can vary the type of bread each day to keep lunch interesting. For filling, use lean luncheon meats, such as turkey, ham or roast beef, rather than bologna, salami or bacon. Add vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers.
Plain peanut butter (no added sugar, just crushed peanuts) is also a good choice for kids; try peanut butter and banana or peanut butter and raisins as a way to incorporate fruits and variety.