Eating foods rich in essential nutrients like bone-strengthening magnesium or calcium and antioxidants, such as polyphenols and carotenoids, can help keep kids healthy for the long haul. Work more of them into your child’s diet with these creative ideas.
Beans & legumes
Easy-to-pack, fiber-rich beans balance blood sugar, which helps stave off childhood obesity. Legumes are also associated with longer life span and lower rates of cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. Lunch box ideas: Pack canned black beans with shredded cheese and taco shells; or drain canned chickpeas, toss with olive oil and sea salt, and roast in oven at 400˚ approximately 45 minutes for a crispy snack.
High in polyphenol antioxidants that keep blood vessels strong and reduce inflammation, these juicy treats are crucial for brain health. Like all berries, they also help suppress the expression of genetic tendencies for diseases like cancer as a child grows. Lunch box idea: Make a smoothie of blueberries, yogurt, and whey protein, then freeze in small containers. They’ll keep lunches cool, and soften up in time to provide a healthy sweet treat.
High in the vision-boosting antioxidant lutein, spinach also contains carotenoid antioxidants that protect skin from sun damage and boost immune function. Plus, spinach is high in vitamin K and magnesium, which boost bone health. Lunch box ideas: Purée cooked spinach with pasta sauce and use on a minipizza. Cut raw baby spinach leaves into thin ribbons and combine with shredded apples, carrots, and honey-yogurt dressing to create a sweet slaw.
One handful of these meganuts offers 2.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, crucial for brain development, immune-system function, and cardiovascular health. They’re also high in melatonin, which encourages restful sleep and may protect against cancer. Lunch box idea: Grind walnuts, flaxseeds, and raisins in a spice mill or coffee grinder, roll into balls, and coat with unsweetened coconut flakes.