“With childhood obesity on the rise and kids eating worse today than they did 20 years ago, it is so important for parents to take their children’s diets seriously,” says Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian, nutritionist and author of “Eat Your Way to Happiness.”
But, as many busy moms and dads know firsthand, it’s not easy to pack a quality lunch at 6 a.m., especially if your kid is likely to opt for a slice of cafeteria pizza regardless.
Don’t worry — the war is not lost. It’s entirely possible to get children to eat nutritious lunches, especially if you know your way around fruits and veggies. According to Somer, watermelon should be a kitchen staple.
“Watermelon contains lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant, and it is the pigment that gives watermelon its red color,” says Somer. “Watermelon is free of cholesterol, fat and sodium. You can’t get much better than that.”
The juicy fruit, often dubbed a multi-vitamin unto itself, has vitamins A, B6 (6 percent), C, potassium (8 percent) and fiber (4 percent). It’s also great for staying hydrated, a way for picky kids to eat their water. Not to mention, watermelon is lip-smacking, finger-licking delicious.
For all of you about to harp on how much natural sugar watermelon has, wait just a second. Somer says this is largely a myth, and that although watermelon may have a high glycemic index score, it has very few calories.
“Watermelon just fills you up without filling you out,” Somer says. “The nice thing about watermelon is that it’s chin-dribbling juicy and so versatile. You can eat it straight from the melon, blend it into a beverage, make popsicles out of it, make sweet salsas, grill it, put it in sandwiches, etc.”
Watermelon is often mistaken for a summer treat, but it’s available all year round. It’s also surprisingly portable once chopped up and put in baggies or Tupperware.
Check out this quick and easy watermelon recipe that’s perfect for school lunches:
1 serving 1-inch cubes of seedless watermelon
1 serving smoked turkey breast
1 serving low-fat or fat-free cheddar cheese
1 serving coffee stirrers or beverage straws
Cut watermelon, turkey and cheese in cubes, and skewer on stirrers or straws.
Somer also recommends watermelon cupcakes and smoothies. Find more watermelon recipes at www.watermelon.org.