Pack a Nutrition Punch in Your Child’s Sack Lunch!

by Sharon Palmer, RD

Making a nutritious lunch for your child may be much easier and convenient than you thought.  By incorporating tomato products into your child’s lunch you will be providing their growing minds and bodies with an endless amount of nutritious benefits including essential vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Health Class
Tomato products are rich in the powerful antioxidant group, carotenoids, which have been shown to inactivate free radicals, protect against cancer, and slow development of atherosclerosis.  Research suggests that lycopene, the most plentiful carotenoid that tomatoes contain, could be linked to the health-protective effects of tomato products.  In addition, lycopene in processed tomato products is better absorbed than that of fresh tomatoes.  Regular intake of tomato products has been associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, improving lipid panels, and may also aid in treating hypertension.

By including tomato products in your child’s lunch, you may also be protecting them while they’re playing outdoors at recess.  Tomato products may offer natural protection from the sun’s damaging UV rays.  But the protection doesn’t stop there, as laboratory research has hinted that carotenoid intake may protect bone health.

Soup’s on!
One of the simplest tomato entrées to pack for lunch is a tomato-based soup.  Fill up a thermos of creamy tomato basil soup or a hearty chili and you’ll be filling up your child with not only a nutrition packed meal, but also a daily serving of vegetables.  Try out our delicious Tomato, Sausage and White Bean Stew recipe found at the bottom of this article.

Tomato-based products can easily be incorporated as a healthy and delicious side to your child’s lunch as well.  It can be as simple as adding ketchup as a condiment on sandwiches or packing tortilla chips with salsa.  When it comes to nutrition, a little red goes a long ways.

Go Big Red!
Show your team spirit for tomatoes during lunch, as well as afterschool snacks.  Having easy grab-and-go munchies for your child to snack on after school is yet another way to include the powerful nutrition tomatoes have to offer.  Slicing up the homemade pizza from last night’s dinner, dipping fresh vegetables into salsa hummus, or simply stocking the fridge with a tomato juice beverage are all great ways to go big, and go red with after school snacks!




Tomato, Sausage and White Bean Stew

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 4 to 10 hours
  • Ingredients:
  • 3 (15-oz.) cans dried small white beans, drained
  • 2 (14.5-oz.) cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried Italian herb seasoning
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 links hot or mild Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • Shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese


Place beans, tomatoes, seasoning and vegetables in a slow cooker; stir lightly. Tear sausage into 3/4-inch pieces and add to slow cooker; stir again lightly. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 8 to 10 hours. Season to taste with pepper and serve with Parmesan cheese. Makes 6 servings.

Quick stovetop variation: Prepare as directed above, cooking in a large pot instead of a slow cooker and adding 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.

Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories: 240, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 25mg, Sodium: 840mg, Potassium: 950mg, Carbohydrates: 39g, Fiber: 11g, Sugar: 10g, Protein: 18g, Vitamin A: 100%, Vitamin C: 60%, Calcium: 10%, Iron: 20%

Written by Sharon Palmer, RD and Briana Austin, Dietetic Student