Elevate Your Child’s School Lunch with These Healthy Tips
With school back in session this August, it’s not uncommon for kids to dread the return to class. However, parents also experience their fair share of back-to-school blues. According to a survey conducted by OnePoll, out of the 2,000 parents who participated, approximately 59% of those surveyed described feeling stressed by the process of deciding what to pack for their child’s school lunch on a daily basis.
Given that a well-balanced and nutritious school lunch plays a critical role in a child’s academic performance and overall health, it’s no surprise that parents can get stressed by the process of preparing a meal for their child that is both appetizing and nutritious. Fortunately, these simple tips can help make the process of prepping the perfect school lunch a breeze.
Cover your bases with these 5 food groups
When it comes to packing a well-balanced lunch, it’s important to check off each of the
Protein: Examples include lean meats such as chicken or turkey, peanut butter, mixed seeds and nuts, hard-boiled eggs and hummus.
Grains: Examples include whole wheat crackers, wheat or rye sandwich bread, low-fat granola bars, pita bread and small tortillas.
Fruit: Apples, bananas, pears, grapes and peeled clementines.
Vegetables: Celery sticks, cucumbers, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and snap peas.
Dairy: Cheese cubes, plain yogurt and low-fat milk.
By picking a food item from each category, you can rest assured that your child is getting a lunchtime meal that is filling and hits all the nutrition marks.
A spoonful of sugar doesn’t help this medicine go down
When it comes to school lunch prep, it’s easy to make the mistake of haphazardly including a dose of sugar into the meal. Avoid artificially sweetened fruit juices and sports drinks and instead pack a refreshing bottle of water for your child. Fruit straps, granola bars and dessert cookies may seem like an innocent enough snack or midday treat but are in fact loaded with sugar and sodium.
Get creative with fruits and veggies
Children can get tired of eating the same food items after a while, so turn to your creativity to make sure there’s a little variety in their daily school meals. Instead of packing a whole fruit in their lunchbox, cut it into fun bite-sized shapes. Not only does it make it easier for children to eat the fruit, but it also serves as a fun surprise when they crack open their midday meal. Another creative way to keep lunchtime interesting is to mix and match colorful fruits and veggies to craft the ultimate nutrition rainbow for your child to enjoy.
Involve your child in the process
Getting your child involved in creating their weekly school lunch menu is a fun way to teach them about healthy eating habits while also ensuring that they will eat the meals that are prepared for them. To start off, ask your child to make a list of several food items from each food group that they enjoy. Once you have the list, work with them to craft meals for each day of the school week. You can even have your child create a colorful chart to list the daily menu offerings that can hang on the refrigerator door for you and your child to reference.
Practice what you preach
It’s one thing to pack healthy and well-balanced school lunches for your child, but it’s just as important to make sure the meals you prepare at home follow the same formula. Whether it’s providing a piece of fruit with breakfast every morning or offering a vegetable-based side dish at dinner, preparing healthy and nutritious meals at home will teach your child essential healthy eating lessons that they will carry into adulthood.