You want your kids to learn as much as possible during each school day. How can you help them do that? Make sure they eat a healthy lunch!
This post is brought to you by our partners at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.
Students learn better when they’re well nourished. In fact, studies have shown that kids who eat a balanced diet have improved memory and concentration, are more alert, attain higher grades and process information more quickly.
If you read our post on the importance of a healthy breakfast, you already know to send your kids off to school with a full belly. But it’s also important to keep their energy levels up and their brains in gear with a healthy, balanced lunch.
When you were young, did you always end up with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a bag of chips or pretzels, a fruit rollup, and a drink in your lunchbox? Fortunately, you can put together lunches for your kids that are healthier…and more fun.
Lunches should contain a good balance of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Try out these ideas for how to fit in those essentials — and pack the fun!
Homemade, healthified lunchables
Start with a compartmentalized container. Cut lean meat and cheese into squares that fit inside small compartments — you can even use cupcake liners to hold these two items. Include some whole-grain crackers to pair with the meat and cheese, then add fruit or veggies to round out the meal.
This is a lunch your kids can prepare the night before! Let them make their own creations using popsicle sticks or toothpicks — or even pretzel sticks. They can alternate meat, cheese, and veggies like lettuce or cherry tomatoes.
Are your kids tired of sandwiches? Well, we have an idea: Remove the bread out of the equation, and then roll it up! Take string cheese or sliced cheese and roll ham or turkey around the cheese. Add some fruits and veggies (and maybe a handful of nuts) on the side.
Breakfast for lunch
Many schools have moved lunch times so early that it’s nearly breakfast time! So serve breakfast for lunch. Pack a small container of whole-grain cereal, along with cut-up fruits and nut butter, and have your kids grab a single-serve container of milk in the lunchroom.
Using a compartmentalized container, pack a green salad and your child’s favorite toppings, including a protein source. Pair the salad with a no-spill container or packet of low-fat salad dressing. Round out the meal with some cut-up fruit.
No spoon or fork? No problem! Create a healthy lunch based entirely of foods you can eat with your hands. Fill up the lunchbox with string cheese or cheese chunks, whole-grain crackers or squares of bread, cut-up veggies and a dip, and blueberries or grapes.
Make today’s lunch taco-themed. Pack whole-grain or corn tortillas with small amounts of cheese, tomatoes, peppers, and grilled chicken. Pair the main dish with a handful of tortilla chips and salsa or bean dip, along with your child’s choice of fruit.
What else you can do
Beyond these ideas, you can also think “outside the box.” Pack a thermos filled with one of your child’s favorite hot foods, such as soup, mac and cheese, chili, pasta or even oatmeal.
And though our list above is filled with healthy items, be sure to include a fun treat, too! A single serving of chocolate, freeze-dried fruit, yogurt-covered raisins, sugar-free applesauce with a few sprinkles, or granola bars can all be healthy but delicious additions.