School is just around the corner! The beginning of the school year is often the busiest time of the year for families, who are rushing to get school supplies, new clothes, and coordinate new extracurricular activities. What many parents don’t think about is what to prepare for their child’s lunch that year. A healthy lunch helps the kids concentrate and stay awake for the rest of their school day. First, the facts. Preparing a lunch is healthier and oftentimes cheaper than buying a lunch at school. Also, homemade lunches allow the parent to have control over what and how much their child is eating.
The first thing to remember when preparing a lunch for your child is to include the five food groups: grains, protein foods, fruits, vegetable, and dairy. Try to incorporate all five of these food groups into your child’s lunch to ensure adequate nutrient needs
Here are some creative lunch ideas for different types of food patterns. Each of these meals are very adaptable, so add or remove anything that your child would or wouldn’t eat.
- Peanut butter banana wrapped in a tortilla- protein, grain, and fruit
- Soy yogurt – dairy
- Sliced Celery – vegetable
- Chicken pasta salad- protein and grains
- Bell pepper strips- vegetable
- Sliced Strawberries – fruit
- Cheese stick – dairy
- Pita bread with chicken, spinach, hummus, and cheese- grain, protein, and dairy
- Small apple- fruit
- Carrots and ranch dressing- vegetable
Kids typically desire a dessert at their meal. Here are some easy, healthy dessert ideas for those who have a sweet tooth.
- Low fat, high fiber oatmeal cookies
- Chocolate chip muffin
- Trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, and M&Ms
- Graham crackers
- Banana or zucchini bread
Sugar sweetened beverages should be avoided to prevent extra sugar in your child’s diet. The best drink for anyone is water. Other alternatives that might be more kid friendly include: skim milk, 100% orange juice, or even a calorie free powdered drink mix!
School age is a period of rapid growth for children. Because of their smaller appetites, the serving sizes for children are often smaller. Eating only three meals per day are not always sufficient to meet the nutrient needs of every child. Snacks are often needed to provide kids with adequate calories and extra nutrients.
- Whole Grain Cereal
- Low Fat Cheese
- Frozen bananas
- Crackers with peanut butter
Yes, preparing a healthy lunch for your child requires some preparation planning. But giving your child a nutritionally supportive lunch will help with school and physical performance. Additionally, you should encourage your kids to help plan and prepare their own lunches so that they are more excited to eat their healthy meal.