Hey moms and dads! It’s that time again, and back to school we go! Hopefully your kids are excited to put their thinking caps back on after a fun summer break and are getting ready for their new venture into a higher grade and reuniting with classmates. But remember, giving your students the best chance at learning requires planning for their nutritional support throughout the day.
We all know that breakfast is an important meal of the day. So providing sound nutritional substance before they head out the door is the first step in avoiding the “daze” of school.
It is not easy to monitor your child’s food intake while they are away from home. However, a little pre-planning from both parent and child will aid in ensuring sound nutritional eating throughout the day, which in turn can help expedite their brain power.
Let’s talk packing school lunches:
Think of packed lunches as a small complete meal in a box. As with the USDA “My Plate” guidelines (click here to view them), be sure to include all of the basic food groups when packing your child’s lunch.
- Protein: Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, dried beans, nuts and seeds are great sources of protein and overall nutrition. Since they take longer to digest, they also provide satiety for many hours.
- Fruit: Nothing is better than fresh picked produce that is in season! Take your child grocery shopping with you and show them the different varieties that are offered as the seasons change. This will help expand their palate and avoid the dreaded rut of eating the same foods.
- Vegetables: The seasonal change in vegetables is another opportunity for your child to become familiar with a wider variety of foods. The more they experiment, the easier it may be for them to taste foods outside of the box. Even if you prefer to purchase pre-packed produce, it still offers a good variety of nutrition and is very easy to toss into a lunchbox or backpack as a snack later.
- Whole Grains: Remember to look for “whole grains” on a food label as they offer superior nutrition, as well as vitamins and minerals compared in those that are more refined. Take the opportunity to peruse the grocery aisles with your child, and take turns selecting different brands of various whole grain breads and cereals so that you can find varieties that your child will eat and enjoy.
- Dairy: Milk, yogurt and cheeses are great sources of protein, calcium, and overall nutrition. Wrapping a frozen ice pack around foods that need refrigeration is a great way to keep foods cold and using a thermos for hot foods is important and can help prevent foodborne illness.
Be creative and allow your child to help pack his/her lunch and be part of the decision making as to what they are expected to eat throughout the day. That dreaded trading of food does happen on occasion. However, if their lunches include foods they helped choose, prepare and are excited about, they won’t want to pass it along to their classmates, as they will instead savor it all for themselves!
Last but not least….. Hiding a note inside their lunchbox is a sure way to put a smile on their face. This simple gesture can often be a profound tactic in reminding family and loved ones how much they are thought of and adored every day!