It's that time of year that every child dreads. The school supplies have been bought and the backpacks packed. But what about what's inside that new Elsa lunchbox? This midday meal could either make or break the school day. For your child it's all about the look and taste, but as a parent, there is so much more to consider.
When packing a lunch it's important to think about the key nutrients that are going into it. Most often, time is short and we reach for packaged goods like cookies or chips. These might be tasty and fun, but they won't be helping your child in the long run. Try to keep portioned out fruits and veggies ready in the fridge for quick lunch additions and healthy options throughout the day. Instead of the usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich, mix it up with different types of whole grain bread and yummy proteins.
Staying hydrating during the school day is something that isn't thought about often enough. It's easy for children to forget to take a sip of water at the fountain while running to their next class or staring at the cute new girl. An easy way to make sure they're getting enough water is by packing a water bottle along with their lunch. They can carry it with them for the remainder of the day and fill it up as they need. If your child isn't a fan of water, there are a few tricks that will help. Try packing high-water-content foods like cucumbers, watermelon or baby carrots so that they can eat their water instead! Another idea is putting just a splash of juice or drink mix into their water bottle. The flavor will make it easier to drink and a bit more appealing without the sugar and sodium taking over.
Lunch time isn't just for trading cookies and doing last night's homework. It allows for the opportunity to gear up for the rest of the day. Unbalanced lunches or even skipping lunch entirely could prove detrimental to your child's learning. A study published in 2008 in the "Journal of School Health" examined the eating habits of nearly 5,000 school children. Those who ate more fruits, vegetables and protein and fewer calories from fat, performed better on literacy tests compared to children with high-fat, high-salt diets. A energy-filled lunch also lowers the chances of them reaching for that candy bar at 3:00 PM.
School lunches don't need to be complicated. There are many nutritious and delicious options out there that your children (and you) are sure to love. Surf the web and gather some inspiration, make a menu or even plant a garden with the young ones. Let's make this school year the best one yet!