Good lunches do more than give a kid bragging rights in the cafeteria – they help build a foundation of health for students of any age, helping them focus better in school and create positive lifelong habits. As you pack school lunches with your kids, here are a few tips to make them as energy-filled and nutrient-dense as possible – not to mention tasty.
You don’t have to sacrifice convenience to incorporate healthy food groups. By loading up on foods like fruits and vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, dried fruit and granola bars, you can increase well-being without spending hours preparing. These options are easy to bulk prep in advance, portioning them out for each day of the week ahead of time.
The anatomy of a healthy school lunch often looks like one main course (like a sandwich, quesadilla or chili) with a vegetable, a fruit, and an extra (cookie, granola bar or trail mix). Having those smaller items to nibble on can be a boost of tasty nutrition that will encourage them to eat, even when they’re distracted by friends and social time.
Let the students become the teacher and offer up input on what they want to see in their lunch boxes. Having some control over what they choose—from a selection of healthy options, of course—can make for a lunch they’ll love to eat.
It’s easier for a whole carrot or apple to go uneaten than carrot sticks—bonus points for crinkle cut—or apple slices, especially for eaters who tend to nibble. And cutting these items into smaller pieces makes it easier for them to get in even a few bites of a healthy snack.
Getting young children to eat enough and develop a healthy relationship with food can be challenging sometimes. If you find they aren’t eating certain items, or large portions of their lunch goes uneaten, check in with them and see what the reason might be. It could be there’s too much food for them to eat it all, or they could prefer different options.
Head to places like Pinterest and online cookbooks or blogs to get a fresh perspective on lunchtime. The same sandwich five days a week can get dull, so spice things up with options like pita and hummus, banana peanut butter tortilla wraps, or turkey and cheese with crackers.
A reusable water bottle can help your child get some much-needed hydration to help them focus and learn. If they don’t seem interested in plain water, opt for fizzy electrolyte tablets to spice up their hydration without packing in extra sugar. Pick a bottle in their favorite color, or let them sport a design they love, and make hydration fun.
Have your child help with the packing, allowing them to pick from a variety of healthy options. This involvement gives a child more agency over their healthy choices. The process helps build a positive relationship with food while taking some of the decision-making off your hands.
For more recommendations for healthy living and lifestyle choices, Community Health Partners (CHP) is here to help with tips and advice in addition to affordable care. Get in touch to find out about the medical, behavioral and dental health services offered in your neighborhood.