It’s almost back to school time, which means new notebooks, folders, and pencils. While you’re out shopping for school supplies, be sure to also pick up a lunchbox that provides different compartments to hold a variety of foods.
Why? Because you want your kids to be excited to eat lunch, and believe me, they need to be in order to power through their day. If they grab whatever they can find in the cafeteria, or worse, the vending machine, they will likely be filled with sugars and carbohydrates versus lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. This actually affects their ability to think, sit still without falling asleep, and process new information, so the food they eat is very important to their school success.
One way you can help them is to provide a lunch from home. In addition to the benefits of packing a healthy lunch, it also saves time during the lunch period. This means kids can actually sit and enjoy their break rather than spending time in a lunch line and then quickly devouring their food. Packing a nutrient-rich lunch is a great way for your kids to learn what and how to eat to maximize their intake.
So what do I recommend for a healthy, attractive lunch that will make even the pickiest eaters happy? Here are my tips:
- Use the plate method for proper portions. Visualize half the plate filled with vegetables, ¼ with a protein, and ¼ with a carb. If you have a packable plate with dividers or sections, this makes packing even easier. So what will this look like in real life? Kids will love raw veggies and dip, a slice of chicken or turkey, and a small portion of last night’s mac & cheese.
- Pack at least one healthy snack. Think a small apple with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter, a protein bar (I like Pure Protein, which contains 20 grams of protein to help kids get past hunger while feeding their brain at the same time), or a package of almonds and dried fruit.
- Change up the look of lunch each day. Everyone loves peanut butter and jelly, but it can get old quick. And in order for a pb&j to be healthy, you need to make some changes. Buy natural peanut butter to cut down on the sugar, try bananas instead of sugar-packed jelly, and choose whole wheat or Health Nut bread to round it out. The next day, go a different route: spread an Extreme Wellness tortilla with some hummus, add some protein (chicken, turkey, fish, beans), then load it with veggies, roll it up, and go!
- Don’t forget about soup as an excellent source of fiber and daily nutritional needs. Make a big pot of soup over the weekend and dole it out throughout the week for a great break from sandwiches. The best thing about homemade soup is that you control the ingredients. You can serve your kids vegetables without them even realizing it! If the recipe calls for cut up potatoes, substitute turnips and/or rutabagas. Your kids won’t even be able to tell the difference and they’ll get their daily requirement of vegetables before they even eat dinner!
- Salads don’t have to be boring. Just changing up the lettuce makes a statement. Go for dark green leaves, as they carry more punch when it comes to nutritional value. Aim for romaine, arugula, and kale, for example. Use seasonal vegetables and fruits in the salad. I like arugula, strawberry, and feta with a few slivered almonds and a little tuna on top for a great summer salad. Always add a protein (whichever is your kids’ favorite) and let them choose the dressing. Serve with a slice of nutty bread or a few rice crackers for crunch.
If this all sounds like a lot of work, get your kids involved in the preparation and packing. Talk about a great life lesson in how to prepare healthy food and understand portion control! And when kids are able to make food choices, they become invested in what they eat and are more likely to keep their own lunch than trade it for someone else’s.
Stay healthy, everyone! And please feel free to share this post or to add your own tips in the comments! If you are having a tough time managing your weight or you need help with your own personal meal plan catered to your goals and lifestyle, reach out to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.