As summer comes to a close, kids are in for a big adjustment when they head back to school. With less rules during summer vacation, it’s important to get your children’s eating habits back on track. Make sure your child eats breakfast every day- studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better and have more concentration and energy. Establishing good nutritional habits now will make it easier for your child to eat healthy in the long-term. Send your child to school with a healthy lunch every day- if junk food is not there, it’s not an option.
Here are some easy tips for building healthy school lunches from nutrition expert, Dr. Ann Kulze.
A healthy school lunch should always include these four items:
- A healthy protein: Make sandwiches with turkey, ham, chicken, tuna salad, egg salad or nut butters. Always use 100% whole grain breads and add vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, onions or pickles to them.
- At least one piece of produce: Kid-friendly veggies include carrots, celery sticks, bell pepper strips and cherry tomatoes. Pair them with hummus or a low-fat salad dressing- kids love dips. All fruits make great additions but the all-star options include berries, cherries, plums, apples, red grapes and any whole citrus.
- A calcium-rich food: Cheese and yogurt are great sources of calcium. Stick to low-fat varieties and be mindful of the sugar content in yogurts. Fat-free, 2% or soy milk are also great ways to get more calcium.
- A fun food: Trail mix, granola bars, raisins or other dried fruit, baked chips and whole grain crackers are great kid-friendly snacks. These are foods kids love that you won’t feel guilty about providing.
Other helpful lunch-making tips:
- Studies show that when kids are involved in the selection and preparation of school lunches, it encourages healthful eating.
- With produce, the deeper the color, the more health-boosting power it has.
- Whole fruits tend to end up in the trash can. Cut them up and squirt lemon juice over them to stay fresh and crisp.
- Presentation can encourage healthy eating. Be inventive and creative- arrange a medley of colorful fruit chunks on a skewer to make kabobs for example.
- Insulated lunch bags with a cooler pack is the safest way to pack a lunch.
- Stick to water, milk and 100% juices (with no high fructose corn syrup). Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%.