Preparing Healthy School Lunches
Enjoying a healthy and delicious lunch is important at any age. It’s even been proven to help improve kids’ learning and school success.
While it can be challenging to come up with new lunch ideas for your kids, preparing healthy school lunches can be done with ease while providing tasty and nutritious menu options.
There are so many things that are critical for a productive school day for your child—and having a good lunch is one of them. In fact, according to the Food Research & Action Center, school meals play a critical role in student health, well being and academic success.
While school-provided meals are a great option, you can also send your child to school with a power-packed lunch to help boost their learning and keep their energy up throughout the day.
Here’s a guide to choosing healthy options, combining foods and creating an on-the-go lunch that your little student will enjoy.
Psst…check out NYC’s plan for improving food education in NYC schools.
Tips for Preparing Healthy School Lunches
To start, it’s important to know that preparing healthy school lunches can be fun, and it’s something you and your child can do together. Here are some tips you can keep in mind while creating your fabulous lunches:
Mix and match food options. According to the National Education Association, the important thing to remember when making lunches is to offer a wide variety of options to your child.
You can mix and match various combinations and search for new recipes online, too. Check out these back-to-school recipes from the Food Network.
Consider gut health. Maintaining a healthy microbiome can prevent or lessen the effects of gut-related issues like allergies, E. Coli infection, asthma, skin issues and other conditions, explained gastroenterologist, Rajesh Dhirmalani, D.O.
“A healthy diet, hydration and building good bacteria in the gut through supplements and probiotics like Flore Clinical play a crucial role in kids’ gut health,” the doctor said.
Foods to include. Think high-fiber fruits and vegetables when preparing healthy school lunches. Keep the skin on to help aid digestion and promote good bacteria. Apples, raspberries, broccoli, and snap peas are easy additions to make your child’s lunch healthier.
“Berries and tomatoes are high in antioxidants, and oats, beans and chickpeas are good sources of proteins, vitamins, and minerals,” Dhirmalani said. “Avoiding processed and artificially or overly sweetened foods is also essential, as they contribute to the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut.”
Consider the lunch or bento box. They’re trendy and practical for preparing healthy school lunches. Bonnie Lak, a mom from New Jersey, has a teen who loves using the Takenaka bento box.
“Alexandria likes to eat healthy, so she likes to pack it with little cucumbers, fresh fruit, tomatoes, strawberries and blueberries,” Lak said.
Organic yogurt is a fun, tasty and healthy snack. Organic, refrigerated yogurt pouches, such as the Stonyfield Organic line, make for a fun and nutritious addition to lunch boxes.
Remember the protein. On the subject of protein when preparing healthy school lunches, Dhirmalani recommends reducing red meats to once a week or less.
“Fresh vegetables and healthy fiber like beans, lentils and chickpeas should be included as often as possible,” he said. “Adding fresh herbs and spices is a quick addition and has a long list of health benefits.”
Another option kids love? Those tasty cheese bites in a bag, such as these from Whisps, which are protein-packed snacks to enjoy after or during lunch. Protein chips are another option, such as these Wilde Chips.
Consider dental health when it comes to preparing healthy school lunches. Joe Albanese, DMD, of Marine Dental Services, recommends steering clear of any hard-to-swallow gummy candies or overloading on dried fruit, which can get stuck in teeth.
“Although dried fruit is a healthier alternative to candy, it still contains a lot of sugar and can cause cavities if the teeth are not properly brushed and flossed after eating it,” he said, adding that calcium-rich foods like cheese and yogurt are great for strong teeth.
Fun fact: Strawberries contain malic acid which helps keep the teeth stain-free and white.
Saving money at the grocery store. These days, families are seeing dramatic increases in food prices. But there are some ways you can save money by choosing an ideal day to shop, comparison shopping and buying generic for some of your needs.
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