Things can feel rushed in the morning, especially at the start of the school year. The entire family is trying to get back into the routine of getting children to school on time, and parents are trying to ensure that homework has been completed and everyone has a quick, healthy breakfast to start the day. Multiple studies have shown that children who eat breakfast perform better in school. If you’re unable to provide breakfast at home due to time constraints, breakfast is also available at school.
The best way to ensure your children are eating healthy at lunch is to pack a meal full of nutritious options and educate your children about healthy choices in the lunch line. In effort to reduce time in the morning, lunches can be packed the night before and stored in the refrigerator. Eating healthy begins at home, and if the whole family makes good choices, children are more likely to do so, as well.
Healthy lunch tips from the home:
- Try to include food that represents three to four of the basic food groups, such as protein, grain, dairy, and fruits or vegetables. The more color you can incorporate into your child’s lunch, the better!
- Think outside the box when incorporating whole grains. Sandwiches do not have to be confined to whole-wheat bread—you can use pita bread or tortillas, as well. Whole-wheat pastas, rice and whole-grain crackers are also good alternatives to the typical bread choices.
- Skim or one-percent milk, low-fat cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese are ideal ways to incorporate dairy into children’s lunches.
- For fruits and vegetables, try cutting them into fun shapes and packing them with a dip. Many fruits can increase energy!
Healthy lunch tips for the lunch line:
- If your child buys lunch from school, review the menu with them and help them determine the best meal choices ahead of time.
- Ask your child’s school about how they prepare foods for breakfast and lunch and what emphasis is placed on providing balanced meals for students.
- Get a first-person perspective of what is available in the lunch line by visiting your child’s school and having lunch with him or her. If you can see how the choices are presented, you can talk with your child about how to make good decisions in the lunch line.
Eating healthy can give children more energy, sharpen their minds and balance their moods, making them more productive and present at school. With healthy lunchtime habits, your children will be better prepared to tackle the school year!
Valerie Shurley, MS, RD/LD, is a clinical nutrition manager at St. David’s Georgetown Hospital