Back to school time can be overwhelming for many families, but one of the best things you can do for your children during the school year is pack them a nutritious lunch to keep their minds sharp and their energy levels up. Studies have shown a correlation between healthy eating and increased concentration. Involving kids in the decision-making process helps them feel more interested in their lunches and excited about eating healthy, and also prepares them for making better decisions in the future.
It can be hard to find the time to cook healthy meals, so these quick tips will help give kids the fuel they need to get through the day:
- Replace juice and soda with water or low-fat milk.
- Whole fruits offer more fiber and less sugar than juice or other fruit snacks.
- Replace white breads with whole grain breads, pitas or wraps.
- Healthy fats found in olives, nuts, pumpkin seeds, and avocados keep kids full longer and improve concentration.
- Avoid products with trans-fats or high calorie content. Fried foods will have a lot more calories than baked foods.
- Freeze fruit, water or milk, or low-sugar yogurt to help keep lunches cold.
- Be creative: Cutting sandwiches or fruits and veggies into fun shapes makes lunch time more fun!
- Give kids a variety of healthy foods to choose from and change it up each day by substituting bread with healthy wraps, bagels, or pita breads and substituting lunch meat with fillings like veggie burgers, chicken salad, or hummus.
Some healthy alternatives to junk foods:
- Baked veggie chips or pretzels
- Frozen grapes or peach slices
- Soy nuts or sunflower seeds
- Hummus and veggies
- Fruit kabobs with Greek yogurt
- Low-fat cheese sticks or cubes
- Whole grain crackers
- Graham crackers or fig bar
Childhood obesity can result in a variety of health problems such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, decreased energy levels, low self-esteem and increased depression. Childhood obesity most often carries on into adulthood and can result in even more health problems in the future. Reducing sugar, fat and sodium intake plays a major part in battling childhood obesity, and packing healthy lunches gives parents the ability to have a positive impact on what their kids eat each day at school.
It can be hard for families to find the time to follow all of these suggestions, but preparing lunches the day before or pre-packaging a few days’ worth of cut fruit and veggies makes it easier to grab and go in the morning. For more information and articles on nutrition and healthy living, please visit the American Academy of Pediatrics at https://healthychildren.org.
**These recommendations are not intended for a specific diet and should be adjusted according to allergies or food intolerances.