Packing school lunch for our children can frequently become a humdrum routine. It's easy to slip into the habit of packing the same items day after day, week after week, choosing foods solely because of their convenience. However, since school is about learning, think of packing school lunches as an opportunity to boost our kids’ brain power and sustain their energy throughout the school day.
Think of fresh and natural foods to include in the lunch box or bag. Avoid items with a high amount of processed sugar, as these foods tend to cause a quick and drastic drop in energy. The following foods are natural, low in calories, and a must-have for improving brain function and prolonged energy levels.
- Blueberries and a variety of fruits—Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, including fiber, vitamin K and vitamin C. Because they look and taste like candy, children will be more likely to enjoy them. Mix things up by including a variety of other colorful fruits as well, whatever is in season and is a favorite with your child.
- Celery and a variety of veggies—Celery is a fun and crunchy snack, chock-full of vitamins and minerals, and low in calories. Pair it with peanut butter to make a filling, protein-packed snack. Alternate or pair celery with carrots and other raw veggies for a fun and colorful addition to the lunch menu.
- Whole Grains—Choose whole grain items (bread, tortillas, crackers) to provide sustained energy. The high fiber content will cause the kids to feel fuller longer than the white flour versions of these same items.
- Nuts—Include nuts for fiber and protein. They also provide a crunch, which may help the kids forget that their lunch does not include chips and cookies.
- Soups/Stews—Pack a thermos of hearty soup or stew during the cooler months. This is an alternative way of serving vegetables, cooked instead of raw. There’s nothing like a little hot soup or stew to add a bit of extra love and comfort to the school day.
- Water and/or Milk—While 100% juice contains essential vitamins, it can be high in calories. Opt for water and/or milk, depending on your child’s needs. Milk will provide extra energy and much needed calcium for strong bones and teeth. Water is great for helping the kids stay hydrated throughout the day.
Making daily lunches need not be mundane. The key to packing a perfect lunch is to make it bright and colorful with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, paired with nuts and whole grains for fiber and energy. Keep these simple rules of thumb in mind, and a healthy lunch is in the bag!