by Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN, Food City Registered Dietitian
Back-to-school brings lots of excitement and some stress too. For many of us, back-to-school means back to regular schedules and routines; and mealtimes are no exception. Help your kids get back into the swing of things by planning nourishing lunches that keep them energized and focused at school.
Think breakfast is the most important meal of the day? It is important, but lunch is also critical to a child’s overall health and performance in school. Kids need nutrient-rich meals to fuel concentration and energy levels. The tricky part is that lunches need to have kid-appeal both in taste and appearance. How do you accomplish this feat?
Try putting your kids in the chef’s hat. When kids are involved in planning and preparing their meal, they are more likely to eat it. If your children buy a lunch at school, review the menu together and help them pick a balanced meal of foods they like. If you pack lunch, create a system with your kids to develop meal ideas and menus. Discuss with your kids the importance of each food group that should go into every lunch: lean protein, a whole grain, at least one fruit or vegetable, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats. You could even create a checklist and have your child fill in his favorites in each category. If you do your meal prep on the weekends, get the whole family involved by forming an assembly line for packing. When kids are invested in making the meal happen, they will also be invested in eating it!
Struggling with picky eaters? Instead of fighting food choices, work around dislikes by making a list of alternatives within the same food group that you could offer instead. Think outside the box and include untraditional favorites like breakfast foods, homemade pizzas, or quesadillas. Like adults, kids eat with their eyes first. Get creative by including different colors, textures, shapes and sizes of foods. Maybe purchase an appealing reusable lunch bag or box with favorite cartoon characters or colors. Making homemade lunches fun can help them compete with attractive fast food options and packaging.