It is almost time for kids to go back to school. As you are preparing your children with new clothes, books and school supplies, it’s important to remember another key to good education, healthy nutrition. Recent studies show that children who are well fed perform better academically and are less distracted during school lessons. Therefore, there is a greater emphasis on school nutrition than ever before.
Planning and preparation for the school day should include meal preparation. When sending your student off to the bus or dropping them at the curb, you mustn’t forget about their most important school supply, food. Children should eat a healthy, balanced breakfast before the school day begins. This can happen at home or at school through the School Breakfast Program. In addition, it is important to pack a healthy lunch for your child to enjoy during their lunch hour.
Consider packing meals in a bento box. Bento boxes are divided plastic containers. They provide separate spaces for different meal items, making it easy to provide a balanced meal – a large space for vegetables, a medium space for carbohydrates such as crackers, pasta or potatoes, and a small space for protein such as sausage, cheese or nuts. The large space is also big enough to place a sandwich or wrap leaving room to place carrots, broccoli or other vegetables in the small spaces remaining.
Try food art. Get creative with the food you are sending in your child’s lunch box. Children are more likely to eat their food if it looks appealing so what better way to package it than to decorate it. For example, you could make a personal-pizza and “draw” a face on it with olives for the eyes and peppers for the mouth. For snacks, consider placing whole-grain goldfish crackers in a cellophane carrot wrapper instead of the typical zipper bag for a visual treat as well as a healthier one.
Though peanut butter and jelly between two slices of bread is classic, it’s time to give sandwiches a break from your child’s lunch box. Make tortillas the new whole grain front liner. You can still stick with the peanut butter and jelly inside but I also recommend a hummus and veggie roll up, turkey and tomato wraps, and cheese quesadillas. These are great alternatives to the classic whole wheat bread.
If you are busy and unable to pack your child’s lunch in the morning, there is another healthy option through school lunch. The lunch provided in the cafeteria meets national standards for balanced nutrition through the National School Lunch Program and is a perfect alternative to a packed lunch.
When preparing for the school year harness the power to provide the foundation for your child’s success through healthy meals and happy tummies.