For parents, back to school means getting back into a routine and coming up with school lunch ideas. For your kids, it means following a more rigid eating schedule again. Rochester Regional Health registered dietitian Sharon Spear, CDE, shares her tips for school lunch and meal ideas so parents can help their kids enjoy eating healthy and nutritious meals!
A new school year is exactly that… new! One great way to get your kids excited about eating at school again is to bring them shopping for a new lunch box. A lunch box with lots of compartments is great for keeping food separate, and it increases the variety of food your kids will eat throughout the day.
Proper nutrition really begins with breakfast. A bowl of cereal, hard-boiled egg, a slice of toast with peanut butter, granola and yogurt… you can even make breakfast fun by serving yogurt and granola inside a mason jar so it’s more palatable to eat.
Smoothies, scrambled eggs in a small wrap, and instant oatmeal are a few quick and easy options with plenty of nutrition and fuel for your kids. You don’t need to cook a large and complicated breakfast, just something that gets their brains working.
Absolutely! It’s important to include your child in the preparation and planning of their school lunches. Coming up with school lunch ideas is great bonding time, and it teaches them about different types of food and strengthens a healthy relationship between your child and their food.
Come up with different ways to present food to your child. Try making a puree from vegetables or create a colorful dip they can eat with veggie straws or tortilla chips.
Another way to help picky eaters is to involve them when you shop for groceries. Let them choose between a few fruits and vegetables or healthy pre-made snacks they can bring to school, and create their own school lunch ideas. This can entice them to try new food, or give the food they’ve tried and disliked another chance.
The Plate Method is a great formula for eating healthy, and it’s simple! Draw an imaginary line down the middle of your child’s plate. Build half of their plate with fruits and vegetables and add some protein and healthy grains or carbohydrates on the other half. This will provide your child with the nutrition they need to get through the next part of their day, contribute to their mental and physical growth, and help protect their bones when they begin playing organized sports again.
With most foods, the key is to eat in moderation. Are you going to feed your kids fries every day? No, but occasionally is okay.
Good nutrition has several benefits that impact your kid’s day-to-day, such as:
Color plays a huge role in getting your kids to eat healthy food, and it can influence new school lunch ideas. I like to say, “Eat a Rainbow.” The more colors, the more vitamins and minerals your child is getting. Encourage them to pick out food that’s bright in color. Since most fruits and vegetables are colorful, they’ll naturally pick out the food you want them to eat.
Check out these simple and healthy back-to-school meals: