Back to school time means a getting back on track in many ways. The lazy days of summer can sometimes lead to lax eating habits and sleep schedules. Now is the time for parents and children to discuss healthy eating habits and nutrition. Good nutrition is important for learning; research has shown that children who regularly ate breakfast had better standardized test scores, better behavior, and were less hyperactive than children who skipped breakfast. When children eat high sugar breakfasts, they tend to eat more at lunch simply because they get a sugar spike mid morning and then a sugar “fall” a couple of hours later which leaves them famished by lunchtime. This can lead to overeating and making unhealthy food choices to “feed” their hunger.
For children, it’s not really about counting calories or fat, instead parents should teach them about portion control and making healthy choices for their nutrition. Make it fun and realistic, knowing that there is always room for some foods that aren’t “perfect”. Teach children to eat approximately every 3 hours or so, enabling their body to stay in balance.
One way to get more nutrition into your child’s lunchbox or after school snack is to get the child involved in the decision-making and meal planning process. Ask your child what they would like to eat and then include those choices in their school lunches and at mealtimes. You’ll notice that they’re more likely to eat the food they’ve prepared or chosen. Eating a healthy lunch will keep your child’s mind sharp and ready to learn all afternoon. Having a healthy after school snack will refuel your child’s body before play and study time and will stave off any sugar “rises” and “falls” before dinnertime. An Oxford study shows, sugary snacks actually make children hungrier, rather than feeling satisfied as they would be with a high fiber, low sugar and protein-filled snack such as an apple and handful of almonds.
Encourage your child to eat a wide variety or “rainbow” of food choices so that there is adequate balance and nutrition in the weeks’ culmination of meals. Easy-to-make choices might include peanut butter on celery or crackers with raisins, sliced fruit dipped in vanilla yogurt, cheese and crackers, sliced veggies dipped in ranch dressing, granola bars, hummus and whole wheat crackers, hard boiled eggs, or a mixture of almonds, cashers carob chips, shredded coconut and raisins.
Keep in mind to read labels, avoiding high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, dyes and preservatives. It’s a good idea to choose organic produce and meat whenever possible, but it’s also good to choose locally grown produce from farmers who you can meet at farmer’s markets. This creates a positive impact for the environment, since your fruit and vegetables didn’t have to travel across the globe to reach your child’s lunchbox.
Children who eat healthy foods are more likely to do well in school and make better food and nutrition choices as adults. Teach your children by example and experiment with healthy lunches for yourself … your body and family will thank you for it. Here are some great lunch choices with good nutrition in mind:
I like Rudi’s Organic Breads, including Honey Sweet Wheat Sandwich Bread, 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread, and Country Morning White Sandwich Bread.
And for lunch meats, you can choose Applegate Farms Organic and Natural meats. They are made with no antibiotics or chemicals!
Fruits & Veggies
Fruit and veggies can be fun if they are presented in a fun way. Earthbound Farms makes it easy and convenient to add fun and fresh to your kid’s lunch diet. This company has prepackaged organic sliced apples, raisins and carrots. You can pair the carrots with an organic or low-fat ranch dip or even a hummus dip and your kids will flip! Earthbound Farm snacks make eating healthy, delicious and convenient. These snacks are not only low in calories and high in vitamins and nutrients … they won’t break the bank!
- Crisp, juicy, and ready to enjoy.
- Organic apple slices are a good source of Vitamin C and dietary fiber.
- Apples are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of produce items most likely to have pesticide residues, so that’s an extra reason to choose organic apples.
- Loaded with Vitamin A and beta carotene.
- These organic mini carrots come packed with their very own little pot of creamy ranch dip for convenient, healthy snacks.
- Available year-round in packs of three.
Thompson Seedless Raisins Snack Boxes
- Moist, chewy and sweet, the raisins in these are ideal for small hands and slip easily into backpacks, Mom’s purse and sports bags.
- These seedless raisins are a good source of iron and potassium.
- And because they are organic, they’ve never been fumigated.
- Available in 6-packs of 1.5-ounce snack boxes.
Kiddie-sized yogurts provide a good source of protein and calcium. If possible, choose a brand with active live bacterial cultures (probiotics) to maximize health benefits.
I like Probugs Kefir, made by Lifeway Foods, because it’s really delicious. It’s a yogurt-like smoothie, but has less sugar than most other yogurts and juices. Probugs has an easy-to-grip shape and no-spill spout, making it a perfect no-mess snack. (4 different kid friendly flavors – Newest one is Strawnana Split, Orange Creamy Crawler, Goo Berry Pie, and Sublime Slime Lime)
Also, if you’d like to pack your probiotics in a drink, try Lifeway’s Organic Whole Milk Kefir. It’s high in protein, calcium, has added inulin [JSF1] for optimum calcium absorption, and contains 10 live and active probiotic cultures for healthy bellies and strong immune systems.
While greasy potato chips may be one of your child’s favorite snack, they contribute nearly one-quarter of the fat in a lunchbox! Another kid favorite is Pirate’s Booty, which is made from puffed rice and corn and has half the fat and less calories than regular potato chips – and you don’t lose the crunch! Unlike fried chips, Pirate’s Booty is baked and made from all-natural ingredients that are also gluten-free.