Back to school is almost upon us, which means many more kid-free hours during the day (amen!) but it also means a bit more of a hectic morning routine, especially if you’re in charge of packing lunches. There’s nothing worse than rolling out of bed and scrambling to pack your kids’ lunch, only to find out that a) your fridge is empty or b) your kid refuses to eat anything you have to offer. As if you don’t have enough to think about during those crucial morning moments. While you might assume that throwing some snacks and a sandwich in a bag is a fairly simple task, it’s a lot harder than it seems. You have picky kids to please. And nutrition recommendations. And judge-y parents who will surely shame you for sending anything with artificial coloring. And did we mention picky kids?
Packing a balanced, delicious and appealing school lunch is an art form. And ideally, if that masterpiece could be pulled together in under 5 minutes, that would be excellent.
Luckily, we have gathered some of the best, most well balanced, delicious, good-for-you and impossible-to-mess up school lunches around. They’re easy to make, inexpensive to stock up on, adorable, fresh and dare we say it — your kids will love them. So as you gear up for the first day of school and you start to prepare your school lunch meal plans, consider these tips, tricks and tasty treats which are sure to make your child the most envied kid at the lunch table.
6The Importance of a Nutritious School Lunch
As a kid, the only aspect of lunchtime you cared about was what treats your parents packed for you and who you got to sit next to. You had zero concern about the calories or nutrients you were consuming. But as a parent, now that’s all you think about. Especially considering recent findings about the impact of school lunches on a child’s weight, and the rise in childhood obesity in the US. The CDC reports that in the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. And nearly 1 in 5 school-age children and young people (6 to 19 years) in this country has obesity. While various factors contribute to this fact, including genetic predisposition, there are several environmental factors we can control, one of which being school lunches.
Back in 2011 a study found that “kids who ate school lunches were 29% more likely to be obese than kids who brought lunch from home.” This finding indicates that in addition to other risk factors (such as genetics or sedentary lifestyles) the quality of the meals served for school lunches was contributing to obesity in kids. During the Obama administration, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 dedicated funding to improving the quality of school lunches and required school lunch programs to double the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in each meal.
It really makes you reconsider what you thought was an acceptable school lunch for your kids, right? Suddenly that bag of potato chips seems like a poor choice for a snack, or at the very least, it should be balanced out with a piece of fresh fruit.
And that’s really what it’s all about. Moderation. Just as adults try to practice healthy eating habits and indulge in moderation, children need to learn to do the same. It’s all about balance, and good habits start at a young age, both when we lead by example and when we expose kids to smart choices while they are young. “The habits we develop as children, even as young as two and three, strongly influence the behavior we carry into adulthood,” explains Lauri Wright, PhD, an assistant professor in public health at the University of South Florida. “This is why establishing healthy lifestyle behaviors in childhood is critical to preventing obesity and other diseases in the future.”
Dietitian and mom of three, Sarah Remmer, explains to Today’s Parent that the key to a healthy kid’s lunch is nutrition, variety, and balance. “Aim for one item from each of the following categories: fruit, veggie, whole grain, meat or alternative, and dairy or alternative,” she suggests. And definitely, include protein-rich foods to help keep their energy up throughout the day. She also suggests that you include one little treat, and encourage kids to enjoy their meals with positivity, so there’s no pressure to eat only the nutritious stuff, and they are empowered to make their own healthy choices.