Healthy Back To School Lunches
Leah Asgari, APRN, FNP-C & Allison Gaubert, MS, RDN, LDN
Hey parents – this one is for you! It’s that time of year again … your kids are back at school and a different kind of “busy” has set in. Your time and sanity are important, so My Local Clinic Home as partnered with Allison Gaubert, a registered dietitian, to help make things a bit easier for you this school year.
Allison is a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s of Science in Nutrition and Wellness. She’s worked with non-profit initiatives that educate and assist chefs and restauranteurs in making menu options healthier without sacrificing flavor—she knows a thing or two about offering up eats that are both delicious and nutritious.
Growing up, my mother packed me a lunch every day. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, and string cheese. Needless to say, I burnt out on this lunch quickly. It was good, but my “little kid taste buds” wanted more variety! I would trade my lunch with friends and sometimes even rely on vending machines to mix things up. As a young child, I didn’t realize how important lunch was and how not eating the right foods could impact my health and school performance.
“Lunch is a crucial meal for school-aged children. If they don't eat, they are more likely to lose concentration during afternoon classes, perform poorly during after school activities, and overeat foods of lesser quality when they return home from school. It's great to want to pack a healthy lunch for your child, but we can't forget that they actually have to eat it!”
This is why I love Allison’s expertise. It’s great to help guide your children toward healthier choices, but they have to be invested for positive behaviors and good habits to stick. She suggests getting your child involved in the lunch you pack. Listen to their ideas on what they’d like to eat for lunch and even let them help pack their lunchbox! When kids are involved in this process, they're more willing to try new foods and be excited about what they're eating. In other words, they’re less likely to act like I did trading lunches and turning to vending machines.
To make things easy, Allison provided a few quick and healthy lunch ideas & tips to get started!
1. If your child likes vegetables, an inexpensive, high fiber meal packed with protein would be a simple green salad topped with chickpeas, cheese, beans, and their favorite vegetables. Add a small container of their favorite dressing on the side. This is a good vegetarian option, but any protein can easily be added if desired.
2. Wraps are another quick and versatile idea. Remember to always try and choose whole grains! Use a whole grain wrap, turkey meat, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and greens. You can even cut the wrap into pinwheels. This makes your child’s lunch appear more colorful, is easy to eat, and fun for the kids to help make! Do your best to incorporate lots of color. Kids, just like adults, eat with our eyes first. The more appealing, the better.
3. Another option that can be made in bulk is whole grain pasta salad made with colorful veggies and chicken.
4. A creative option to sneak in extra protein is to use dairy foods such as cottage cheese and yogurt as a vehicle for fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and peaches.
5. Like with all meals, try making half of your kiddo’s lunch plate fruits and vegetables. This helps to meet the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Remember, 1 serving of fruits and vegetables equals about 1 cup—like a baseball size apple, 8 large strawberries, or 12 baby carrots.
We hope these nutrition tips and tricks help your children learn to love the kitchen and have a successful school year!