Byline: Tracey Westfield, Communications Associate
Throughout the month of July, we’ve been publishing a series of articles to get you and/or your kids ready to head back to school. It may seem too early to think about the fall semester, but a little planning now can help you avoid the back-to-school rush come the end of summer! So far, we’ve talked about getting your kids’ physicals, how to stay physically active while driving the “mommy/daddy bus” and the university’s educational assistance program. Today, we focus on healthy back-to-school lunches. …
Heading back to school is a family affair. Kids need help working with their new teachers, organizing their time and homework assignments, getting out the door on time each morning, making it to their extracurricular activities, and on and on. In the chaos, it’s easy to forget the basics—like eating a nutritious meal.
Food is the fuel that keeps you and your family going. Good food fuels your kids’ learning, creativity, activity and engagement. It’s the same for you. As you and your kids prepare school lunches, talk about what you can make for the whole family. Come up with ideas together. Share what you eat, talk about what you savor and enjoy your lunches together.
The first piece of advice is from Regina Ragone, food director at Family Circle and registered dietitian: Enlist assistants to help you—experts agree that getting the kids involved significantly ups the odds that they’ll eat what you send. Brainstorm some options together before school starts.
Also, respect your child’s eating style and preferences, writes registered dietitian Elizabeth Ward. Some kids derive comfort from eating the same foods day in and day out while others balk at it.
Another key component to preparing healthy lunches is making sure you have healthy ingredients around the house. Ragone says sandwiches are a given. So, choose whole-grain bread, which will be digested more slowly than the processed white variety, helping blood sugar stay stable during the course of the afternoon.
Other healthy fare to have on hand includes:
- Whole-grain crackers
- Peanut butter or nuts
- Light canned tuna fish
- Fruits and vegetables—cut them into shapes and creatures with cookie cutters to make lunches fun. Use lemon juice to keep cut fruits such as apples from browning.
- Lots of water and yogurt—both of which can help boost your kids’ immune systems
Finally, once you find recipes that work for your family, keep track of them. It’s amazing how many recipes you’ll find by Googling “healthy school lunches.” It’s almost overwhelming! Create a library of your go-to favorites to make grocery shopping and preparation easy.
- Learn about mindful eating from the university’s faculty and staff wellness program — Fall classes are registering now!
- 5 Healthy School Lunch Ideas, by Regina Ragone, Family Circle
- Healthy Lunchbox Tips, by Elizabeth Ward, WebMD
- Read the rest of our back-to-school series:
About the author: Tracey is a communications associate in the UM System’s Total Rewards department. She has 15 years of experience in web communications.
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