It has long been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but when we think about nourishing our children, one fact trumps all else: feeding your child a healthy and balanced diet will provide all the vitamins and nutrients they need to grow and thrive in all aspects of their lives. This includes what they eat at every meal, from breakfast, lunch, and dinner to all snack times in-between.
As most children have slowly and safely transitioned back to in-person learning, providing them with a nutritious daily lunch remains at the top of your to-do lists as parents. Whether they opt for hot lunch at school or a packed lunch from home, making sure they eat well during the day will help them perform better in and out of the classroom.
Creating a healthy lunch shouldn’t feel complicated. There are many ways to provide a balanced lunch for your child without spending too much time, money, or energy to do so.
Lunch plays a vital role in your child’s overall health.
Lunch is an integral part of a child’s day, especially when they’re expending extra energy at school through physical activities and mental fortitude during the week. Eating a healthy lunch raises their blood sugar level in the middle of the day after it may have experienced a drop after breakfast, giving them the energy they need to finish their school day in a strong, focused, and healthy way. In addition, studies have shown that those who skip lunch often see an increase in their overall weight due to overeating after school with snacks or a larger dinner.
Other important aspects of consuming lunch include:
- Consumption of essential vitamins and minerals that may not be obtained through traditional breakfast foods;
- An increase in mental clarity, focus, and physical health. When skipped regularly, a decrease in lunch can lead to adverse physical and psychological health problems.
- The ability to try new foods and nourish your body.
- The community and social skills you build when eating lunch with your peers daily.
A colorful lunchbox is key.
If your child would prefer to bring a packed lunch to school every day, there are various ways to fill their lunch box with nutritious foods that will taste delicious, nourish their bodies, and satisfy their tastebuds. The best part? Most lunch ideas can quickly be whipped together without the need for extensive time in the kitchen.
One of the best rules of thumb for lunch planning is to include a colorful palette of nutrient-dense food that will keep your child from feeling hungry throughout the rest of their school day.
Essentially, there are six key components to consider when putting together your child’s school lunches. Always include:
- A fresh fruit
- A fresh vegetable
- A dairy item such as milk, yogurt, or cheese
- Lean meat or protein alternative
- A complex carbohydrate source such as whole-grain crackers, low-sugar, whole-grain cereal, or wheat bread
- A palette cleansing low-sugar drink, such as water
Healthy Lunchbox Ideas
We understand that as children grow, their taste in food changes over time. Providing them with healthy and different meal options for lunch allows them to try new food combinations while increasing their love for nutritious foods.
Here are some delicious and nutritious lunch ideas for any age:
- Whole wheat pita bread and hummus
- Sliced cucumber
- Strawberries and blueberries
- Low-fat mozzarella cheese stick
- A bottled water
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Carrot sticks with low-calorie ranch dressing
- Sliced orange
- Whole-grain wheat crackers with cheddar cheese squares
- A low-sugar juice box
- A chicken and cheese quesadilla
- A side of guacamole and mild salsa
- Whole wheat tortilla chips
- A sliced mango
- A ham and cheese sandwich on wheat bread with lettuce and tomato
- A low-sugar yogurt
- Apple slices
- A carton of skim or 1% milk
Along with a healthy lunch, be sure to include an ice pack to keep items cold and fresh, all essential utensils, and a napkin or two for easy cleanup. Remember to deal with any hard-to-open packages at home, so your child doesn’t waste time trying to get into their lunch. As a parent, you know what your child enjoys most. Providing them with a mix of nutrient-rich lunch options sets them up for a more successful day at school.