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Ace Back-to-School Meals

little boy eating lunch

Ensuring your children regularly consume nutritious meals is key to supporting academic success. Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast are less likely to miss school and have fewer visits to the school nurse or office due to stomach problems. Children stay focused during school hours when they eat regularly. These back-to-school meal ideas will help!

Planning all these meals is a challenge.  Driving the kids to school, picking them up from after-school activities, and making sure your own work gets done can seem overwhelming.  That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips that can fit any schedule and budget! 

Back-to-School Healthy Eating Tips:

Keep meal ideas simple:

Consider make-ahead breakfasts (breakfast burritos) and lunches (leftover chicken wraps) and sheet-pan dinners.  Don’t feel like you have to make a four-course meal nightly!

Make a plan:

Plan your meals before the week starts to avoid dinnertime scrambling and thrown-together lunches.  Taking some time to plan your meals, grocery shop, and prep ingredients for the week can save you time, money, and stress!  Involve your family by asking them to help make the grocery list or wash produce. 

Research your school’s meal programs:

Some schools offer breakfast and/or lunch programs that offer nutritious meals for your children.  Looking at these options and meal schedules ahead of time can help you decide when to take advantage of these resources and when to pack a lunch! 

Make lunchtime colorful:

Everyone – especially children – eat with their eyes first!  Make healthy lunches appear enticing by incorporating colorful ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and dairy. 

Save during snack time:

Effortless, grab-and-go options like string cheese, turkey jerky, and Greek yogurt are nutritious items to keep on hand for when you need a quick snack.  Individually packaged hummus, guacamole, and nut butter cups work well with whole-wheat crackers and veggies! 

Focus on whole foods: 

Preparing healthy meals and snacks doesn’t have to involve fancy, expensive ingredients.  Focus on whole grains, dairy, produce (fresh, frozen, or low-sodium canned), and lean protein foods to provide your family with an abundance of macro and micronutrients! Whole foods will also provide your children with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to support their growth and development.

Follow the foolproof formula: 

Not sure how to build a balanced meal? Build a nutritious lunch with: half a plate of fruits and vegetables, a quarter of whole grains, and the remaining quarter with protein! 

Make sure to include some healthy fats and dairy, like our example below:

  • Fruit: Strawberries
  • Vegetables: Carrot sticks & cucumber rounds 
  • Protein/Whole Grain: Deli turkey & cheddar cheese on whole-grain bread with avocado & tomato
  • Dairy: Milk carton or Greek yogurt 

Hydrate: 

Hydration is important at every age!  Have your kids pick out a fun reusable water bottle to encourage them to drink water throughout the day.  Soda, energy drinks, and sugary fruit juices should be enjoyed in moderation. 

Grab & go: 

For high schoolers who pack their own lunches and snacks, packing the same PB&J may get boring. 

Brainstorm fresh lunches with them and keep grab and go items on hand, including:

  • Individual Greek yogurts topped with fresh fruit, granola, and honey. 
  • Cheese sticks, paired with apple slides and whole-grain crackers. 
  • Deli meat and cheese slices rolled up in a whole wheat wrap with tomato and lettuce.
  • Hummus or Greek-style yogurt dip paired with fresh vegetables and pita bread. 
  • Trail mix, with unsalted nuts, dried cranberries, and dark chocolate chips.

References:
1.  https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/school/Pages/Back-to-School-Tips.aspx
2.  https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/kids-healthy-lunchbox-guide/