by Stephanie Jacovini, NDTR, Katz JCC Certified Nutritionist
It’s back to school time! That means school lunches and after school snacks. Many parents ask, how do they keep kids healthy and get out the door each morning? The key is – be prepared! Shop with a purpose and have a list of what you want to make for quick, easy lunches – for you and your children.
Think outside the box and know that lunches do not have to be sandwiches. With a little creativity, you can offer a nutritious and delicious meal for all ages. Here are 3 components to keep in mind when shopping for lunches and snacks:
Carbohydrates: The word carbs doesn’t have to be a bad word. Fruits and veggies are excellent, high-fiber carbohydrates and they make super easy portable snacks. If fact, fruits and vegetables were the original portable snack long before a snack bag of chips came along. Use whole grain or sprouted breads or crackers whenever possible. This will provide more nutrients and keep you full longer than white breads or crackers. All of these offer so many healthy vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, it would be beneficial to add them to every meal. Pair your fruit or vegetable with a protein for a delicious treat. A fan favorite is apples and peanut butter or sun butter. Add some oats or granola and you have a fun spread or roll it up in a whole grain tortilla for a sandwich. Hummus with mini peppers make great dippers or go with the tried and true, carrots and cucumbers. Mix plain yogurt with some peanut butter or sun butter as dip for celery.
Proteins: We want our little ones to have some protein at lunch and after school. This will help keep them satiated while providing fuel for a day’s worth of activities. Proteins can be animal based (think chicken, beef, fish) or plant based. Great sources: Tuna, Eggs, Nuts, Nut butters, Seeds, Seed Butters, Legumes, Hummus, Cottage Cheese, Yogurt, Soy Milk
Fats: Don’t be afraid to add a little oil or avocado to your lunches and snacks. Fats help the body absorb important nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K. Mix cooked egg yolks with avocado and serve it as an egg salad with a side of veggies to scoop. Homemade salad dressings are also easy to make. Just mix 1-part oil with 1-part acid (red or balsamic vinegar, lemon or lime juice). Toss the mixture onto a salad, but don’t forget a protein like beans or tuna.
If you try these tips and still find that the kiddos don’t like the healthy lunches you’ve made, don’t give up! Inspect what they leave behind. Maybe they like some elements and not others. Maybe they want more variety, or less. Ask them for their input on what they would like. Make fruits and veggies at lunch non-negotiable but tell them they can provide input on which they would like for the week. Variety of colors are important for their overall health and plant-based foods will provide this.
Leading by example is also a great way for kids to try new things. Don’t make a different lunch or dinner for yourself. If it’s healthy and delicious, you should eat it too and make less work for yourself! Remember to keep the kids involved. Show them you can all be rock stars at lunch time with a little creativity and adventure.
If you have any questions, please reach out to Stephanie Jacovini, NDTR. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (856) 424-4444, x3054.