School cafeteria lunches have long been scrutinized for their lack of nutrition. Pizza, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and other fried foods are standard fare for students these days. With obesity and diabetes rates on the rise, it’s essential you make healthy school lunches and teach your kids healthy eating habits at a young age.
Start With Lunch
So how can you ensure your child is receiving adequate nutrition? Packing a lunch from home is the best way to know for sure that your son or daughter is eating a healthy meal. Below are some ways you can improve your child’s lunch.
- Include protein: Whether it’s peanut butter spread on celery sticks or slices of turkey held together with a toothpick, adding protein to your child’s lunch is a tasty way to keep him or her full throughout the day. Slices of avocado sprinkled with lemon juice, salted edamame and black refried beans spread on a tortilla and rolled into a burrito are a few more protein-packed ideas to use.
- Make it colorful: Color is key when it comes to nutrition. Try to include as many colors of the rainbow as possible in your child’s lunch. Slicing up fruits and vegetables, such as yellow peppers, green cucumbers, red apples and oranges, is an easy way to add a pop of color.
- Sneak in veggies: Children tend to fuss about vegetables when they know what they’re eating. Sneaking vegetables into your child’s lunch is easier than you think. Add spinach to a turkey sandwich, include chopped celery in chicken salad or toss diced apples into tuna salad.
- Include a treat: If your child sees other kids eating a treat, he or she may feel left out and find something unhealthy. However, if you provide a healthy treat, your child’s sweet tooth will be satisfied without sacrificing nutrition. Peanut butter protein cookies, raisins, trail mix and strawberries with yogurt sauce are great treats to pack.
Move Onto Snacks
During the hustle and bustle of the school year, it can be difficult to get healthy snacks prepared for your child each day as well. By preparing some easy, healthy snacks ahead of time, your kids will have something nutritious to munch on after school to keep their energy high and their minds focused so all that homework gets done on time! Below are several healthy after-school snacks ideas that you can throw together in no time at all.
- Apple slices with yogurt dip: Simply melt peanut butter in the microwave. Stir in yogurt, honey, vanilla and cinnamon. Slice the apples and dip!
- Ants on a log: Cut the celery stalks in half, fill with peanut butter, and sprinkle with raisins and voila! You’ve got ants on a log.
- Grilled cheese rollups: Roll slices of bread flat using a rolling pin. With one slice of cheese on top, roll up your bread and cheese, brush with melted butter and place in the oven on medium heat.
- Frozen blueberry kebabs: Place the blueberries on the kebab and lather with yogurt. Lay all kebabs on a freezer safe container and leave for a few hours.
- Zucchini chips: Thinly slice the zucchini; brush the paper-thin slices with olive oil and sprinkle with a curry/garlic powder/salt mix. Place on a baking sheet and bake for one hour at 225 degrees.
- Cauliflower tots: Steam 2 cups of cauliflower. Once steamed, finely chop. Combine all ingredients (see recipe) in a bowl, spoon into small ovals and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 16-18 minutes at 400 degrees.
- Roasted chickpeas: Drain a can of chickpeas, spread on cookie sheet and dry with a towel. Drizzle with olive oil and cook for 30-35 minutes at 400 degrees. Some choose to also sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and salt prior to baking.
- Cookie dough yogurt: Mix together Greek yogurt, nut butter, honey, vanilla and sea salt until smooth. Top off the mixture with chocolate chips and enjoy!
- Wild animal trail mix: Combine animal crackers, dried blueberries, roasted pecan halves and cups of popcorn.
- Quinoa peanut butter snack balls: Cook quinoa and allow it to cool prior to making this recipe. Once quinoa is cooled, mix in peanut butter, cinnamon, molasses and sea salt. Form into 1-inch balls and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Once firm, keep in the refrigerator.
Bring it Home
How you serve your children food can play a large part in their eating routine. For instance, if you sit down as a family, your child will learn that dinnertime should be enjoyed and spent together. To teach your child what a healthy meal looks like, try the following things:
- Set an example: When your children are young, let them see your healthy eating habits. Prepare real, whole foods and don’t calorie count or be too hard on yourself if you eat something you shouldn’t.
- Get your kids involved: Have your children help you prepare meals in the kitchen. This can start as early in the mealtime process as the grocery store. Educate your children on food labels so they will know what ingredients are good and which are bad.
- Start the shift: You don’t have to completely change your normal diet at once in order to see your child eat healthier. For instance, change out whole milk for low-fat milk and olive oil in place of butter. Small, subtle changes in your family’s diet can help everyone adopt healthier food choices.
- Be strategic about snacks: Teach your child that snacks are to be asked for and should be eaten at the table, not in front of the television. Don’t let your child eat out of the bag. Snacks that typically come in a bag can be eaten on a plate or in a bowl.
- Sneak in the veggies: Try adding vegetables to your child’s normal meals in a new and creative way. For example: shred or grate veggies into stews, spaghetti sauce and casseroles. Also, you can try baking them into foods like muffins or breads.
Keeping your kids healthy during the school year is easier than you think. If you have questions about your child’s nutrition, visit your local CareNow. Be sure to check in online to avoid the waiting room!Find a CareNow Urgent Care near you
Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.