Adding more nutrition to school lunches benefits students in many ways, experts say.

Most parents can relate to the hectic early morning rush before school each morning.

Making sure everyone is awake, ready and out the door on time can be a challenge, especially coming off of a long summer break.

On the days when everyone is running late, it can be all too tempting to skip out on making sure your kids are set up for a healthy breakfast and lunch. Skipping breakfast and turning to pre-made snacks for lunch may be easy, but they aren’t the healthiest options for your kids.

The benefits of taking a little extra time to improve your children’s nutrition are endless. Before you hit the snooze button, consider the following tips for preparing nutritious breakfasts and packing healthy lunches for your kids before they head out the door to school.

It’s common knowledge that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. After sleeping all night and not consuming food for so many hours, our bodies need to refuel so that they can provide us with the energy necessary to sustain a new day.

Kids who don’t eat breakfast are often tired and irritable, making for a poor start to the school day.

While getting in that first meal of the day is immensely influential on kids’ productivity for the rest of the day, a healthy first meal can even help kids maintain a leaner weight over time.

Rather than reaching for unhealthy options like sugary granola bars, frozen waffles or cereals, opt for healthy alternatives like fresh fruit, oatmeal and whole grain toast with a nut butter of their choice. Other healthy ideas include a chocolate, banana and peanut butter milkshake or a green smoothie with spinach, berries and almond milk.  

Packing a nutritious lunch is just as important as making sure your kids eat breakfast. Eating healthy throughout the day helps children maintain the energy they created at breakfast so that they don’t experience a mid-day crash.

When concentration is lacking halfway through the school day, a balanced lunch can help kids regain focus. Balanced meals should consist of a mix of fiber, protein and healthy fat. Leafy greens, beans and celery are all fiber-rich foods, while chicken, eggs and Greek yogurt will give your kids the protein they need. For a simple lunchbox favorite, layer turkey, cheese and avocado in a whole wheat wrap and roll into a pinwheel.

You can also combine chicken breast, grapes and greek yogurt in a whole wheat wrap for a healthier alternative to traditional chicken salad. Pair your kid’s lunch with a handful of chocolate-covered almonds for a simple and sweet after-lunch treat. Lastly, encourage your kids to stay hydrated, which is crucial to sustaining energy.

Aside from physical health, there are many other reasons your kids’ eating habits should be a top priority.

Studies have shown that kids who eat nutritious meals all day long have an increased learning potential and experience an overall improvement in academic performance, including better performance on tests.

Since eating well boosts immunity, these kids are also less likely to miss school due to sickness and tend to have better behavior in the classroom because they are less distracted.

 

It can be hard to come up with new ideas for lunch to keep your kids eating healthy at school, but a little creativity and simple measures can make a big difference. Taking the time for nutrient-rich meals and allowing it to become a habit will make eating healthy easier as time goes on.


Dr. Janice Johnston is the medical director and a family practice provider of Arrowhead Health Centers who also specializes in pain management.

 

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