While summer may be in full swing, the start of the new school year is just around the corner. Kids will trade their popsicles for their lunch boxes or food trays. But now it’s time to get back on schedule, making it a great time to focus on nutrition for the start of a healthy new school year. Research shows that kids perform better in school and are more successful in activities likes sports when they eat healthy, from all of the food groups.
“Proper nutrition is good for the mind and body which fits into the school year,” says Registered Dietitian and Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Media Spokesperson, Kelly Devine Rickert MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN. So how do we start off right with healthy foods during the school day? School lunches have become healthier when the federal government implemented new school-meal regulations in 2012. These meals include more fruits and vegetables, less fat (low-fat or fat-free milk plus lean proteins), whole grain foods, and less sodium. A new study shows that now students like the healthier school lunches when they did not like them at first. “Change can be hard but in time and with exposure, students accepted the new foods and grew to enjoy them,” says Devine Rickert.
It can be easier for kids and parents to pack their own lunches to have more control with food preferences. Check out these healthy lunch tips that Barbara recommends below:
Use SMART when planning lunches:
Plan out your meals for the week which can coordinate with a shopping list for groceries. Prepare lunch the night before if there is no time in the morning. Designate who is going to make the lunch – child or parent, maybe it is a group effort.
Include all food groups. Make half of your lunch fruits and vegetables with a protein and a whole grain starch. Some ideas:
Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce & tomato + carrot and celery sticks and strawberries
Whole grain pasta with spinach, tomatoes, and chicken + steamed broccoli and an apple
Get kids excited about eating a healthy lunch so they have the energy and fuel for their growing bodies and minds. Have kids participate in making their lunches and have them choose foods so they are compliant. Parents need to model this attitude.
Parents decide what, when and where the lunch will be. Kids choose if they will eat the lunch that day and how much they will eat. These roles allow kids to try new foods, enjoy their favorite foods and provides them with energy and nutrients their bodies need.
Try It! Encourage kids to try new foods by serving them at lunch once in awhile. Pair new foods with foods that are kids favorites. Be patient, it can take up to 20 times before a child accepts a new food, but persistence will pay off.
Remember to pack an ice pack or frozen water bottle to keep food cold and safe.
Kids who see their parents modeling these SMART lunch habits are more likely to become SMART lunch eaters themselves. Be SMART when making healthy lunch choices for back to school.