Healthy Lunchbox Ideas for
Back-to-School

Silver Hill Hospital

Breann Farnsworth, RD, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Silver Hill Hospital has developed three easy to prepare healthy lunchbox ideas because school days are long days for kids!  

The goal for a healthy meal is to aim to include carbohydrates, protein, fruits or vegetables and adequate fats. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for our brains and therefore are very important for a child’s performance in school. Focus on providing whole grains and carbohydrates options that are lower in added sugar by comparing the nutrition fact labels of similar products. Protein foods provide the building blocks for all of the body’s tissues and muscles, are needed to maintain a strong immune system and when added to meals and snacks increase the ability to focus and maintain longer attention span. Protein is needed at all meals and can come from a variety of animal and plant options. Fats are essential for proper brain development, among other important roles, and therefore should not be forgotten when planning a healthy lunchbox.

Breakfast is very important for increasing a child’s ability to focus and perform at their best in school and unfortunately many breakfast foods for children are notorious for being high in sugar. Too much added sugar can cause decreased focus and fatigue soon after consumption which can lead to sluggishness later in the day. Some good breakfast ideas include: smoothies made with fresh or frozen fruit and low fat yogurt, unsweetened oatmeal with milk and a small amount of brown sugar or maple syrup added, eggs with whole wheat toast and a small portion of 100% fruit juice, or a ½ a banana with nut butter and milk.

As for what to pack for lunch, follow the same model of including carbohydrate, proteins, fruit or veggie and some fat. Ideas for this would be:

  1. Whole wheat pasta and veggie salad made with pesto and diced chicken (or beans) and a side of sliced strawberries or other favorite fruit.  The whole grain pasta provides energy and fiber along with vitamins/minerals with the vegetables. Pesto made with olive oil provides healthy fats. The chicken or beans for protein aids in providing important amino acids that help with focus. Add in fruit for something naturally sweet.
  2. Nut butter & Jelly Sandwich with milk and veggie sticks (whole wheat bread for energy, nut butter (sunflower butter is typically not an issue for those with nut allergies) for protein and healthy fats along with an all-natural jam/jelly gives all the components a child needs to get through the rest of their afternoon. Add in milk or alternative dairy product (soy or almond milk) with veggie sticks and you’ve covered all the bases.
  3. Deconstructed Quesadilla: whole grain tortilla chips, shredded cheddar cheese or bean dip, guacamole and cherry tomatoes with a side of fruit. Tortilla chips will provide a nice crunchy carbohydrate choice and choosing whole grain will increase the nutritional value (higher fiber), cheddar cheese or a bean dip would be a great protein option along with guacamole for healthy fats. Throw in a veggie that is preferred by your child or salsa or fruit. 

 

Photo credit:   Simon Feldman