It’s back-to-school time, and that means stocking up on healthy foods so your children can go to the top of the class. If you plan ahead and fill the shelves of your pantry and refrigerator with wholesome choices, your children’s health will reap the rewards—and they may learn something about nutrition in the process!
Gains and Losses
With prices rising everywhere, protect your primary investment—health. Buy in bulk whenever possible, and stock up on nutritious foods to provide both short- and long-term benefits—without breaking the bank. It’s far more expensive to buy impulsively or dine out because there’s nothing in the house to eat.
You and your family have a lot to gain and not much to lose (other than empty calories) by spending a small amount of time, perhaps on Sunday evening, doing lunch prep for the week ahead. Teach your children to prepare snacks by measuring bulk items (trail mix, nuts, and dried fruits) into single-serve zip-lock bags or small containers, or create your own blend of trail mixes before dividing into smaller portions.
Use this family time to discuss lunchtime favorites and new ideas. Give kids a list of healthy foods to pick from. By empowering children to make their own nourishing selections, they’ll actually eat their lunch rather than tossing unwanted items in the trash. Make it fun, and you may all look forward to this weekly ritual—besides saving you time and hassles during weekday mornings when things are hectic.
The midday meal should include one protein source (chicken, fish, lean meat, or legumes), one to two servings of fruits (fresh or dried), one portion of vegetables (in a sandwich filling or cut up), two to three servings of grains (whole-grain and gluten-free breads, nut and rice crackers, or pasta), and one serving of dairy (milk or alternatives, low-fat cheese, yogurt, or cottage cheese).
Make items brought from home appealing. Lunchbox-size coolers can keep perishables at a safe temperature. Pack a “picnic” on some days. Include a single-serving pack of cheese or yogurt, organic baby carrots and grape tomatoes, and trail mix. Or try a pop-top can of tuna, sesame rice crackers, a container of blueberries, and a bit of dark chocolate (it’s healthy, to boot).
Don’t forget to include liquids. Kids may not drink enough throughout the day. Mild dehydration can cause headaches, low energy levels, and even poor concentration. Boxed juices and boxed waters are great thirst quenchers, particularly after recess or sports. But always read the ingredient label to check for unwanted sweeteners. Or buy more cost- effective larger bottles and pour liquids into a stainless-steel thermos.