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Healthy Tips for Breakfast and Lunch During the School Year

parent packing lunch with kids

By Network Health Wellness Team
Updated on 8/1/2022

Getting back into a routine can be difficult for adults, let alone kids. But if your children are skipping out on a healthy breakfast every morning or not receiving the proper nutrition at lunchtime, they’re also missing out on a chance to refuel their body.

Making sure your kids have breakfast before school and packing them a lunch for the day are the best ways to ensure they are receiving the nutrition they need while also offering them foods you know they will enjoy.

What are the health benefits of breakfast?

Better Nutrition – Research shows that eating breakfast improves the quality of your diet. Starting your day with the right foods gives you the opportunity to take in vitamins and minerals that you would not otherwise eat during the day.

Better Weight Control – Breakfast eaters have a lower risk of being overweight because you’ll feel full for hours, avoiding unhealthy snacks. In fact, data from the National Weight Control Registry shows that individuals who’ve lost weight and kept the weight off are breakfast eaters.

More Energy – Breakfast gives your body and brain the fuel needed to function. Starting your day with more energy will help carry you through the rest of your day.

What makes up a healthy breakfast?

When deciding what to eat in the morning, try to pick two or three foods from these categories. Eating these foods will give you a good mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat.

Protein

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Peanut butter
  • Walnuts

Grains

  • Oatmeal
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Bagels
  • English muffins
  • Granola

Fruits

  • Fresh or frozen fruits
  • Smoothies
  • 100% pure juice
  • Grapefruits
  • Bananas

Vegetables

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Vegetable smoothies

Dairy

  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Low-fat cottage cheese

 kids at school eating lunch

What Are the Health Benefits of Lunch?

Like breakfast, eating lunch is just as important, and the reasons for it are similar. It turns out, food is not just fun to eat… our bodies need it too.

More energyIf you tend to feel drained in the afternoon, ask yourself if you’ve been skipping lunch. Taking time out to eat lunch in the middle of the day raises your blood sugar level and gives you needed energy to carry you into the evening. Kids need a healthy lunch to help them stay focused throughout the school day.

Sustained nutrition – All meals are important for a child’s development. If a child doesn’t receive a healthy lunch, their development may suffer, impacting both mental and physical health.

Avoid nighttime overeating – Those who skip lunch may be more likely to eat too much for dinner or more tempted to consume unhealthy snacks after school. Eating lunch midday helps satisfy our kids’ bellies.

What Makes Up a Healthy Lunch?

When packing your child’s lunch, it’s important to include primarily foods that provide key nutrition that they need to stay energized for the remainder of the school day. That said, it’s also a good idea to give your child options. When planning their lunches, make them feel included by letting them choose between healthy options. You will know they are eating healthy and they will know they are eating foods they enjoy.

When packing your child’s lunch, try to include at least one option from each of the following food categories.

Protein

  • String cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Sliced chicken breast
  • Sliced turkey
  • Almonds
  • Hummus
  • Avocado
  • Pistachios
  • Quinoa

Grain

  • Rice (mix with beans for a protein source as well)
  • Popcorn
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Whole-wheat crackers
  • Granola

Fruit

  • Grapes
  • Bananas
  • Apple slices
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries

Vegetables

  • Snap peas
  • Baby carrots
  • Baby sweetcorn
  • Sliced peppers
  • Snap peas
  • Broccoli florets
  • Celery
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sliced cucumbers

Dairy

  • String cheese
  • Low-fat milk
  • Yogurt

[Read more: Back to school health checklist]

Tips That Make Health Eating Easy for You and Your Child

If it’s difficult finding time to eat in the mornings and even more difficult preparing lunches for your kids before they head off to school. While we can’t add more time top your 24-hour day, we can offer some tips to help establish a convenient routine and encourage healthy eating.

  1. Give your child choices – Instead of telling your kids what they will eat, give them some options. Of course, you will want to determine what those options are, but giving kids a choice between 2 or 3 healthy foods can be a great way to get your kids more excited to eat healthy.
  2. Make foods fun and easy to consume – Young kids in particular might struggle consuming breakfast or lunch in one sitting, especially if they don’t find the food all that interesting. You probably don’t have time for elaborate recipes, so instead, use some simple tricks to make fruits and vegetables more exciting. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of fruits like melons or apples. You can do the same for certain vegetables or cut other vegetables into fun strips that are easy to eat. If you need to incorporate dairy, string cheese is an engaging food that many kids love peeling apart.
  3. Maintain healthy habits during weekends  If you pack healthy lunches for your kids during the week but let them eat mostly junk food over the weekend, there’s a good chance they probably won’t be all too thrilled about snap peas or yogurt. Keep these healthy meal habits going throughout the week with a rotation of various foods, while limiting more unhealthy foods to occasional treats.

 

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