Healthy Eating Can Improve School Performance
Dr. Melanie Brown
Originally published in The Mountain Times on 09/01/22
School is back in session, and many parents will get back to preparing school lunches for their kids. The local universal free lunch program ending in the public schools gives us another incentive to prepare lunches at home. However, they might worry about how to promote healthy eating when they’re in a hurry every morning to get out the door.
PURE LIFE CLINIC certainly understands that concern. But lunches prepared at home can be fresher and healthier. In addition, there are some creative ways to make them fun and tasty.
Here’s another benefit to making a healthy lunch at home: My kids always complain they don’t have enough time to eat at school. Without standing in line for food, they have more time to enjoy and (hopefully) finish their meal.
Finally, teachers will thank you if you don’t send snacks or foods loaded with sugar. Sugar highs and crashes are responsible for more behavioral and attention problems than some parents realize!
What to consider for healthy meals
In general, we want our kids to eat their palm size of lean protein, lots of veggies, some fruit, and limited healthy carbohydrates and fats.
Yes, limiting refined sugars and processed foods and sticking to fresh ingredients can challenge any busy parent. However, even without the ability to reheat, you have great protein options for a cold lunch.
– Chilled lettuce wraps
– Cowboy caviar (a mix of black beans, black-eyed peas, corn, and other fresh vegetables) with corn chips
– Salmon or tuna spread on crackers
– Cheese and meat with crackers
– Natural nut butter and jelly on multigrain bread*
– Homemade soup in a thermos
* Please check your peanut butter labels and choose wisely. Many brands add fully hydrogenated vegetable oils and sugar — even some of the “natural” nut butters. Here’s one healthy option: Adams is a favorite brand in our household because it stays creamy and spreadable, and you can buy big jars at Costco.
Don’t forget that younger kids will need a healthy choice for snack time and sides for their lunch. Here are some of our favorites:
– Baby carrots and hummus
– Whole banana with peanut butter
– Nuts and dried fruit
– Fresh berries or fruit
– Greek yogurt (watch the sugar content!)
– Applesauce (sugar-free)
– Celery or snap peas and nut butter
– Cottage cheese and crackers
– Homemade muffins
– Guacamole and veggies or tortilla chips
Time-saving ideas for healthy eating
Prepare on the weekends or evenings to make your mornings easier. In addition, try to prep a few days or a school week at a time.
Want another option? You can make up all the sides for the week and add the main course daily. Small reusable containers or bags are easy to fill and store in the corner of your fridge or pantry.
Don’t forget to hydrate!
Hydration is crucial to healthy living. It keeps your child energetic and bright during the day. So, be sure to send a full water bottle in the mornings that they can refill throughout the day. In addition, place a lemon or some fruit in the bottom to make their water fun and tasty.
Get the right start to the day
Finally, don’t forget to start with a healthy breakfast. Avoid sugary cereals — granola is a desirable alternative. Naked Granola has some fun flavors.
Smoothies are a great option, as is oatmeal with apples and cinnamon. In addition, freshly cooked eggs with a side of fruit are quick and easy. Greek yogurt parfaits with granola and fruit are always a hit.
Sit down with your kids and make a list of all the foods that they like. Then, keep these ideas in mind while you plan your week. Your kids will feel better, be healthier, and succeed more in school. Healthy eating habits created for your child will benefit your family for generations!