1. Avoid prepackaged “meals.” In general, we recommend packing a healthy lunch as opposed to prepackaged meals, which are often full of sodium and processed foods. Yes, they're convenient – and of course, kids love bringing “munchable” (we'll just say that to avoid brand names) pizza and nachos to school. In reality, it's a whole lot healthier to prepare lunch at home, and it will also save you money!
2. Try to use whole grains and better ingredients. Although we all love the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, we can improve on it! Rather than white bread, try using a whole-grain variety. In addition, instead of buying artificially sweetened jelly and peanut butter with additional sugar added, opt for the more natural varieties without additives. Here is a list of 8 brain foods to make your kids smarter!
3. Avoid sugary drinks and snacks. Back in the old days, it was common to see soda vending machines all over campus. Student stores sold candy, and many kids' idea of a “lunch” consisted of chocolate and carbonated sugar water. Today, the large majority of schools no longer offer these items due to increased awareness surrounding childhood obesity and healthy diet choices. Despite this, many students still bring these items from home. A healthy snack will always be a better alternative to sugary foods and sweets, so we recommend avoiding these items when preparing lunch.
4. Pack healthy snacks. Continuing from our previous tip, we recommend fruits and vegetables as a healthy snack. Students all receive break periods throughout the day, and a healthy snack is going to keep them more sustained. Nuts, cheese, crackers, fruit slices – these are all better alternatives to a bag of potato chips or cookies.
Check out our other blog posts about specific food-types and tips that can help you improve your child's:
5. Pack bottled water. Whether it's a refillable thermos or a reusable plastic bottle, make sure to include water. Sodas and energy drinks are high in caffeine and sugar and are also highly caloric. Your student may like fruit juice or milk during lunch, but during the day – good old H2O is the best option for staying hydrated!
6. Look for convenient, healthy snacks. Although we mentioned earlier to avoid entirely prepackaged meals, there's nothing wrong with prepackaged snacks if they are healthy. For example – yogurt cups, bags of nuts or granola, and fruit slices all come conveniently packaged into individual servings (and they're good for you). When it comes down to it, there's really no “one size fits all” rule when it comes to shopping smart. We recommend visiting markets that offer healthier or organic options, and always check the ingredients to make sure you know what you're eating. A good rule of thumb is to avoid foods with long ingredient lists and compounds/chemicals you don't recognize. Like we said before, the best option is to avoid processed foods with long shelf lives and go for the healthier, preservative-free options. Your body will thank you!
Nutrition is very important for all students and has a surprisingly large effect on academic performance. For more information about this topic, check out our blog “Optimizing Brain Function With Nutrition.”
Here are some healthy lunch ideas to get started!