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Back to school: Tips for healthy school lunches

Back to school: Tips for healthy school lunches

How to start the school year the best way? Focus on healthy school lunches! According to UC Davis Health, there are more than 55 million children and teens who attend public schools in the U.S. Kids eat between 35% and 40% of their daily calories at school, which means it’s important for these calories to be healthy.

Only a healthy lunch can keep your kids focused, full, and healthy for the school day—whether that means at school or while learning remotely at home. The ideal school lunch should always include vegetables, fruits, and nutritional foods.

In general terms, kids in primary schools need more carbs for energy, while high-school kids tend to need calcium for strong bones. Do you think healthy lunches are expensive? You will be surprised that lots of healthy ingredients are very affordable.

Here are some tips for healthy school lunches so your kids can stay healthy and focused during the school day.

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Plan healthy school meals before weekly grocery shopping.

It’s hard to prepare a healthy lunch for school if you’re short on groceries. Fresh and healthy foods need to be used for preparing meals every day, but it’s unrealistic to go grocery shopping every morning. Instead, make a weekly list of lunches you will make and buy all the ingredients in advance. When you go grocery shopping, make sure to buy some frozen food, too. Frozen or refrigerated food can last long, which is great when you’re short on time.

Make lunches at night, not in the morning

Preparing school meals in the morning can be really messy—and even stressful. Because you are in a hurry to make lunch before school, the meal can tend to be unattractive, rushed and tasteless. If you make lunches at night, not in the morning, not only will the lunch tend to be more nutritious and well-planned, but it will also lead to less stress as you all head out the door.

Since eating a healthy breakfast is also very important, Oatmeal cups, egg muffins, waffles, yogurts are some of the healthy breakfast ideas you can try during the week. Sometimes it’s also easy forget that you can use dinner leftovers to make school meals.

Keep healthy lunches fresh and safe for school

An extremely important thing, when it comes to preparing healthy lunches for school, is leaving meals fresh and safe for children. Since lunches are often prepared in advance, left at room temperature for hours, it’s important to keep the food at a safe temperature so bacteria won’t have a chance to grow. Make sure you keep your lunches in the fridge until morning.

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Choose non-perishable foods

Non-perishable foods such as whole fruit and vegetables, dried fruit, peanut butter, seeds, canned tuna, dry pasta, bottled water can be stashed for a long period. These foods are healthy and can last a long time, which is great because you don't have to go shopping every day, just to prepare a healthy meal. Although you don't have to keep food like this in the fridge, don’t forget to check expiration dates every month. Also, many schools have shifted toward peanut-free policies, so make sure you check before you pack peanut products.

Make simple, but nutritious breakfast

Breakfast represents a real challenge when it comes to preparing healthy meals for school. Kids are often not very hungry in the morning, but they are very hungry for lunch. This is exactly what tells you not to put tons of food in their lunch box. Try to make a simple, but nutritious breakfast. Choose some whole grains, protein, and fruit—easy and healthy meals that are kid-friendly.

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Always put some veggies in the lunchbox

Eating fresh vegetables is essential for kids of all ages and provide them with the vitamins they need to stay healthy and grow. Unfortunately, it is known that kids are not big fans of vegetables, especially not broccoli and spinach.

Still, kids like to dip vegetables in their favorite sauce or eat fresh vegetables cut in the shape of animals. If your kid is not a fan of raw vegetables, you can roast or grill vegetables for them. There are various ways in which children can enjoy vegetables.

Don’t forget about hydration

Did you know that, according to a recent surveyalmost 80 percent of U.S. adults believe they need to drink eight glasses of water each day to stay hydrated while 72 percent do not believe they get adequate amounts of water from their daily diets and typical drinking habits? Hydration is important to keep kids healthy and energized, especially if they participate in sports.

The American Diabetes Association says: “Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to Type 2 diabetes,” so make sure to pack fresh bottled water, fresh fruits, and vegetables, or natural fruit juice, to keep kids healthy and hydrated.

Don’t pack lunches in paper bags, foil or parchment paper

If you are packing your child's school lunch, avoid using paper bags, foil, or parchment paper. It’s better, but also much safe (and can save you money) to choose reusable sandwich bags that can be washed, thermos, or lunch boxes—or even better, a Bento box.

Use a thermos to store hot soup or pasta

Storing somewhere safe and packing hot healthy lunches is not easy. When packing hot meals like soups, you need a suitable container that will keep the food warm while the child is at school. If your kids like soups or pasta, as well as tea or hot chocolate, you can use a thermos to keep them warm. Just heat the lunch, pack it in a thermos and it will stay warm until lunchtime.

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Bento box – the best way to organize a school lunch

You've probably seen in movies or cartoons how Japanese children have beautifully arranged lunches in lunch boxes. These lunch boxes with divided compartments are called bento. Bento is more than just a lunchbox, it combines healthy food and art.

A traditional bento box includes rice, fish, with pickled and cooked vegetables, along with sliced fresh fruit. Using bento as a lunch box, can teach your kids how to pick a grain, and eat more healthy ingredients at school. Besides, children will find bento packing, a very exciting experience.

Encourage kids to pack their own lunches

Supporting your kids in making their school healthy lunches is a great way to help them enjoy eating more vegetables and fruits. Don't refuse their help, let them help you with preparing and packing healthy lunches.

Cut fruits, vegetables, or sandwiches into various shapes, and let them place food into containers or put in the freezer. Not only will they start loving healthy food, but it will also make them feel important and independent. 

Although it sounds like a lot of work, it really isn’t and being organized at meal and lunch prep can cut down on stress in the morning.

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