You may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and indeed this is true. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “Eating a healthy breakfast is associated with improved cognitive function (especially memory), reduced absenteeism, and improved mood.” Lunch too, along with other meals and snacks, also plays a significant role in a balanced diet.
Eating a good lunch refuels our students’ bodies and minds. When a child skips lunch or doesn’t eat a nutritious one, he or she will struggle for the rest of the afternoon, finding it hard to concentrate and gather the energy needed for the remainder of the school day. Unhealthy eating can also lead to problems with physical and mental development.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, kids don’t always eat as well as we’d like them to. According to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition:
- Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of total daily calories for 2–18 year olds and half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.
- And overall: Americans eat less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, dairy products, and oils.
To ensure that children practice healthy nutrition, the first thing we should do as adults is to become better dietary role models. Next, we should continuously promote the benefits of healthy eating to our children, encouraging them to follow our lead, especially at lunch.
The schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford offer well-balanced, healthy lunches to all of our students. But sometimes, nothing beats a good homemade lunch.
Does this mean you have to buy expensive ingredients and spend lots of time making lunches? Does it mean you’ll have to force feed the healthy stuff to your children?
No and no.
Making healthy and inexpensive lunches that kids actually want to eat can be easy and, believe it or not, fun for everyone. For example, can’t get your child to eat veggies? Serve them with some delicious, and deceptively good-for-you, dip, such as vanilla yogurt, hummus, or fat-free ranch dressing. Cut costs by purchasing reusable containers; by stocking up on staples (such as peanut butter and tuna) in bulk from wholesale stores; by buying fresh (and usually less expensive) seasonal fruits and veggies; and by making things at home instead of buying them pre-packaged.
To help you keep your ideas fresh, we’ve compiled some of our favorite lunch sites for you to check out. From bento boxes to DIY mini pizzas, these kid-friendly meals offer something for all tastes and dietary needs:
- Yummly Lunch Box: Lunch so good you may want to make some for yourself.
- Easy Lunch Boxes: These are great reusable containers, but the culinary ideas for them are even better.
- Parenting.com: 20 Easy Bento Lunch Boxes: Okay, these are a little fancy, but quite fun.
- Food.com: 50 Back-to-School Lunchbox Ideas: “Outside-the-lunchbox-surprises.”
Feeling inspired? And hungry? Make these lunches even better by preparing them with your children, turning lunch prep time into quality time.
What are some of your (and your child’s) favorite packed lunch ideas? Let us know on our social media pages.