Updated 2 hours ago
School is back in session. What students pack for lunch is just as important as the books they read and lessons they learn.
Research has revealed that a well-
balanced diet helps students focus better on their studies.
“A great way to make sure the meal is nutritious is to compare it to the My Plate,” Lehigh Valley Hospital-
Hazleton dietitian Molly Sweeney said, referring to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food guide.
MyPlate can help a parent plan a meal that contains a variety of colors and flavors, she said. It will also help them include adequate sources of protein — items such as chicken, turkey, nut butter and eggs — as well as complex carbohydrates like whole wheat and rye breads, fruits, vegetables and dairy items.
“Protein foods are needed to help kids feel full and awake during the school day,” Sweeney said.
Snacks are OK
And don’t rule out snacks, she said.
Snacks help students stay focused during classes and after school, when they’re participating in activities or completing homework, she said.
“Average snacks should be about 100 to 150 calories. It is also best to provide a variety of foods, for example, mixing carbs and protein together,” she said. “Fruits and vegetables, due to the fiber content, also aid in feeling full for a longer period of time.”
But what if your child is a picky eater?
Sweeney said it’s best to allow them to get involved with packing their lunches.
“Pairing new foods with old foods is also very helpful,” she added. “I recommend trying not to pack new foods for the first time at lunch, as we do not want children to be hungry while at school. Try new foods at dinner, and provide a nonfood reward to trying them, such as stickers or a small toy.”
Parents can also put notes in their child’s lunch bag, and pack a mix of colors and different shapes. Use a cookie cutter to cut bread for sandwiches, she suggested.
As for bad food choices, Sweeney said sugary cereals are not recommended for breakfast.
“They will lead to a sugar high and subsequent crash,” she said. Also, she said, juices are high in sugar and should be consumed in moderation.
What’s in your lunchbox?
Sweeney offers these ideas
for school lunches:
• Peanut butter on whole wheat bread, with baby carrots, yogurt and berries
• Cheese and crackers with tomato soup and an apple
• Turkey and cheese rolled up together, with pretzels and grapes on the side
• Rice and beans with a side salad
• Vegetable kabob with hummus dip
• Cottage cheese with fruit and mixed nuts, cut-up vegetables — tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, peppers and celery
• Flatbread pizza (Parents, you can grate carrots on the top) with a fruit cup
• Egg omelet with their favorite vegetables on an English muffin with fruit on the side
Jill Whalen is a writer for the Standard-Speaker in Hazelton, Pa.