As former college athletes, my wife and I believe that sports play an important role in helping a child develop healthy habits and attitudes that will carry over into the classroom. We have four boys, all of whom swim competitively and excel in the classroom. Nutrition plays a vital role in both. With the busy back to school time, it becomes easy to take your eye off the ball and swing and miss on proper nutrition.
When school starts, we find ourselves up earlier and rushing around trying to get everyone packed up and off to school on time. Oftentimes,it’s easy to sacrifice nutrition for convenience when it comes to lunch. We’ve all seen the pre-packaged lunch packs and had our kids beg us for them. During the school year, it's easy to give in to that temptation; after all it’s one less thing to think about. Don’t! Here are some easy tips for crafting nutritious lunches all throughout the school year.
- Plan ahead! Don’t wake up in the morning to find you’re out of milk leaving you no choice but to toss in a sugary drink. Buy everything you need on Saturday or Sunday and know it’s there. Know what your kids will eat that week and have it at your house. My kids like to buy a school lunch from time to time so we look at the menu at the beginning of the month and mark each day and then plan around that.
- Prep! Having the food in the house isn’t always enough. What happens when in the morning rush your child finds a sheet of homework they missed the night before, or someone can’t find a shoe? Suddenly the morning routine is thrown off and everyone’s scrambling. We try to prep as much as possible ahead of time, usually after our grocery shopping. Things like crackers that come in larger boxes get portioned out in snacksized bags so we can just grab one and toss it in their lunch bag. Sandwiches get made the night before and stuck in the fridge along with their thermoses filled with milk. That way, lunch is ready to go in the morning.
- Healthy choices. Along with prepping ahead, it’s important to make healthy choices. Let’s face it, given the choice, most kids will choose junk food. Try to eliminate as much of that as possible. Buy whole grain bread instead of white, a natural peanut butter and a jelly made with sugar rather than corn syrup. The kids love it and it’s a good source of protein, carbohydrates and whole grains to sustain them throughout the day. I also freeze a tube of Greek yogurt and pop it in their lunch. It slowly thaws and at lunch they have a cold, protein packed treat with lots of calcium. Another great option, Balance® bare bars are delicious nutrition bars made with whole nuts and fruit. They're the perfect nutritious snack to go with a sandwich.
- Finally, the vegetables! I already know what you’re thinking, “My kids don’t eat vegetables!” Well, they need to and you can teach them to love vegetables. We grow much of our own produce which has really helped get the boys excited about their veggies. They help in the garden and watch them grow. School lunch always has some fresh veggies like a fresh tomato slice on a sandwich or a bag of cherry tomatoes, carrot strips and sliced cucumbers. Try making them fun by cutting them into shapes, but don’t feel the need to spend hours creating that supercute vegetable bunny you saw online!
A little prep ahead of time and you’ll cruise through schoolday meals. A good lunch will give your kids the fuel they need to stay attentive and energized all day long!
*Matt McClelland writes awesome articles as a paid spokesperson for Balance Bar®. There are also free samples involved (a Balance® bare Mixed Berry Nut or two goes a long way), so…best job ever?