5 Rules for a Healthy School Day Lunch

Everyone has heard about the importance of eating a nutritious breakfast, but did you know the contents of your child’s lunchbox could have a major impact on his or her energy levels and alertness in the classroom?

While students should avoid high-calorie lunches loaded with fat or sugars, a midday meal consisting of quality proteins and complex carbohydrates can boost afternoon performance and give your child a shot of energy to finish the day. Follow these five tips when packing your child’s lunch to help provide them with the kind of nutrition needed to finish the day strong.

1. Opt for low-sodium lunchmeat.

A turkey or ham sandwich is a great source of protein and a staple of the quick-and-easy school lunch, but high sodium can lead to an afternoon drop in energy and even high blood pressure if consumed over a long period of time. Kids generally consume enough sodium through natural foods such as fruits or juices so low sodium is very rarely a concern. Purchasing meats low in sodium and pairing them with whole wheat bread provides a healthy combo of good carbohydrates and protein. Spice things up with deli mustard or sliced tomato instead of cheese to reduce calories without sacrificing taste.

2. Skip the soda.

While the sugar and caffeine in soft drinks will provide a temporary boost in energy, the insulin spike caused by drinking soda will leave your child tired and ornery. Bottled water will keep your child hydrated, a critical measure when aiming to increase energy and academic performance.

3. Pack whole fruits instead of juices.

Fruit juices are full of sugar and provide none of the fiber in whole fruits. Pack an apple or a banana in place of fruit juice, as the fiber found in whole fruits leads to feelings of fullness.

4. Make Room for Raw Veggies

Raw vegetables are a great source of vitamins and fiber, but they can often be a tough sell to kids. To ensure that your child is eating the right amount of veggies, pack peanut butter, hummus, or a light fat-free dressing to boost the taste of celery, carrot sticks or broccoli.

5. Give Your Kids a Weekly Treat

Don’t be afraid to throw in a small indulgence on special occasions. Real-fruit fruit snacks or a couple of oatmeal cookies can help break up the monotony of lunch and keep them from tossing out their packed lunch in favor of splurging at the vending machines.