While every parent has their own preferences about the food they choose to feed their children, one thing is for certain: a nutritious, well balanced meal is key to thriving children, physically and mentally. For young ones, school days are long and take a lot of energy out of them. For growing ones, they need all the nutrients they can get to strengthen growing muscles and bones.
While breakfast has been given the label of most important meal of the day, lunch is just as important! Having a well-rounded lunch can provide energy to get them through the day, keep them in a good mood, and even help them learn. In fact, a recent study suggested that students who have access to healthy food often score higher on tests. If you aren’t sure your child is getting the nutrition they need from their school lunches, you may want to think about packing.
Yes, it takes a little bit of extra time – whether in the morning or on a Sunday evening – but just that small change in day to day can have a positive impact over their lifetime. Here are a few things to keep in mind when packing up their lunch!
What Should I Include?
What exactly does a “well-balanced” meal look like? A little bit of everything, of course! It’s not so much about what food is included, but what type of nutrients they provide. Here are some basic nutrients you’ll want to be sure you include:
Proteins: Protein is important for building, maintaining, and repairing the tissues in our body. For kids, that means supporting healthy muscle growth! Protein can come from a variety of sources, but they’re best when accompanied by other nutrients. Lean meat and poultry, nuts, eggs, and milk are all great options. Did you know that one glass of milk can provide 8 grams of protein?! That’s about 30% of their daily recommended amount.
Grains: Whole grains are a great source of fiber and B vitamins that are essential to the health of little ones. If they’re sandwich lovers, opt for whole grain bread or tortillas. Or maybe send them off with a little bit of yogurt and granola to quench their sweet tooth while still providing them with the nutrients they need.
Fruits & Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables may take a little extra convincing, but it will be worth it in the long run. Children that learn healthy eating habits early are more likely to make healthier choices on their own later in life. Try adding cut up apples, grapes, baby carrots, or cucumbers to their lunchbox. These all have pretty palatable flavors and are great for snacking!
Calcium: Growing bones need plenty of calcium! While there are plenty of ways to find foods fortified with calcium, there’s nothing better than the original. Dairy is the number one source for calcium, along with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B! Whether they’re getting it through slices of cheese on their sandwich, or an extra glass of chocolate milk, they’ll think their lunch is udderly delicious!
How Much Should They Eat
Second to what they eat, is how much they eat, that is the key to a happy healthy kid. Every body is different and will need different things. It’s a good idea to discuss your child’s diet with their doctor to find out what percentile they’re in and what they might be eating too little or too much of.
Choosemyplate.gov is the USDA’s website for nutritional education. Here, you can find a variety of helpful articles for nutrition at every age in life. They’ve put together a MyPlate Daily Checklist for kids of all ages so you can be sure you’re providing the optimal nutritional balance for any of their meals.
At Homestead Creamery, we make healthy, wholesome dairy products that strive to keep all of the “good stuff” in and all of the “bad stuff” out. Our milk and cheese are a great addition to anyone’s lunchbox, young and old. And if you really feel like you didn’t get quite enough dairy for the day, we’ve got ice cream too!
See you at lunch?