Now that the school year is in full-swing it’s possible that as we get busier, whether as students or parents when it comes to packing lunches it’s easy to just throw together the most accessible thing in our pantry into our bag or the kids’ lunch boxes. Busy schedules somehow tend to take over and we forget that what we eat for lunch is important, especially at the midpoint of the day when our brains and bodies need a boost.
I was a middle school teacher for 2 years and it was always tough for me to see kids bring lunches that included nothing but white bread and sugary jelly, chips, high-sugar “juices” and fruit snacks. I even had a student who brought nothing but a Ziploc full of marshmallows for lunch one day! While it may be convenient to stuff a brown paper snack with a plethora of pre-packaged empty carbohydrates kids and adults alike are, in my opinion, better off not even eating lunch than eating empty calories with no actual nutrients. Coincidentally, many of my students that brought some of the aforementioned items were also those that demonstrated a noticeable slump in mental coherence and mood during afternoon classes. Studies show that children who eat diets rich in fiber and protein perform better in school than those who consume diets low in protein and high in sugar. Not only does protein and fiber take longer to digest than high sugar foods, but they also supply essential amino acids that combine to form proteins that are essential for managing the neurotransmitters in the brain. I’ve had parents ask me during parent-teacher conferences for suggestions with helping their child “focus” and I always told them that in my opinion the best place to start is with what you feed your body ( and therefore ,brain.)
Healthy school lunches, especially in the public school sector is a topic that is as broad as it is long so much so that professional chefs make TV shows about it (i.e. Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution) and state and federal legislature is continuously fighting battles over it. My only attempt here in this post is to point you towards some ideas of simple ways to incorporate brain-and-body-boosting foods into noontime meals. It doesn’t mean you can’t throw in a bag of Sun Chips or a pack of fruit snacks into your or your child’s lunch but the meal can’t rest on those things. Your body and especially those of children need protein, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats to get through the afternoon slump. It’s actually amazing how easy it can be to switch out “go-to” items that lack nutrients with much more fortifying options. Sometimes we just need some hints! So whether you are packing a lunch for yourself, your spouse or your children here are a few links with some clever tips on making lunch count! (Oh and use your Tupperware!) Happy eating!
- For those that need visual aids here are some pictures from a website called This Lunch Rox (www.thislunchrox.com) .
This lunch includes: peanut butter roll-up, cucumbers, almonds, strawberries and blueberries, chewy chocolate granola bar
This lunch includes: turkey/spinach/cheese wrap, strawberries, celery & p.b. (if peanut allergies are a concern you could use hummus instead), , trail mix
This lunch includes: cheese & onion quesadillas on flax seed tortillas, salad with ranch dressing, strawberries/kiwi, flax seed taco chips,
Today’s quick-and-easy lunch includes: egg salad sandwich, plum, broccoli and ranch dip, , and cheese