5 Tips for Packing Up Back-to-School Nutrition

Get your kids ready for a year of healthy eating with these top 5 back-to-school nutrition tips from Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian.

Do you have a young child headed to school or preschool? Then you’re probably already focused on buying school supplies, a new backpack, and some sturdy playground shoes. But don’t miss out on the opportunity to get prepared for healthy, back-to-school nutrition, too.

There is so much to gain by planning for healthful school meals. Studies show that a healthy diet is linked with better academic achievement. You see, kids need to fuel their bodies with important nutrients during lunch and snack time in order to meet their energy, protein, vitamin, and mineral needs to keep up with their rapid growth, development, and activity levels. Getting a balanced meal at lunchtime, rich in slow-digesting carbs, protein, and healthy fats from foods like whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds is key to powering up a good day for your young tot. Providing low-nutrient foods, such as chips, refined crackers and fruit candies, and sweet drinks in the lunchbox will simply not do the trick.

Follow my 5 Tips for Packing up Good School Nutrition and start the school year off right!

5 Tips for Packing Up Back-to-School Nutrition

Kid-friendly Berry Oat Tahini Bars pack fruit, whole grains, and sesame seeds.

1. Get Your Child Involved.This is the time to start your child off right with healthy eating behaviors, such as enjoying fruits and vegetables, and widening their food palate. Have your child shop with you, visit the farmers market and sample new fruits and veggies together, and don an apron to help you cook something healthy and delicious. Mix up a batch of Berry Oat Tahini Bars, with the help of your child, to pack away in lunches as a healthful, yet tasty treat.

Peach Pumpkin Spice Super Smoothie

2. Think Beyond the Sandwich. There is nothing wrong with a good PB&J on whole grain bread, but you can offer your child much more variety in nutrition and flavors in the lunchbox, such as trying a few healthy wraps, a thermos of home-made chili,and even smoothies as an alternative.

Vegan Blueberry Millet Muffins

3. No Need for Junk.You do not have to include low-nutrient foods, such as bags of chips, “fruity” snacks, refined crackers, and cookies. In fact, kids with small stomachs and even smaller attention spans, may crowd out important foods in lieu of junk foods in their lunchbox. Offer your child something healthy and naturally sweet such as trail mix, fruit, or a good-for-them treat, such as these Vegan Blueberry Millet Muffins.

Vegetable Stone Soup is a great lunchtime go-to. 

4. Plant-Power the Lunchbox.Even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan family, it’s important to include more plant-based meals during the week. Eating this way in youth can foster healthy habits that last a lifetime, reducing the risk of chronic diseases and promoting a healthy weight, as well as trimming your carbon footprint. So, try some healthy plant-powered protein choices, such as hummus with veggies, almond butter banana sandwiches, or vegetarian bean soup in a thermos.

BEST Classic Hummus

5. Pack in Fruits & Veggies. This is one of the most important goals for a healthy lunch—and often the most challenging. If your child is a picky eater, maximize their favorite fruits and veggies in their lunchbox, such as grapes, baby carrots, snow peas, and orange wedges. Offer a dip for veggies to increase interaction, such as artichoke dip or smoky pumpkin hummus.

For other recipes for powering up good school nutrition, check out these:

Crunchy Cherry Sunflower Seed Wraps
Classic Tomato Soup
Chickpea Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Hummus
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chickpea Bars

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