Healthy eating results in a healthy and happy student! There are ample benefits of nutritional eating for children. Healthy eating can stabilize their energy, balance their moods, and improve their minds, making learning easier. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that eating well can improve brain function, memory, and concentration. The CDC report also found that the lack of specific foods like fruits, vegetables, and dairy in a student’s diet is associated with lower grades, higher absenteeism rates, and tardiness.
Healthy dietary choices are easier to sustain when you learn them as a child. Set your student up for eating healthy when going back to school by adding these nutritious lunch and snack ideas into their diet.
You don’t have to choose between health and convenience. These snacks are simple to make but will also provide your student with the essential nutrients they need. Just be sure to check your student’s school policy regarding allergens before preparing snacks containing items such as nuts. With that in mind, consider packing these healthy snacks for school:
- Yogurt with fruit: Scoop out a half cup of Greek yogurt, then cut up your child’s favorite fruit, and you’re done!
- Mini muffins: Check out this recipe for mini pumpkin chocolate chip muffins! They are both nourishing and tasty enough to satisfy the pickiest eater.
- Apple slices and peanut butter: Slice up an apple for easy eating. Keep the apple from browning by holding it back together with a rubber band.
- Cucumber slices: Slice up cucumber for a fresh, healthy snack, and pair with low-calorie dressings or dips.
- String cheese: Offer your child a calcium-rich snack with string cheese.
- Low-sugar granola bars: Granola bars are simple grab-and-go snacks, but be sure to choose low-sugar options.
- Celery sticks: Celery sticks are a crunchy snack perfect for older kids. Pair them with peanut butter and raisins to make ants on a log.
- Microwave popcorn: Choose popcorn options with low sodium or pop your own to customize the flavors for your child.
- Trail mix: The healthiest trail mix is the kind you make yourself. See these three trail mix recipes for inspiration.
- Dark chocolate: With antioxidants and minerals, dark chocolate makes for a sweet treat in moderation.
Healthy Lunch Ideas
Lunch gives you the energy you need to tackle the rest of the day. If your student is known to get sluggish around the middle of the day, try these lunch recommendations to help them feel refreshed again:
- Pickle sub sandwiches: Swap the bread for pickle slices and pair with your student’s favorite deli meat.
- Turkey and cheese pinwheels: Wrap turkey, cheese, and lettuce in a whole wheat tortilla, then slice. Pair with fresh blueberries as a sweet surprise.
- Egg salad: Combine mayo or plain yogurt with chopped hard-boiled eggs, then pair with lightly dressed salad greens. Pack with a handwritten note as a pick-me-up.
- Guacamole with bell peppers: Substitute tortilla chips for bell peppers strips for a healthy dose of vitamin C.
- Peanut butter sandwich: Opt for wheat bread and natural peanut butter. You can even use cookie cutters to cut the sandwich into fun shapes.
- Cheese quesadillas: Use whole-wheat tortillas with shredded cheese and add vegetables as a healthy side.
- Veggie wrap: With sliced vegetables, cream cheese, and a whole wheat tortilla, this lunch will give your child the ultimate energy boost.
- DIY Lunchables: Pair your student’s favorite deli meat with whole wheat crackers, fresh berries, and cucumbers for nutrition from multiple food groups.
- Fruit and yogurt parfait: Layer Greek yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit for a sweet and healthy treat.
- Avocado toast: Avocados are full of powerful antioxidants. Layer avocado and cherry tomatoes on whole wheat bread for a high-fiber meal.
- Greek salad: Greek salad contains crunchy vegetables and flavorful feta cheese to make this meal choice and hit among students.
- Cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches: Low-fat cream cheese and cucumbers make a refreshing sandwich. Keep on an ice pack to preserve freshness.
- Mini bagels: Pre-slice some whole-grain mini bagels and pair them with cashew butter or low-fat cream cheese. You can also add a side of fruit.
- Stuffed peppers: Filling a bell pepper with cream cheese and turkey is a quick and convenient meal that is perfect for packed lunches.
- Pita pockets: Stuff a whole-wheat pita pocket with your child’s preferred toppings, such as cucumber, ham, and tomatoes. This fuss-free meal option makes messes a thing of the past.
Hot Lunch Options
Opt for a thermos instead of a lunchbox when sending your student off with a hot lunch. A quality thermos keeps foods at a food-safe temperature for long periods. If holding liquid foods such as soups, thermoses ensure they don’t leak.
For children six and up, you can find brands that have a wide range of thermoses and insulated containers that are suitable for kids. Options free of bisphenol A, or BPA, are the best choice for young children, so you don’t have to worry about its harmful effects.
Get a reliable thermos and try these hot lunch ideas:
- Lunch-box chicken soup: Perfect for the winter or a student under the weather, this recipe is sure to wow!
- Veggie mac and cheese: This mac and cheese recipe is the best way to sneak in some additional vegetables.
- Air fryer chicken nuggets: Who said chicken nuggets had to be unhealthy? Check out this chicken nugget recipe for a lighter option.
- Spaghetti and meatballs: For a healthier version, opt for zucchini noodles.
- Shredded chicken nachos: Made with shredded chicken, cheese, and pinto beans, these nachos are as healthy as they are delicious. Don’t forget to pile on the veggies as toppings.
- Pita pizza: This quick and easy recipe has lactose-free options.
- Turkey burgers: Pack toppings like lettuce and tomato separate from the burger to keep the veggies fresh and crisp.
- Vegetable and bean burrito: You can add variety to this recipe by switching out the many ingredient suggestions.
- Healthy sloppy joe: Make this classic dish lighter by using ground turkey instead of beef.
- Chicken and brown rice casserole: Pack your student a fulfilling comfort meal with this chicken and rice recipe.
The key to getting picky eaters to be more open could be getting more creative with their meals. The unique designs of themed lunches can pique the interest of your picky eater and encourage them to try new foods.
Use your creativity to whip up these themed lunch ideas:
- Under the sea: Layout goldfish crackers and whip out the cookie cutter. Cut your little one’s sandwich in the shape of a fish for a fun time.
- Taste the rainbow: Encourage your child to eat fruits and vegetables by arranging them in a colorful array.
- Disney extravaganza: Cut your picky eater’s food into their favorite Disney characters. You can even recreate recipes from Disney World as a reward.
- Holiday edition: Holidays both big and small are the perfect excuse to spice up your student’s lunchbox. Include cards and healthier versions of snacks that are typically enjoyed during the holiday.
- All around the world: Experiment with ingredients from a new country every week, and include a map of the region. This can be a great opportunity to teach your child about other cultures while also encouraging healthy eating.
Tips to Improve Your School Lunch Routine
Packing your student’s lunch doesn’t have to be just another thing added to your plate. Here are some tips to help you make the perfect school lunch ideas:
- Make meals in bulk and freeze them: Pre-making meals ensure you have a healthy option available when you are running low on time. It gets rid of the temptation of turning to a more convenient and less nourishing option.
- Pick mess-free options: Choose snacks that are easy to pack quickly without making a mess. Celery sticks are easier to grab a few of and easily pack, for instance.
- Get the children involved: Two people working together will achieve more. Letting your child in on the lunch packing process gives them more control over their meals while also saving you time.
Learn More About CCA
Leave the stress of packing lunches and snacks for your child behind with cyber school and its array of other benefits. A flexible schedule makes it easier to implement a healthy diet and create meals and snacks your child won’t have to worry about packing.
Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA) is a top-accredited cyber charter school meeting families where they are. We provide high-quality K-12 education to Pennsylvania students at no cost. Contact us or request information to learn how CCA is the best fit for you and your family.