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School Lunchbox Meal Ideas

It’s here- the new school year! Bringing lunch from home is great if it is feasible for your family. It can be tricky coming up with school lunchbox ideas that include variety, foods your kids will eat, and foods that will stay good until lunchtime. I recommend getting a lunchbox that can Child with lunchboxaccommodate a refrigerated pack to keep certain foods cold.

Here are 5 ideas, one for each day of the week, that are dietitian approved:

Sandwich Lunchbox

You can’t go wrong with the tried and true staple.

  • Whole grain or 100% whole w­­­heat bread, nitrate- and nitrite-free lunchmeat, real cheese (steer clear of the heavily processed ones that come individually plastic-wrapped), lettuce, tomato, mustard.
  • 2 mini oranges
  • Whole wheat pretzels

Vegetarian Tortilla Wrap Lunchbox

Although it’s vegetarian, it’s not lacking in protein.

  • Use your kid’s favorite tortilla wrap (spinach, whole wheat, etc), and fill it with hummus or pureed black beans or lentils, sliced red and green peppers, and shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese.
  • To make a bean puree:  Saute ½ of a white or yellow onion in olive oil in a small skillet. Add pre-cooked lentils, beans, or canned beans and season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Cool after cooking, and stir in chopped cilantro and a little of your favorite salsa. Puree or fork mash the mixture.
  • Tortilla chips
  • Grapes

Lettuce Wrap Lunchbox

Kids like assembling their own foods, and although this might seem outside of the norm in terms of “kid food”, they are delicious.

  • 3 pieces of whole romaine lettuce leaves (approx 6” long ), 3 strips of baked, grilled, or otherwise cooked chicken or steak, thinly sliced carrots, and a mini Tupperware container of Asian salad dressing (be aware that many Asian dressings contain peanuts. If your school is 100% peanut-free, try French or Catalina dressing instead).
  • Clif Z bar or Larabar
  • Dried cranberries
  • Milk

Bagel, Nut Butter, and Jelly Lunchbox

 Again, you can’t go wrong with this kid favorite.

  • Use a whole grain bagel or a whole wheat English muffin. If your school is peanut-free, instead of peanut butter, try sunflower seed butter, almond butter or cashew butter. Add your kid’s favorite jelly (I recommend organic preserves that have less sugar- check at the farmers market too), and even a little drizzle of honey.
  • Carrot sticks
  • Whole grain Goldfish crackers
  • Milk

Cracker and Cheese Assortment

With the right sides, this does make a good meal.

  • Whole grain woven wheat crackers (i.e. Triscuits)
  • Brown rice cake or rice crackers
  • Whole grain round crackers
  • Two types of cheeses, sliced into 2”x2” squares, such as cheddar, swiss, muenster, or whatever you have in the house.
  • Shelled edamame
  • Banana

Each of the above meals includes (at minimum) a source of protein, a whole grain, a fruit, a vegetable, and a dairy serving. Give your child’s lunch experience a special touch by including a little note from you or dad, or put a sticker on one of the baggies or containers. And remember, fueling your child’s body and brain with healthy foods before and during school promotes better learning and school performance.

*Tip to encourage your child to eat the above lunchbox meals:  Share these meal ideas with your child’s friends’ parents. Kids tend to eat better in social settings where they see other kids eating and trying different things.

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5 Tips For Easing back into the school year

Another summer has flown by, and a new school year is right around the corner. Parents and children alike are wondering what the new school year will bring. Parents wonder: will my child have tons more homework this year? Will my child meet new friends? Will my child have time for extracurricular activities? Children Children walking to schoolwonder: Will I like my new teacher? Will I get a recess? Who will I eat lunch with? Will I get to ride the bus? Here are some tips on preparing for the school year ahead, so that everyone can have a smooth transition from summer into fall.

1. Map out the route to school

Whether your child is going to walk to school, take the bus, or carpool with friends, both of you will feel more confident in the transportation process if you know where your child is going (e.g. which streets), how they are going to get there (e.g. meet a friend on the corner; turn right at the red fire hydrant etc), and how long it will take. You and your child can take several practice runs at using this route before school actually begins so that you can work out any kinks that may arise.

2.Talk About Changes

Make sure to talk about any changes that may be occurring this year, such as a new teacher, a different classroom, a new school, or a longer school day. By being honest and open with your child, they will be more likely to voice their concerns, and you can then work through these fears right away. You can make a chart with your child, listing “things I am excited for” and “things I am nervous about” or “things that will be different”; focusing on the pros of this new change occurring, and reinforcing that you know change can be difficult and scary, but it will help them to grow and learn.

3. Prepare a homework space

Prepare a personalized study nook or a homework table where your child will be able to have his own space to concentrate and spread out their schoolwork. Help him to find a table and chair combination that promotes a 90 degree angle of the hips, knees, and elbows so that your child has a tall, supportive posture to elicit good postural control and attention to task. Make this area more exciting by allowing your child to hang a bulletin board nearby with a calendar or pictures on it; have a cup full of different pencils/pens/markers for a variety of assignment; or a plastic bin containing a pair of scissors, ruler, markers, glue, highlighters, etc.

4. Plan out lunches

Plan out “special” lunches that your child enjoys by creating a list that can hang on the refrigerator. This will help your child to be involved in her lunch-time meal plan, help to eliminate extra planning time for the “lunch packer” in the morning, and also help parents prepare before making a trip to the grocery store. This list can be broken into different categories, such as “fruits”, “veggies”, “sandwiches”, “snacks” and “desserts” so that your child can learn more about the food pyramid and will be able to help to pick out one item from each category when packing a lunch.

5. Ease into a sleep schedule

Start easing your child into a school schedule by having him go to bed and wake up at similar times he will have to do when school begins in a few weeks. Work together to find activities that help to calm him down and/or wake him up, to use at night to unwind before bed, or in the morning to get the body moving (e.g. a warm bubble bath; reading a book; watching 1 television show; jumping jacks; wheelbarrow walks).