Nutrition Tips for Kids: Back-to-School Lunches and Snacks

 Yes, it’s that time of year again! It seems like summer vacation is getting shorter and shorter, and just when the beach weather hits, it’s time to go back to school.

This year, instead of the same old bag lunches, why not try something a little more fun for those kiddos?

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I’d like to share a few nutrition tips to keep in mind while you prepare lunch for your kids, as well as some fun and creative ways to make sure they’re getting the fuel they need to keep them going all day long.

First, keep it balanced. As adults we can become obsessed with trending diets. This might mean low carb, high fat, or other restrictive eating. Kids need balanced meals to ensure they’re keeping their energy stable and minds focused throughout the day. High quality ingredients will help with their cellular function and healthy body development.

 

Second, keep it hydrated. We all know it’s hard to get kids (and adults!) to drink plain old water throughout the day. Can you blame them? It’s kinda boring. Why is it so important to make sure your kids are hydrated? Hydration helps keep their bodies functioning properly, their energy up, and combats overeating. One trick to help your kids get more water in their bodies is to incorporate foods into their meals that contain a lot of water. Some of these are: watermelon, grapes, strawberries, celery, lettuce, bell pepper, and tomato.

 

Third, keep it portioned. Many of the lunch boxes are being modeled after Bento boxes right now. This is a great way to start showing kids what their food portions should look like. It’s also an easy way to divide their macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates), so they can understand how much of each they should be eating in a sitting.


Finally, keep it fun! Instead of the same boring paper bag lunches, try getting a little creative. Yes, kids can be super picky eaters, but there are ways to get them excited about their meals without making it too labor intensive for you! I’ll share with you some themed lunch ideas, assorted snack options, and ways to get your kids involved making their own meals, since they’re more likely to eat something they’ve made themselves.

Lunch Themes:

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Meatless Monday

·      whole wheat pita with hummus, cucumber, avocado, and tomato

(can substitute cream cheese for hummus, or preferred spread)

·      side of string cheese and grapes

 

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Taco Tuesday

·      ground turkey, shredded chicken, or black beans

·      2-3 corn tortillas

·      lettuce, cheese, salsa

·      side of bell pepper and watermelon

 

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Wacky Wednesday- “Breakfast for Lunch!”

·      hard boiled eggs

·      plain Greek yogurt  

·      favorite cereal to mix in

·      side of berries

 

Tasty Thursday- “Turkey Pinwheels”

·      1 whole grain tortilla (spread mustard, avocado, or preferred spread)

·      2 slices of turkey (can sub veggies or other meat)

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·      two slices of favorite cheese

·      sliced tomato, lettuce, avocado

(instructions: lay all ingredients on flat tortilla, roll it up, and slice like a sushi roll)

·      side of cucumber and orange slices


Fun Time Fri-Yay!

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·      sunflower seed butter sandwich on whole grain bread with half a banana & drizzle of honey

·      single serving of popcorn

·      edamame

Snack Time!

Treat snack time like an arts and crafts project! Even picky eaters can get excited about playing with their food.

Platter of “Caprese Skewers” and Melon Balls:

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·      Using toothpicks as skewers, alternate mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes. Top with a sprinkling of sea salt.

·      Make melon balls from watermelon and cantaloupe

 

Platter of Build-Your-Own Snacks:

·      Celery sticks

·      Apple slices

·      Whole grain crackers

·      Optional toppings- sunflower seed butter (or other nut butter), unsweetened shredded coconut, raisins, dried cranberries, cacao nibs, mini chocolate chips, cinnamon, honey

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Energy Balls:

 Ingredients-

¾ cup sunflower seed butter (or preferred nut butter)

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

1 cup gluten free rolled oats

½ cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

½ cup hemp seeds

¾ cup cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips (optional)

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1/3 cup honey (or maple syrup for vegan)

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions-

1.    Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until everything is well incorporated. Place bowl in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, or until the mixture has chilled and firmed up slightly.

2.    With damp hands, form 1 Tablespoon of dough into a ball, squeezing it until it’s about 1 inch wide and very compact. It’s helpful to have a small bowl of water on hand to dip fingers in when forming the balls.

3.    Continue with the remaining mixture, placing completed balls on a plate or parchment paper-lined pan. Chill the energy balls until they are ready to serve, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.