GRAND RAPIDS, Mich - It’s been said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” What we pack for snacks and lunches for our kiddos has a great impact on their success throughout each day at school.

How does packing a healthy, nutritious cold-lunch influence learning? Jeremy Hudson, a registered dietitian joined the 13 ON YOUR SIDE weekend morning team with some great advice and ideas for creative and nutritious lunches!

1. Vitamins and Minerals:

  • Fruits and vegetables provide an abundance of vitamins and minerals that help fuel growth. For example, carrots contain carotenoids that your body converts to Vitamin A, which helps support healthy eyes. Citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C which helps support the immune system, helping keep our kiddos healthy when exposed to germs at school.

2. Fiber:

  • Many fruits, such as apples and bananas, contain 3-4 g of fiber per serving. Fiber helps with satiety, or keeping us feeling full for longer. We all know how hard it is to concentrate with a growling tummy! Note, for veggies, a general rule of thumb is the darker the green the greater the fiber content.

3. Protein:

  • Lean sources of protein help support kiddos rapidly growing bodies. Examples of sources are turkey, chicken, tuna fish, as well as legumes. Greek yogurt, low-fat milk, and cheeses are also great ways to bolster a meal with additional protein. Dairy also provides calcium and Vitamin D which is important for healthy bones!

4. Sugar:

  • Pre-packaged foods are often packed with added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends kids limit added sugars to no more than 6 teaspoons per day! Sugar-sweetened beverages, cakes, muffins, cookies, and candy are some of the biggest contributors of added sugars. These sweet treats are lacking fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals. There really is no nutritional benefit and they’ll only hinder the learning experience. Replace these with natural sweet treats, like real fruit (not fruit juice)!

5. Cost:

  • While the convenience factor of pre-packaged meals is real, your kiddos will thank you (even if they don’t say it out loud) for a healthy homemade lunch. You can save money making your own lunches while increasing the nutrient content of their meals which sets them up for success in school!

6. Beverages:

  • Instead of those often sought-after sugar-sweetened beverages that lack nutrition and set our kiddos up for a crash later in the day, utilize the school lunch program for a serving of milk! There are no sugars added to fat-free, low-fat or whole milk.

Planning ahead and making healthy food choices a priority will teach your kiddos healthy habits from a young age. This will be a great benefit through their growth and development, and help lead them to an overall healthy lifestyle.

Here are a few fun and easy ideas for lunch:

Meat and Cheese Roll Ups

  • Ham, or other lunch meat.
  • Cheese, thinly sliced.
  • Simply take a slice of lunch meat and lay a piece of cheese on it, then roll it up!
  • Add sliced apples

Hint: To prevent browning, coat apple slices with lemon or lime juice, as the citrus protects from oxidation.

  • Add rainbow carrots, cucumbers, and pretzel rods.
  • For dipping veggies, add Low-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt and stir in a ranch packet for a healthier dipping option!

Peanut Butter Banana Roll Up

  • Whole-wheat tortilla
  • Peanut Butter
  • Banana
  • Lightly coat tortilla with peanut butter. Peel a banana, place it in the middle of the shell and simply roll it up!
  • Slice in 1-1.5” sections and add it to the lunch container!
  • Sides included: raisins, Colby cheese cubes, and grape tomatoes on toothpicks!

Cookie Cutter PB&J

  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Peanut Butter
  • Reduced Sugar Jelly
  • Very easy, yet fun! Take your favorite cookie cutter, and use it to cut out your favorite shaped PB&J sandwiches!
  • Sides included: Raspberries, sliced cucumbers, sliced cheese stick.

Homemade Pizza To-Go

  • Whole-wheat flat bread
  • Turkey pepperoni
  • Shredded mozzarella
  • Pizza sauce
  • Sides included: Blackberries and sliced celery sticks

To contact Jeremy Hudson, RD, email him at: FreshCoastNutrition@gmail.com

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