Brace yourself, parents. The whirlwind school day mornings are almost here.
School days are often accompanied by a mad scramble to make sure your kids have everything they need, and that they haven’t somehow tied their shoes together. It’s tempting to hasten the process of preparing a lunch by simply throwing a few packaged items together. However, this can often result in a meal that’s lacking in healthy nutrients and high in fat, sodium, and added sugar.
What’s a good balance for a school lunch? The USDA’s MyPlate program recommends that half of a lunch plate be dedicated to fruits and vegetables, one-quarter to grains, and one-quarter to protein, with a modest amount of dairy also allowed.
Some healthy lunch and snack options include:
- Turkey pita wraps: Pita pockets make this recipe a snap. Just stuff in an array of healthy ingredients, including turkey, grapes, greens, and apple for a delicious midday meal!
- Mini quiche: A terrific, compact lunch that can be prepared in a muffin tin. This simple recipe combines potatoes, greens, and cheese, and can be prepared in bulk to simplify a week of meals
- Yogurt parfait with fresh fruit: This beautiful layered mixture of yogurt, granola, and fruit makes for a perfect snack. Choose your favorite fruit options, such as peaches, blackberries, or blueberries
- Cinnamon apple chips: Ditch the salty chips and try this recipe instead. An hour of baking time yields a yummy snack for your young scholars!
Tips for preparing a healthy lunch
Feeling pinched for time? Coping with picky eaters? These tips might help:
- Get started the night before: Sliced fruits and vegetables are an easy lunch side, but trying to cut them up before the bus arrives can be a stressful process. Get started the night before so your child’s lunch is ready in the morning.
- Involve the kids: Invite your kids to participate in preparing their lunches, including washing fruits or vegetables and chopping them up if they’re old enough to use a knife. You can go farther by enlisting their help in picking out healthy foods at the grocery store, taking a pick-your-own adventure to a Connecticut farm, or finding food options at farmers’ market.
- Have fun with it: Miniature cookie cutters let you prepare fruits and vegetables in creative ways. Chopped fruits and vegetables also make useful artistic materials for creating faces, animals, and other surprises that will delight your child when they open their lunch box.
- Invest in organizers: Instead of a lunch box or brown paper bag, consider an organizer that helps you organize the meal. This bento box approach helps keep foods separate and minimizes the chances of a smushed meal, which is more likely to go uneaten
Nutrition in Connecticut schools
For many years, Connecticut’s schools have stressed the importance of proper nutrition. USDA school nutrition programs are administered through the Connecticut State Department of Education, and foodservice professionals in schools develop menus designed to meet or exceed USDA dietary guidelines.
Students can enjoy breakfast and lunch options, along with healthy snack options and programs that offer fresh fruit and vegetables. Parents can look up more information on these options on school websites, which often contain additional information such as the calorie count of each meal.
In addition, Connecticut’s Farm-to-School Program educates students on gardening in nutrition while highlighting the importance of fresh, locally grown produce. Earlier this year, 13 school districts and educational partners were selected to receive Connecticut Grown for Connecticut Kids grants to support infrastructure improvements, experiential learning, farm-to-school planning, and pilot programs to support the purchase of CT Grown products for schools.