Children’s academic performance (and overall satisfaction) in a school setting depends on a variety of factors, and proper nutrition is critical.
In addition to a well-rounded breakfast and healthy snacks, children of all ages need lunch that will both fill them and provide the fuel to get them through an eight-hour day of school (plus all extracurricular activities). Certain lunch options can even help keep children focused throughout the school day, maximizing their academic potential.
We asked nutritionists what foods they would recommend most for a productivity-focused school lunch, and they made these seven tasty and nutritious suggestions.
Segment and package your child’s citrus fruits to make school eating easier.
If your child likes fruit, an orange is an ideal school snack or ingredient for lunch. “Oranges are a fantastic source of vitamin C, which is not only an antioxidant but has also been shown to improve focus, focus, and memory,” said Matt Scarfo, a certified trainer who specializes in fitness nutrition. “In fact, just one full-size orange can take up almost a full day of your recommended vitamin C intake, making it a great option for a simple, light snack to toss in a lunch box full of nutrients. ” Vitamin C also supports a healthy immune system, which is more important now than ever when kids go back to school.
“Concentrating and concentrating is a challenge in itself when children are healthy; it’s even harder when they’re dealing with the symptoms of a cold or flu, and especially tough when they’re working extra hard to catch up after a few days, ”noted Scarfo. “Getting the right micronutrients from a healthy, whole-food snack like an orange is a great way to avoid that risk.”
As an alternative, you can give your child a can of orange juice as long as it is 100% orange juice with no added sugar. “Including 100% OJ as a drink provides children with essential nutrients like vitamin C,” said Lauren Manaker, a registered nutritionist and cookbook author. “The data also shows that children who drink 100% OJ tend to be more physically active than non-OJ drinkers.”
2. Canned salmon
With an emphasis on plant-based foods and omega-3 fatty acids, the Mediterranean diet is a huge hit with adults seeking a healthier lifestyle. Fortunately, many of the same principles of the Mediterranean diet apply to school lunches, which can encourage academic focus.
Specifically, nutritionist Monica Auslander Moreno said that canned salmon “would offer benefits in terms of cognition and brain development, which could then have an impact on school performance”. She suggests spreading it on sprouted bread with diced celery, onions, and mustard.
“Salmon is one of the fish with the highest concentration of omega-3s – and canned salmon is a great alternative to canned tuna with less mercury,” added Moreno. “Omega-3 fatty acids are critical to brain growth. The addition of onions and celery would provide prebiotic fiber to probiotic nourish the gut microbiome and possibly support the immune system, and a mustard coating can fight inflammation from the turmeric it contains. The sprouted bread is a good choice when it comes to nutritious fiber and B vitamins and less added sugar than conventional bread from the supermarket. “
Roast beef is a good source of iron and zinc, which can help maintain focus.
3. roast beef
An ideal school lunch includes a balanced selection of products from a variety of food groups, including healthy carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Protein can be obtained through many different foods, but nutritionist Brenna Thompson does recommends roast beef especially for school children.
“There are two minerals that children need for good concentration: iron and zinc. Many children lack that. A good source of both is beef. Send kids a roast beef sandwich or pita bag to give them a good balance between protein and carbohydrates, ”Thompson said.
4. Walnuts and fresh blueberries
As an easy and tasty alternative to store-bought trail mixes (which often appear with school lunches), pediatric nutritionist Aubrey Phelps recommends a mixture of walnuts and fresh blueberries.
“This is a great snack or lunch addition,” she said. “The healthy omega fats in walnuts are great for brain health, and the fat and protein keep kids feeling full and prevent blood sugar spikes and drops that can lead to headaches and difficulty concentrating. The blueberries are full of antioxidants that help the body function properly so that children can stay focused. They also add a natural sweetness. “
5. A bLack of bean and vegetable burrito
Packed with protein and vitamins, a black bean and roasted vegetable filled burrito is a smart and filling substitute for a meat-based lunch sandwich.
“An important factor in keeping your child focused at school is packing a lunch that will provide them with sustainable energy throughout the day, ”says nutritionist Nicole Stefanow. “A great lunch option is a black bean and roasted brown rice burrito. According to a 2016 study, plant-based proteins like beans and peas can be even more filling than animal-based protein. Because they contain both protein and fiber, beans add stamina to your meal. “
6. ‘Dips and sticks’
“From middle school age onwards, my children always packed their lunches themselves, because responsibility for their diet strengthens and strengthens their importance, ”said Stacey Krawczyk, registered nutritionist. When it comes to the “biggest hits” of their kids’ lunch, Krawcyzk emphasizes a snack that is both nutritious and interactive: “Bean dips, guacamole, nut butters and more are great for fiber, healthy fats and proteins and as well To deliver “sticks”. are a great nutrient-rich pairing, whether made from vegetables (carrots, celery, jicama, peppers, etc.), cereals (pretzels, wholegrain crackers, pita chips, etc.) or fruits (apples, pears, etc.). The more colorful the better! “
Replace sugary jellies and jams with fresh berries in a nut butter sandwich.
7. Sandwiches with almond butter and berries
Instead of the classic PB&J, nutrition specialist and author DR. Gena E. Up likes the equally tasty but nutritionally superior “AB&B”.
“Upgrade old-school peanut butter and jelly to make almond butter and berries! Use almond butter on a whole grain bread with seeds with pureed blueberries or thinly sliced strawberries instead of sugary jam, ”said Kadar.
“Almonds are high in essential nutrients and fats that support brain health,” said Kadar. “The berries provide polyphenols that have been proven to support memory. Seeds also support brain health as they are high in iron, zinc, and vitamin E. The fiber in wholemeal bread also helps regulate blood sugar, the preferred source of energy for brain cells. “
Stay away from processed and prepackaged items.
While snack packs of chips, cookies, and chewy candies have been a crowd puller for generations, according to the nutritionist and medical advisor, they won’t do much to support your child’s alertness and energy throughout the school day Heather Hanks. “Although easy to package, these snacks are often the worst foods you can give your kids as they are full of inflammatory ingredients that negatively affect brain function, such as refined sugar, gluten, processed grains, hydrogenated oils, Food colors and dyes, ”said Hanks.
For younger children, the playful presentation of healthy foods can make a world of difference.
If you’re encouraging picky kids (especially young picky kids) to try something different, nutritionist Katie Thomson is recommends “present eating in a playful way. [It could be sliced] like ‘sushi’, served in bento box style or cut into fun shapes. ”A prime example that Thomson loves is“ ‘SB&J Sushi’, prepared with sunflower seed butter and jam or whole berries / banana spread on a whole grain tortilla, rolled up and cut like sushi. It’s fun, peanut and tree nut free for school, and provides fiber, protein and healthy fats for lasting energy. “
Take some time to find out about the lunch options in the cafeteria at your child’s school.
Don’t automatically assume that the meals served in your child’s cafeteria are not up to date in terms of nutritional value. Indeed, nutritionist Molly Pass tells us that “School feeding programs across the country are working really hard to provide good nutrition and a variety of tasty foods for children.” If you are hesitant, Pass recommends that you “have lunch with your child one day to experience the meal, gain more confidence in the meals, and teach your child what a good lunch looks like.”