Back-to-school nutrition tips
Going back to school this year may look different than any other year, but that doesn’t mean lunch has to be different or less nutritious. This year’s events have made fridge surfing and couch surfing common pastimes for many of our youth. In the moment, our preferences for what to have for lunch or dinner is actually based less off of taste and more on what is convenient and easy to grab and eat. Registered dietitian Carla Nowicki offered some easy ways to choose healthier options.
“Choosing the healthier option for lunch can take a little strategic planning but not always a ton of work,” she said. “It means having fewer “grab-and-go” items that are less nutritionally dense and having more that are high quality nutritional items.”
Nowicki recommended taking a page from the brand marketing books. “Make your own pre-packaged healthier snacks that are easy to grab out of the fridge. Try having single serving snack bags made up for the week of cut up vegetables, healthier starchy carbs and fruit. Having a full fruit bowl can also help.”
Common items to have in snack bags ready to grab out of the fridge and pantry are:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Carrot sticks
- Cucumber slices
- Fresh green beans
- Bell pepper strips
- Teddy grahams
- Pre-popped light popcorn
- Rice cakes
For full meals, having meals ready to pull out of the fridge can be a game changer when it comes to saving time and eating healthy. “Make lunches ahead of time and put them in the fridge just like packing a lunch. You can also utilize leftovers more efficiently. Instead of large containers to store leftovers, use them as planned prepped meals by putting them in single servings in the fridge in smaller containers,” said Nowicki.
This mindset shift can be challenging for younger children, so Nowicki recommended changing the phrasing of lunch time from “what do you want for lunch?” to “we have option one or option two today – which would you like?” This is also a great time to discuss the benefits of a healthy, balanced plate that has all our lunch food groups – carbohydrates, fats, protein and vegetables.
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