Message from the RDs: Back to School Nutrition by Amy Silver

This time of year means back to school for the kids and teachers, and more structure for all of us. Summer vacations are coming to an end, and it’s time to get on track and prepare your own lunches, as well as your kids’.

Many of my clients get stuck on deciding what to pack for lunch and let the idea that is has to be “lunch food” or that it has to be extravagant hold them back. Think outside the (lunch) box, but just make sure you have each component:

Protein/entree: This will provide you and your kids with staying power through the rest of the day. Protein increases energy, helps to build muscle, and helps cure hunger. This would be your turkey on whole grain bread, egg “muffins”, yogurt parfait, or leftover stir fry.

Fruit: This food group is full of nutrients, not to mention the fiber in whole (or cut up) fruit will also help to keep a full stomach into the afternoon and keep your gut healthy. Add berries, cut-up apples, sliced oranges, or grapes to your lunch for a natural sweet treat!

Veggie: All the same benefits of the fruit category, but most vegetables are very low in calories. Raw vegetables can add that much needed “crunch” effect when we’re stressed out, while leftover vegetables can taste great when seasoned well. Fill up your lunchbox with a fistful of veggies!

Whole grains or starchy vegetables: You may have already combined the whole grain with your protein/entree, such as whole grain bread or brown rice. If not, choose whole grain crackers (I love Triscuits) for a hearty crunch. You can also choose a starchy vegetable in this category, such as roasted chickpeas, leftover baked potatoes wedges, or beans.

Putting it all together:

​Now that you know each category, here’s some combinations that work well and don’t take a lot of preparation ahead of time:

  • Baked egg “muffins” with vegetables inside, leftover sweet potato wedges, and a handful of grapes.
  • Whole grain pasta salad with leftover chicken or shrimp, raw vegetables, and a vinaigrette dressing. Add a side of fruit.
  • Use a 6 inch whole grain tortilla to make a bean quesadilla (or use any leftovers), serve with avocado and pineapple.
  • Mash hard boiled eggs or canned tuna with avocado, serve with Triscuits for dipping. Add berries and bell peppers on the side.
  • Mix rotisserie chicken, plain Greek yogurt, pesto, and chopped grapes or apples for a homemade chicken salad for the week. Serve one serving with a whole grain pita or on top of mixed greens.

And don’t forget to add a note to the lunchbox, whether it’s for your kids, your spouse, or yourself! “Why did the orange go out with the prune? Because it couldn’t find a date.” 🙂