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back to school lunch ideas

Posted by on Aug 31, 2009 in Blog Posts |


Jennette Turner is a natural foods educator based in Minneapolis. She teaches classes and works with individuals. Here is an excerpt from her 2009 newsletter. Thought it might jog the brain a little as the school year approaches. Go to her website to sign up for the newsletter and subscribe to Dinner with Jennette for more recipes and ideas.

A Healthy Start to the School Year (by Jennette Turner)
Lesson #1: The foods kids eat affect how they learn and behave.
One way we can help our kids succeed in school is to nourish them at home and send them off with a nutritious lunch. Children need to get all three of the major macronutrients at lunch: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Protein provides building blocks to make neurotransmitters in the brain, so that your kids are able to concentrate and learn. Fats also support the brain (don’t forget that the brain is over 60% fat) and provide a good source of long lasting energy. Both protein and fat help to keep your kids’ blood sugar stable, which means fewer mood swings and behavior issues.

Carbohydrates give active kids quick a boost of quick energy. However, they burn fast, so if your child’s lunch is primarily made up of carbohydrates, they’ll be hungry again fairly quickly, which can spell meltdowns and frustration in the afternoon. Higher protein foods and natural fats will sustain your child until she gets home.

Lesson #2: Prepare nutritious lunches they’ll eat.
Sandwiches are always a popular lunch item: nut butter & jelly or honey, deli meats, cheese. My daughter’s favorite sandwich is plain turkey with butter – no lettuce, or she’ll reject it. And make sure to cut sandwiches up into small pieces for little kids.

When sandwiches are on the menu, remember, good quality bread is key.
Studies show that whole grain yeast-free breads are the most nutritious and most digestible breads, and that they don’t cause the blood sugar swings that yeasted breads do. Read the labels on your bread.

Crackers with sandwich ingredients are an easy change of pace from sandwiches. Kids can assemble them as desired. Use whole grain crackers made without hydrogenated oils, corn syrup or artificial flavors.

Try spreads or dips such as egg salad, tuna/salmon salad or chicken salad. Slices of salami, ham or brownschweiger along with cheese &/or hummus are good options, too. Note: choosing salmon over tuna salad provides more omega-3 fats.

Quesadillas make lunchtime special. We have a quesadilla maker I bought at Target for less than $20, but you can also make them in a skillet. Use whole grain tortillas – I recommend sprouted wheat tortillas, or you could use corn or brown rice flour ones for gluten-free quesadillas. Fill them with meat and cheese, beans or guacamole (they need to have something sticky so they’ll stay together). Cook and then cut into wedges. Include a small container of salsa or sour cream for dipping if your kids like that.

Other fun lunch items:
Hard boiled eggs (peeled for convenience). Don’t forget to pack salt!
Natural hot dogs (skip the commercially processed dogs that are usually made with preservatives such as BHA/BHT or sodium nitrate, which are carcinogenic. They also often contain flavor enhancers like MSG that are excitoxic which damage neuron pathways in the brain.)
Cubes of ham and cheese skewered on toothpicks with cherry tomatoes and black olives (this is one of Jane’s favorites).
Dress up a serving of fruit and make it easy for little hands to eat. How about fruit salad? Jane likes chunks of avocado in hers.
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