Back to School Nutrition

LAST UPDATED: August 26, 2020

​As parents prepare to either send their children back to school or create a virtual learning environment in their homes, it is critical that children are well-nourished and ready to learn wherever they are spending their days. Did you know that children who eat balanced, nutrient-rich meals are more likely to optimize academic performance, sustain alertness, and concentrate during instruction?1 Eating breakfast, in particular, is associated with increased academic performance.1 In general, school-aged children (ages 6 to 12) should eat three meals and 1-2 snacks per day.2

Meal Preparation Tips

Meal Prep Ahead of Time

One of the best ways to reduce time spent preparing meals each day is to prepare large portions ahead of time. Separate the large portion into smaller portions for yourself and your family to eat throughout the work/school week. This can be done with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

Include Your Children

If you have some extra time on your hands, allow your children to assist you in planning and preparing meals. Not only is the experience engaging, but children can also establish healthy eating habits and develop an understanding of how their meals are made.3

Consider Dietary Needs

Consult your child’s registered dietitian or health care provider for meal ideas for allergies and intolerances. There are plenty of dairy-free, gluten-free, and plant-based options available at grocery stores and commissaries. 

Create a Theme

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when planning your children’s meals. Try creating fun themes like taco Tuesdays or shaping food into basic food art. Seasonal themes are also a great way to incorporate healthy and festive meals.

Lunch Ideas

Here are some easy, picky eater-friendly, and healthy lunch ideas for your children.

  • Cheese quesadillas with wheat tortillas

  • Rice, protein, and veggie bowl

  • Veggie and cheese mini bagel pizzas

  • Macaroni and cheese with butternut squash or broccoli added

  • Turkey burger with oven-baked zucchini "fries"

  • Hummus, turkey and veggie wraps

  • Protein, cheese, and veggie kabobs

  • Grilled cheese roll-ups with tomato soup

  • Wheat or zucchini noodle pasta salad

  • Classic chicken or tuna salad sandwich with wheat bread

  • Ground turkey and cheese meatballs in marinara sauce

  • Protein, veggie, and cheese mini taco bar

  • Classic chicken noddle soup

  • Apple and turkey pitas

  • Parmesan-crusted chicken strips with roasted veggies

  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich

References

1.Health and academic achievement. (2014) National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/health_and_academics/pdf/health-academic-achievement.pdfExternal Link

2.Shield, J. (2019). When should my kids snack? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/when-should-my-kids-snackExternal Link

3.7 school lunch tips for picky eaters. (n.d.) Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/7-school-lunch-tips-for-picky-eatersExternal Link


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