School lunches to help your child power through the afternoon

August 28, 2017 | by Mary Gardner, RD, LDN

As adults, we’re all too familiar with the afternoon slump — that time of day when you have a few hours to go but you’re starting to crave sugar and/or nod off at your desk.

Kids go through that, too. But it’s preventable (for adults, too!) if you eat the right food for lunch.

And, let’s face it, besides wanting our kids to have energy for the school day, nobody wants a starving, cranky kid getting off the bus after school.

A mix of protein and complex carbohydrates can provide the kick your kids need to get through the afternoon and still have energy to play (after homework’s done) when they get home.

Keep these tips in mind when you buy food for lunches:

  • Avoid refined carbs. Choose fiber-rich whole grains, such as 100 percent whole wheat bread, tortilla wraps, bagels or pita bread for sandwiches. And brown rice, beans or lentils instead of white bread, white rice and heavily processed products.
  • Pack protein. Hard boiled eggs, low-fat Greek yogurt, low fat cheese, cottage cheese, and nut butter are great ways to get protein in your kids’ lunches. A peanut butter sandwich with whole wheat bread would be a perfect protein-complex carb combination. Or try a snack lunch of sliced turkey, low-fat cheese and whole grain crackers.
  • Don’t forget the vegetables. Veggies go well with proteins like low-fat cheese or nut butters. Try easy-to-eat finger foods like sliced cherry tomatoes, baby carrots and snap peas plain or with a hummus dip, or ants on a log (celery with nut butter and raisins).
  • Fiber + carbs = energy (and a full tummy). Whole fruit – grapes, sliced apples or pears, and orange segments – are great sources of carbohydrates and fiber.  Other ideas are: dried cereal, popcorn or a trail mix (kids love to help make this one!).

Greatist offers this list of healthy high-protein snacks that would fit perfectly in your child’s lunchbox.

Breakfast will boost your kids’ energy and give them a head start on the day. Protein is good here, too. If they’re not huge breakfast eaters, try a smoothie with low-fat milk, natural peanut butter and frozen bananas.

Eggs (even hard-boiled) are always good first thing in the morning, as well as whole-grain toast, fruit and low-fat Greek yogurt (maybe a yogurt parfait would entice your kid to slow down for breakfast!).

What are your go-to school lunch items? How about breakfast for kiddos on the go? Leave your answers in the comments!

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