Monday 14 September 2020

Navigating Nutrition: 5 Ideas for Healthy, Easy School Lunches and Snacks at Home

Don’t Let ‘School’ Lunch Stress You Out: Tips and Ideas from Brainly's Parenting Expert 

By now, many parents and kids have accepted they will be taking part in distance or hybrid learning at least for the short-term. Having nutritious ready-made foods in the fridge will increase the amount of time (and focus/energy) students have to learn from home– not to mention, alleviate some of the stress parents have to deal with by planning ahead.

Patrick Quinn, parenting expert at 
Brainly– the world’s largest online learning and homework help community– has some recommendations and tips for healthy/quick school lunches and snacks parents can make for their kids to enhance their cognitive abilities and keep them focused. "This is a time of uncertainty and planning out lunches and sticking to a consistent lunchtime every day can help establish a sense of normalcy for kids," he says.

Most schools want parents to keep kids on schedule, breaking for lunchtime at the same time each day in between online classes and schoolwork. If you haven’t prepared the lunches ahead, your child may not have enough time to eat before their next virtual class. It's also important to remember: when your child is learning from home, lunch is not the end of their homeschool day. Lunch is the midpoint. "If I fill them up with empty carbs and sugar they aren’t able to learn from 1-3 p.m. It also makes things like 'quiet reading time' a bit of a struggle," explains Brainly's parenting expert, Patrick Quinn, who is the father of three school-age children of his own.

So what are some go-to staples and creative ideas for healthy, ready-made 'school lunches' this unprecedented school year? Here are just a few... 

1. Sandwich Kabobs
This fun lunch idea is easy to prep and has almost endless variations so something is sure to appeal to even the pickiest of eaters. Try making a ‘pepperoni pizza’ with mozzarella, pepperoni, tomatoes, and bread, or a ‘turkey club’ with turkey, bacon, avocado, cheese, tomatoes, and your choice of toasted bread slices.

Brainly parenting expert pro tip? "For kids who eat lunch while chatting with friends on Zoom or while they're on their computer, sandwich kabobs are an excellent go-to for keeping fingers (and keyboards) clean and non-sticky. They're also great for eating on the go if your kid wants to take a stroll outdoors and enjoy some nature while having lunch."

2. Trail Mix
This snack idea is great because it can easily be prepared days in advance, which gives kids the opportunity to get in on the action. This is a great opportunity to give kids the freedom to choose their own snack while also teaching them how to balance sweet ingredients with healthy options. Parents can check out this great list of 21 healthy trail mix recipes for inspiration.  

3. Homemade Chips
For a healthy spin on everyone’s favorite snack, try baking apples or zucchini in the oven. You can add your own spices/flavoring to make it the perfect snack for your kids that they don’t even realize is actually good for them. You can also find tons of creative recipes online like these decadent Cool Ranch Zucchini Chips or savory Parmesan Squash Chips.

"During the pandemic, what goes into our kids’ bodies is even more important. Whether at home or face to face, you still want to promote that philosophy of healthy eating because it's not only important for maintaining our kids' immune systems and physical health but also for maintaining their moods, energy levels, and mental health," says Brainly's parenting expert, Patrick.

4. Bite-Sized Cucumber Sandwiches
This fun snack replaces bread with cucumbers to create healthy mini sandwiches. You can fill them with pretty much anything, including cheese, deli meat, tomatoes, and even spreads such as chicken salad or guacamole. You can also use cucumbers as one of the fixings inside or atop bread (instead of as a substitution for it) then slice them up into mini bite-sized sandwiches. For more ideas on how to spruce up these bite-sized sandwiches, check out this recipe round-up blog post.

5. Energy Bites
Energy bites are a great way to keep kids full between meals due to their combo of protein, healthy carbohydrates, and healthy fats. You can think of them as bite-sized, less messy versions of a granola bar that don’t require any baking and can be easily customized. Check out this simple yet delicious recipe to learn the basic gist of how to make energy bites before concocting your own special recipes.

"These have almost everything your kids need from a nutritional standpoint, all rolled into one tasty and fun snack. Energy bites pack in loads of healthy carbohydrates for sustained energy, protein for growth and focus during the day, and healthy fats for brain development," adds Patrick. 

There are countless other easy, healthy lunch and snack ideas online for parents with kids who are starting out this unprecedented school with distance or hybrid learning.

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