Sometimes, rather than spending the time to pack a lunch for your kids,  it is just easier to give them money for school lunch or for something from the local sandwich shop. But, as most know, easier doesn’t always equal healthier. School lunches, while they have improved in quality (especially since 2010, when congress passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act ) are still not as healthy as they should be. Having a healthy, balanced lunch is incredibly important and it can affect your child’s health and ability to learn. 

Direct Effects

There are several direct effects that involve the immediate impact of nutrition on the daily performance of a student. Mental and behavioral problems can be traced back to unhealthy nutrition and poor eating habits.

Nutritional deficiencies in zinc, B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and proteins have been shown to affect the cognitive development of children. There is also evidence to suggest that diets with high amounts of trans and saturated fats can have a negative impact on cognition. This will harm the ability of students to learn at a pace necessary for school success.

Scientists have also established a link between student behavior and nutrition. Access to proper nutrition can help students maintain psychosocial well-being and reduce aggression. This can have a positive effect on students by avoiding discipline and school suspension.

Indirect Effects

The indirect effects of poor nutrition can be severely detrimental to the performance of students over time. Students with unhealthy lifestyles are far more likely to become sick. These illnesses then have an effect on the amount of class time missed. By not attending classes, students are much more likely to fall behind. And when they are in class, they are more likely to have little energy and to have concentration issues.

Studies have shown that a large percentage of school lunches that are packed at home do not meet the nutritional standards. They are often filled with unhealthy foods, chips, soft drinks, and sweets, they also provide fewer vegetables compared to school meals.

What Can You Do About It? 

If you have the time, and it is cost effective for you and your family we highly recommend you pack your child’s lunch at home. This way you know what they are eating, and you can ensure they are getting the nutrients they need, without all of the extra fats and added sugars. When packing their lunch be conscious of what you are giving them, and how much. Be sure to read the ingredients and follow suggested serving sizes.

Here are six easy, delicious, and healthy lunches you can send your little one to school with.

 

Finger Food

  • 1 cup broccoli and cauliflower florets with 2 tablespoons light raspberry dressing or low fat-ranch
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • Slice of banana bread
  • String cheese and a handful of whole wheat crackers
  • * Optional: Include a few slices of Turkey or Ham for added protein

 

 

Fiesta!

  • 1 cup bean salad
  • 1/2 cup melon wedges
  • Handful of whole-grain tortilla chips with 2 tablespoons salsa
  • 8 cubes of reduced-fat cheddar cheese

 

 

Catch of the Day

  • Fish-shaped tuna sandwich with lettuce on whole wheat bread
  • 10 baby carrots with 2 tablespoons low-fat ranch dip
  • Small plum
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain Goldfish crackers

 

 

All Dressed Up

  • 1 cup bow-tie pasta salad with veggies
  • 1 cup baby greens salad with 2 tablespoons low-fat dressing
  • 3/4 cup watermelon
  • 2 fig cookies

Power Pita

  • 2 mini whole wheat pita pockets with grilled-chicken strips and veggies
  • 3/4 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt with sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar snap peas
  • 8 animal crackers

 

Hole New PB&J

  • Peanut butter and jelly on a whole wheat mini bagel
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes with 2 tablespoons low-fat Caesar dressing
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
  • 4 mini oatmeal cookies

 

 

BONUS

If you are looking to give your child more responsibility, share the chart below and have them follow it to make their own lunch. Remember to supervise them as they pack their lunch to make sure they are following the chart and picking healthy foods. Also make sure to keep an eye on them in the kitchen, especially if they are handling sharp utensils, such as knives and cheese graters/slicers, if they need a hand reaching something or if they need to open cans or glass jars. 

 

 

 

Recipes & Photos: parents.com, Additional Sources: campbellsville.edu