Today’s lesson: school lunches

Body

When they put their studies aside and sit down for that vital midday meal, your student is essentially fueling up for the afternoon ahead. What you pack in their lunch bag could mean the difference between a clear mind and a sugar crash.

“At all meals, children and adults need a good source of protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables,” Sara Bennett (RDN, CD, CDM, CFPP), a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with Parkview Physicians Group said. “For example, a turkey or peanut butter sandwich on 100% whole wheat bread with fresh fruit and raw vegetables would be a good balanced meal. Combining protein and whole grains will make them feel fuller longer due to a slower digestion process, which will increase memory, alertness and concentration, and, ultimately, lead to better test scores!”

The science behind that valuable slow digestion is found in fiber. “One hundred percent of flour turns to sugar in our body. The difference is, whole wheat flour contains more fiber than white flour. The higher fiber content helps the body slowly disperse sugar into the bloodsteam, unlike white flour, which is quickly absorbed. Whole wheat flour contains 227% more nutrients by volume than refined, white flour, and offeres a rich amount of vitamins, minerals, fiber and plant chemicals that will improve your health and lower the risk of disease.” Sara said.

Nutritionist tip: How do you know if you’re actually buying 100% whole wheat bread? Look for more than 2gm of fiber per serving and 100% whole wheat labeling. Check the ingredient list; the first ingredient should be whole grain or whole wheat.

According to Sara, if parents pack lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables for their growing child, they are serving them a lower risk of obesity, heart disease and cancer, as well as better blood sugar control. That’s a powerful lunch!
 

Sara’s healthy lunch ideas:

  • Whole wheat tortilla wrap with turkey, reduced fat cheese, tomato, and lettuce
  • Mixed berries
  • Raw carrots and celery with reduced fat veggie dip or hummus

 -or-

  • Peanut butter sandwich on 100% whole wheat bread
  • Grape tomato, cucumber “skewers” with reduced fat veggie dip or hummus
  • Apple
  • Light yogurt

-or-

  • Pizza wrap (slice tomato or pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, turkey pepperoni, olives, green peppers and Italian seasoning on 100% whole wheat wrap)
  • Clementine

-or-

  • 1/2 roast beef sandwich on 100% whole wheat bread
  • Broccoli and bell peppers with reduced fat veggie dip or hummus
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Grapes

Smart swaps:

  • turkey NOT bologna
  • 100% whole wheat bread NOT white bread/crackers
  • Veggie skewers NOT chips
  • Trail mix NOT granola bar
  • Whole fruit NOT canned with syrup
  • Air-popped popcorn NOT pretzels
  • Celery with natural peanut butter NOT fruit snacks
  • Lowfat milk NOT juice box

Hungry for more? Find a quick reference for servings here.