It’s that time of year again, when America’s children don their new book bags, climb aboard the yellow school bus and head back to the classroom. The back-to-school season is exciting for kids as they eagerly share tales of their summer adventures and show off their cute new haircuts. For moms and dads, the transition means that a little extra thought must be given to the mid-day meal – and breakfast too (but that’s another post)!
A great option is always school meals. According to the School Nutrition Association’s Beyond the Stereotypes article: “Research by Dr. Alice Jo Rainville of Eastern Michigan University concluded that students who eat school lunches consume less calories from fat than students who bring their lunch from home. Furthermore, the research found school lunches contain three times as many dairy products, twice as much fruit and seven times the vegetable amounts as lunches brought from home.”
In addition, the familiar taste of peanut butter is available in traditional and not-so-traditional ways. For example Saint Paul Public Schools in Minnesota serves Thai Peanut Chicken with Noodles, while Cobb County Schools in Georgia offers a Peanut Butter and Jelly Fruit Plate pairing the beloved sandwich with fresh and chilled fruit.
Packing lunch can also be a great option – especially for extremely picky kids or those with special dietary needs. Try these three simple tips to help ensure that it’s safe, balanced and delicious:
- Keep it safe! A recent study by University of Texas researchers found that of the sack lunches sent to school with more than 700 preschoolers, 90% were at temperatures that could increase the chance of foodborne illness. Many of these were even in insulated lunchboxes! Foods that are less likely to become spoiled before lunchtime include things that are safe at room temperature like whole fruit, peanut and dried fruit mix (like our 24/7 Energy Trail Mix), shelf-stable ultra high temperature pasteurized (UHT) milk or juice, baked fruit or vegetable chips, and peanut butter sandwiches.
- Choose wisely. Choose easy-to-eat whole fruit like apples, oranges and bananas, high-fiber whole grain breads and kid-friendly peanut butter sprinkled with raisins for sandwiches, and low-fat or fat-free UHT milk as perfect lunchbox fare. For a crunchy, nutrient-dense addition, try baked vegetable or fruit chips to add variety. Read labels and avoid foods that are too high in sodium and fat to provide nutrient-dense options for lunch.
- Planning is the key. Preparing lunchboxes in advance is a key to keeping mornings simple. Put all non-perishable items in the lunchbox the night before and add the chilled items and ice packs just before time to head out the door. To save money, make or buy items like peanut granola (try our Sweet and Spicy Peanut Granola) in bulk then pre-portion into snack-sized bags just the right amount for your kiddo.