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Why Good Nutrition is Hard for Kids & Solutions of Healthy School Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Ideas

               There are many aspects of how children's lives are set up that makes good nutrition difficult. From their daily schedule to food availability, the realities of kids' lives make it harder to have a healthy lifestyle. Parents often struggle to find healthy school breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas.

               It is not easy for busy families to have good nutrition. Parents work long hours and have many responsibilities between their families and their work. Here are some challenges that many of my own patients have regarding nutrition and a few ideas to help alleviate each of the challenges.

school bus

Morning Problems and Healthy School Breakfast Ideas

Rushed mornings

               The time between waking up and getting on the bus always seems to short. This often leads to kids skipping breakfast and going without food until lunch time. Having breakfast ready is really helpful. At night, pack a container with yogurt or cottage cheese and fruit or make frittatas at the beginning of the week. If it is ready in the fridge in a container, it can be easily thrown into a backpack in the morning. Other ideas are grab and go options such as individual containers of yogurt, milk drink boxes, and protein shakes.

Tired Children

           When children are tired in the morning, they have a hard time getting ready for school. It also makes for a grumpier and fight-prone start to the day, leading to kids missing breakfast. It is important to remember that your morning starts the night before. How your children will act in the morning can depend on what time they went to sleep! Bedtime needs to be at the right time and consistent. Talk to your pediatrician about how much sleep your child needs, and set bedtime accordingly. If bedtime is a behavioral challenge for your child, your pediatrician can help you with that too.     

School Nutrition Problems and Healthy Lunch Ideas

Poor nutrition quality of school lunches

               Healthy ideas for school lunches can be a struggle. Often kids' school lunches are a rotation of pizza, chicken nuggets, pasta, and fries. The main issue with each of these meals is that they are lacking important nutrients. What parents can do is pack from home what is missing.

               Many schools publish their menus on their website. Take a look at the menu at the beginning of the week and see if there are one or two days where you can pack something to accompany the school lunch. Maybe on chicken nugget and fries day send an apple and some baby carrots for some fiber-containing fruits and veggies. Perhaps on pasta day you can send a hard boiled egg to up the protein content of the meal. This healthy school lunch idea will give your child a more balanced meal and hopefully keep them feeling more satisfied.

The school lunch's fruits and vegetables are not appealing

               Many kids have no problem eating fruits and vegetables, but they do not like the way they are served in school. Even for adults, unheated defrosted frozen broccoli and wilted lettuce salads are a turn off. You can send your own fruit and vegetable sides with your child. Some kids enjoy a vegetable soup kept warm in a thermos, others will happily peel their own clementines they have in their lunchbox, and dried fruit like dates and raisins are always delicious. This idea can make sure your child has a healthy school lunch.

Lunch at school is at a different time on different days

               This is a hard one for kids who thrive on routine! If the lunch times are different enough, your child may need to have a snack at the time of the alternate days' lunch. Look at your child's class schedule, and see when they can fit in a small snack to help tide them over until lunch or until school is over. Quick and easy snacks for a short break between classes are a cheese stick, a handful of nuts, or a milk/soymilk drink box.

Evening Problems and Healthy School Dinner Ideas

Late dinners

               While there is nothing inherently wrong with eating late at night, most children do well with dinner at an earlier time. This allows them to know when to expect to be given food, and it also is more in line with their natural hunger after school. For the many families who have working parents, this can be a real struggle.

               Crockpot dinners have become a mainstay for many families for this reason. You can even batch prepare a meal and freeze individual dinner ingredients raw to easily put in a crockpot in the morning. When kids come home, there will be dinner ready. This also takes the mental stress off the parents who usually have to prepare a meal after a long day at work. Another idea that can work for families with older children is have some dinners that the kids can prepare on their own. This can be a simple as make your own pizza night with pita bread, jarred sauce, and frozen shredded cheese or scrambled eggs with toast for kids who can safely use the toaster or stove.

Solutions for Healthy School Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Ideas

               Making sure your kids eat well on school days can be a challenge. A lot about school lifestyle can make healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas hard. With some creativity, you can work with the challenges your kids' school day has and still have ideas for healthy school breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

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