Back-to-school breakfast and lunch ideas

Proper nutrition can help set your kids up for a successful school year. Here are some nutritious back-to-school breakfast and lunch ideas from dietitian Sue Mah

By Sue Mah

Back-to-school breakfast and lunch ideas

My yoga teacher says that September, not January, should be the first month of the new year. I agree! As a parent of two, this time of year brings an excited frenzy. Do the kids have enough pens, pencils, notebooks and shoes for school? And where is that form I need to sign? At crazy times like this, I have to force myself to stop, sit down, and make sure that my family and I are all eating well.

Morning Meal

Breakfast. This is, of course, the most important meal of the day for everyone in the family. For adults, a solid breakfast refuels our bodies after six or seven hours of sleep, and helps with weight control. For kids, breakfast boosts concentration and memory.

My kids are not early risers. On a good day, the sleepyheads will be at the table around 8:15 a.m., and we need to be out the door by 8:45, so our brekkies need to be fast, easy—yet healthy.

Top Five Breakfasts:

1. Vanilla yogurt topped with diced pear and low-fat granola.
2. Whole-grain cereal with milk or fortified soy beverage, and sliced apples. (To help with the morning madness, I have my kids set out their bowls, spoons and cereal boxes the night before.)
3. Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread, with a glass of omega-3–enriched chocolate milk. (Since peanut butter isn’t allowed at school, I serve it at home as often as I can.)
4. Cheese and whole-grain crackers with a handful of grapes. (Great for super-rushed mornings: You can get your kids, and you, out the door with this to munch on in the bus or car.)
5. Veggie omelette with whole-grain toast and hot chocolate. (I slice the veggies the night before. And the eggs provide protein.)

Lunch Bag Ideas

Sandwiches are still my gold standard for easy, portable lunches. I’m not a big fan of deli meat, though lately I’ve noticed lower-sodium and nitrite-free ham and turkey in the stores, which is good news. But here are some alternatives if you’re looking for them: cheese, tuna salad, smoked salmon, roasted veggies, hummus, grilled meat. I switch up the bread, too—anything from challah to tortilla wraps to mini whole-wheat pitas.

Adding Variety

For a change of pace, I’ll pack pasta salad. Abbey, my seven-year-old chef, creates her own rotini salad with bits of  leftover chicken, diced cucumbers, green onions, grated carrots and a little Caesar dressing. It’s so easy to make—I cook the pasta and she does the rest.

Dinner Dilemma

Now, what about dinner? Most of the time, we’re chowing down at 5 or 5:30 p.m. so we can make it out on time for hockey, baseball, skating or piano. But that’s a story for another time. Stay tuned!

This article was originally titled "The September Scramble," in the September 2010 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience—and never miss an issue!—and make sure to check out what's new in the latest issue of Best Health.

Best Health Magazine, September 2010

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