The start of school is only a few weeks away, and that has us rounding up school supplies and thinking about school lunches. The lunch provider for District 203 has remained Aramark, but District 204 has switched to OrganicLife. Both of these companies follow the school lunch program checklist of offering assorted fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low or no-fat dairy products and lean meats. OrganicLife relies on scratch-cooking, not pre-prepared foods. This year’s menus are not available quite yet, but food service companies are always striving to offer nutritious food in an exciting way so that our children will want to eat it.
While about one third of our children purchase lunch at school, that leaves two thirds that pack their lunch. The easiest and most nutritious way to handle this task, and keep our children excited about what’s in their lunch box, is to follow some basic guidelines:
1. Arm yourself with the right supplies: an insulated lunch bag/pack, small ice packs, insulated stainless steel thermos and reusable containers.
2. Have a meal-planning day with everyone and make lists of the foods they prefer to eat, including one veggie and one fruit at each meal. Include leftovers, quesadillas, wraps, salads, hummus, yogurt, soup, etc. We don’t have to rely on pb&j sandwiches alone.
3. Enlist the children’s help in preparing and packing. The process of planning and preparing meals is a great educational experience and gives plenty of opportunity for math skills, task planning and organization.
4. Have a good reusable water bottle so that they can stay hydrated and don’t gravitate toward the vending machine.
A good healthy lunch is an essential learning tool for our children. Keep them fueled during the day with the most nutritious foods, and they will be able to do their best in everything they encounter.