McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder

School is back in motion! Did you know approximately 17% of children aged 2-19 in the United States are obese, which has steadily increased over the past 30 years? There are so many variables in creating this horrific statistic, but we all can start with providing healthy foods to our children, encouraging play time, keeping mindful of what the school systems are offering, and creating a fun and healthy environment around food and body image for these little ones. Today I’d like to share with you several quick and easy tips on how to keep your kids lunch boxes filled with the right goodies. Keep in mind what you’re feeding your children before, during, and after school is going to help them not only mentally feel great and focused for the day, but also physically healthy to enjoy and engage in activities of interest!

This post today isn’t about childhood obesity (I’ll save that for another day)- this is a general road map to get you started  on small steps around the home and away from home to ensure your little one is making healthy choices. I’ve also attached a pdf. file for anyone who wishes to use a small chart to keep organized with their child’s (or to use for yourself) lunch schedule.

This downloadable tip sheet is a guideline of servings from each food group is/and should be used as a guideline. Remember, what’s more important in your child’s diet and nutrition is the overall intake throughout your child’s entire day versus one single meal (such as lunch). Be sure to include a wide variety each and every day full of these different food groups to ensure a well balanced diet for your little one to keep them growing strong physically and mentally, and so they’ll have boundless energy to play! Always refer back to my recipe page for more ideas and also How to Build a Healthy Lunch Box!

1. Pack lunch and snacks.

  • Get them involved and have them pack or have them help you slice or bag their own lunches and snacks } see here for some lunch box inspiration.
  • Opt for raw fruits and vegetables cut or presented in a fun ways to keep their imagination engaged.
  • Include foods with protein, healthy fats, and fiber to keep them full, nourished, and satisfied.

2. Lead by example.

If they see you as their role model and parent making a negative comment or negative visual cue (“icky” face) towards vegetables or healthier foods, chances are they will mimic that very action. Therefore…. Eat YOUR veggies too!

3. Get involved.

Know what they’re really serving at school and inquire about healthy options available.

4. Keep them hydrated.

Water, water, water. Make juices or sodas the absolute last thing to give a child- if you do give sugar containing juices and flavored milks to them, dilute with water or cut the serving in half and make this a “treat” not a daily food.

5. After school.

Keep a section in the refrigerator and in the pantry marked “Susie’s eats!” (example) with small snack sized portions of their favorite healthy foods for easy access for them or the babysitter.

6. Make healthy snacks.

Revisit these posts on Simply Snacks, Fruit Leathers, or RECIPE tab for more ideas.

7. Set the breakfast table.

This creates an easier time and space for you as the parent getting them ready for school- less chaos for everyone. Try doing this the night before or preparing breakfast the night before: try any of my overnight porridge recipes!

8. Stay connected

Engage in reading, homework lessons together, and attempt for family dinners most evenings.

9. Get organized

Use a chalkboard, dry erase board, or other large bulletin for daily tasks, dinner ideas, and meal plans. Use Batch Cooking as your tool to keep evening dinner meals quick, easy, and healthy!

10. Sleep!

Use a “natural light alarm clock” for a gradual and less stressful waking for the kids.

Top product picks to make packing lunch effortless

 CLICK HERE:School Lunch Menu + Food Group for a free downloadable meal plan sheet and for these tips!

Stay tuned for my college edition coming up! What are your favorite tips to use when keeping your little ones or family on track with being healthy during the school year? Share below, I’d love to hear!

xo McKel