What do first graders, seventh graders, ninth graders and college students have in common? One major need: Yummy, healthy school lunches! Whether you’re planning lunches for your little one’s very first day of elementary school or contemplating mid-day meals for your own return to graduate school, we want to make sure that you have what you need in your cupboards and fridge. Before that school bell rings, consider stocking up on…
- For elementary school students, simplicity usually is best. Before you dig into the peanut butter, though, be aware: Some schools have banned this substance because so many children have dangerous peanut allergies. The good news: Both excited small students and blasé high school seniors will enjoy almond butter as a smart substitute, such as Once Again Crunchy No Salt Almond Butter (less is more when it comes to salt in foods). With it, try a jam sweetened naturally with fruit juice, such as St. Dalfour All Natural Apricot Fruit Spread.
- For preteens and teens, including something snack-worthy is always wise. They tend to get so busy with activities that taking the time to sit down for the entire lunch hour can sound like a visit to Mars in their minds. Instead, try snacks that constitute mini-lunches. What’s an admirable snack for an adolescent that can double as a mini-lunch? Try trail mix for memorable munching, such as Enjoy Life Not Nuts! Seed and Fruit Mix Mountain Mambo. Or consider an energy bar packed with nutrition, not with empty calories, such as Raw Crunch Bars.
- Crazy about college? If you’re a college student, whatever your age, you’re short on study time and big on worries. Soothe your stress level with a lunch that combines complex carbohydrates with protein power. For example, Lundberg Brown Rice Cakes with low-fat cheese melted on top (slip under the broiler or in the microwave until the cheese melts) combined with a piece of fresh fruit makes a quick, healthy meal. Most college campuses have microwave available for your use, so just pack up all the ingredients to take in a lunch box such as the New Wave.
- A tip on sandwiches: Pile on the veggies to keep the calorie count low, the health quota high and the tummy full! Choose a natural mayonnaise, such as Spectrum Naturals Organic Mayonnaise. And go for a gluten-free bread, such as Energ-G Brown Rice.
- In all the bustle, be aware of the desire for dessert, regardless of the age of that school lunch bag consumer! A small bag of cookies gets cheers, but choose wisely. Newman’s Own Organics Fig Newmans are ideal for toting to school, as are gluten-free, wheat-free Pamela Products cookies.
Joanne Eglash, Vitacost.com’s Diet Diva, has a master of science in holistic nutrition and more than 15 years experience as a nutrition consultant, blogger, author and journalist. She has written for a wide range of publications and websites, including ediets.com, Natural Health magazine, Shape magazine, Success magazine, Energy for Women and Chefs. Joanne is currently the national Diets columnist for the online news and entertainment site, Examiner.com, and a features food columnist for Yahoo.