5 School Lunches That Will Make Your Kid Smarter

By Andrea Cannon on 5 October 2015 0 comments

Did you know that certain foods can actually make your kids smarter?

They need to be alert throughout the school day and get the nutrition necessary to learn and grow during these pivotal years. Research has shown that what your child eats can have a direct effect on their grades, mood, and behavior. Eating well can enhance brain function, memory, and physical performance, so it may be more important than you realize.

The perfect meal for the brain consists of three to four ounces of protein and two servings of vegetables. However, it can be difficult to get kids to accept this healthy lifestyle right away. Fortunately, you can still make fun, delicious school lunches that your child will love. Best of all, their school grades may even improve as the healthy food options start paying off with better attention spans. That's why we've rounded up some of the best school lunches to help make your child smarter and more alert. (See also: What to Eat for Lunch for a More Productive Afternoon)

1. Turkey Wrap and Fruit

Try a turkey wrap or pinwheels on a 100% whole wheat wrap. The great thing about sandwiches and wraps is that you can customize them to whatever your child likes, while still keeping them ultra-healthy. Make sure to also throw in some baby carrots or other veggies that will bulk up their lunch and leave them feeling great all afternoon.

It's important to also add some fruit to every lunch. Blueberries and strawberries have some of the highest antioxidant payoffs and can even help delay brain aging, cognitive decline, and mental fatigue. Apples contain catechins, which can protect your brain from damaging chemicals. Bananas are also a great contender for a fruit that you should be including in every lunch. You can add a smear of almond butter for the apple or banana to add even more healthy protein and energy to their lunch.

2. Upgraded PB&J Sandwich

Kids love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and the nuts from the peanut butter (or almond butter) contain protein, fiber, and the healthy fats your child needs for an immediate energy boost that will sustain them throughout the day. Nuts also contain vitamin E, which aids in cognitive function. To mix things up, add bananas instead of jam for even more energy.

Serve the sandwich on 100% whole wheat bread or a bagel, add a serving of fruit, some sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, or other small veggies they like, and you'll have a complete lunch. Whenever possible, add a side salad with two tablespoons low-fat dressing. For a sweet treat, consider natural fruit leather, which seems like a "fruit snack," but is actually good for your kids.

3. Mac and Cheese With Veggies

Cooking mac and cheese with 100% whole wheat pasta and hidden fresh veggies (like broccoli, tomatoes, bell pepper, cauliflower, or carrots) will give kids a healthy boost during the day. Best of all, they will feel like they just ate mac and cheese, so it will be a midday treat they look forward to. To mix it up, you can instead serve a bowtie or tortellini pasta salad with peas and veggies in the pasta and extra veggies hidden in the sauce. Complete the lunch with a fruit cup in 100% juice or water (not syrup).

4. Cobb Salad

Eating (and enjoying) salads is a lifetime commitment, so what better time than now to get your kids in on that healthy track? There is nothing like a salad to get your energy flowing, provide your body with the nutrients it needs, and fill you up with healthy greens and protein. A cobb salad contains yummy toppings like turkey bacon, chicken or turkey, cheese, and dried fruits and nuts, which can make it much more kid-friendly. Bonus points for adding some spinach to the salad, which can help protect against declines in cognitive skills like verbal fluency. Topping the salad with sliced avocado will also add fiber, vitamin E, vitamin B, and folic acid.

5. Veggie Burger and Veggie Chips

A veggie or bean burger can give your child the sensation of eating a burger, without the high fat and calorie count. Instead, they will enjoy a flavor boost and added benefits from the spices found in the meatless patty. Many veggie patties contain brown rice and an assortment of veggies, which can give your child the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they need to finish the day strong. Veggie chips are salty, crispy, and satisfying like chips, but have hidden veggies that your kids will eat right up.

Make it Appealing to Picky Eaters

Many parents don't pack healthy school lunches because they are afraid that their child won't eat it. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to get your child to eat healthy foods:

  • Cut fruits and veggies into small pieces, so they can enjoy them as finger foods.
     
  • Add a dip with the veggies. For instance, hummus is a healthy side that can encourage kids to eat their veggies and add some extra protein along the way.
     
  • Change things up frequently and look for new ideas so that your kids never get bored. You can find countless free recipes online, or you can challenge yourself to cook every recipe in one cookbook for fun ways to shake up the lunchtime routine.
     
  • Add low-fat yogurt for a sweet treat, instead of "fruit snacks" and other sugar traps. If your child likes Greek yogurt, this is an even better (and more beneficial) option. You can also sweeten up plain Greek yogurt with honey or jam to make it kid-friendly.
     
  • Water is always the best bet, but if they need another drink, consider low-fat milk.
     
  • Cut shapes out of sandwiches (like a star or heart shape), turn ordinary wraps into pinwheels, or make faces or shapes out of veggies to encourage kids to eat healthier. If it's fun to eat, they are more likely to eat it.
     
  • Have your children help in the lunch preparations. If they help make it, they will be more likely to eat and enjoy it.

What are your favorite school lunches to prepare for your children? Do you find that what they eat makes a difference in their behavior? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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