Shopping for Student Lunches

At most schools, students have many food options when they hit the lunchroom — main dish items, sandwiches, and salad bars. Improved federal standards mean vending machines don’t offer as much junk food, and fast food kiosks have mostly disappeared. Many kids opt to bring their own lunch, and that starts with families grocery shopping effectively.

Students are able to take on the day better if they have the nutrition they need, but that doesn’t always happen. In fact, about 1 in 12 Oklahoma high school students report never eating vegetables. About 1 in 14 report never eating fruit or drinking 100 percent fruit juice, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both these rates are higher than the national averages.

One thing to consider when packing lunches is the season. Fresh produce is cheaper and tastes better when it’s at its peak. As we go into the fall, consider these fresh fruits and vegetables as easy lunchtime additions:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes
  • Mushrooms
  • Pears
  • Pineapple

Whether they’re in kindergarten or high school, most students have about half an hour (or less) to eat lunch. Prepare produce ahead of time so it’s easy and quick to eat. If it’s too challenging or time-consuming, it will likely end up in the garbage.

Lunch ideas to keep your kids interested

School’s in session for about nine months a year, and that’s a lot of lunches to plan. Here are some ideas for your lunch planning:

  • Trade sandwich bread for different options, like tortillas or lettuce. Pita bread is another favorite.
  • Swap toppings every now and then. Is your kid tired of peanut butter and jelly? Swap the jelly for bananas. Try a unique cheese or specialty deli meat to put a twist on your child’s favorite sandwich. If she loves plain turkey and cheese, why not try Sun Dried Tomato Turkey Breast and Baby Swiss?
  • Go beyond the basics for dessert. Trade cookies for dried fruit mix or a slice of sweet bread, like pumpkin or gingerbread.
  • Switch your sides. Instead of chips, include snap peas and hummus. Or add a yogurt, some popcorn or mixed nuts.
  • If your child’s school allows it, encourage him or her to carry a water bottle.
  • As the weather cools, consider warm lunches packed in a thermos. Soup or chili leftovers can stay warm until lunchtime when packed in a good container.
  • Most schools provide plastic utensils, but pack them yourself if you have any handy. You don’t want your child to be stranded with soup and no way to eat it.
  • Experiment with salads together. Your child likely already has favorite veggies. Build a salad around those preferences. No favorites just yet? Try some seasonal options and see what stands out. Offer a food several times before you give up.

Don’t forget to join the Homeland Mobile Club. You never know what deals will pop up and what ideas you’ll get.

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