School is back in session in most parts of the country. Some children are doing in-person learning, others remote and still others a combination of both, but one thing’s for sure: These kids are going to get hungry.
With all the things you have going on right now, making lunches for the week can feel like one more thing heaped onto your plate. But nutrition experts say it’s best to just keep it simple.
Gina Keatley, a certified dietitian-nutritionist practicing in New York City, tells Yahoo Life that the rules of making a great school lunch are the same as pre-pandemic. Each lunch should include “some whole-grain starch for energy and fiber, lean protein to build strong bodies and provide some satiety, fruits and/or vegetables to provide some volume in the meal, a low-calorie or nutrient-dense beverage, and, of course, a little bit of joy.”
Due to the pandemic, there’s a huge emphasis this year on lunches kids can tackle themselves, registered dietitian Jessica Cording, author of The Little Book of Game-Changers, tells Yahoo Life. “The focus is on things that are single serving, easy for kids to open and don’t involve a lot of mess,” she says. While those elements can be helpful for maintaining social distancing for in-person learning, they can also be a perk if you’re busy working from home while your child is doing remote learning, Cording points out.
Prepping the night before can be a crucial time-saving move, Cording says, whether your child is doing remote or in-person learning. “You want to be ready to serve lunch quickly, regardless,” she says.
Picking up a bento box, which has compartments for different foods, is helpful, Keatley says. “Bento boxes are a great way to provide portion control as well as give parents a guideline for diversity,” she says.
Adding planning and shopping for school lunches to your already packed schedule seems like a lot, and it is. Luckily, Walmart just launched a new service called Walmart+ that offers same-day deliveries (with a $35 minimum) of groceries, gadgets and more. The prices are the same as you’d find in store and online—with no added fees of any kind. You’ll get unlimited deliveries for one monthly fee of $12.95 (or $98 a year).
Just sign up online, and you’ll be good to go when the service launches September 15. There’s also a 15-day trial membership. Items and delivery times vary by store, but you’ll find slots as early as 7am and as late as 8pm, with one-hour windows.
So visit Walmart to stock your pantry with snacks and fill your fridge with fruits, veggies and proteins. Having stuff easily on-hand allows you and your child to grab and go. Sounds like an A+ plan to us.
A yogurt pouch, like GoGo Squeez’s blueberry version, is a quick and easy meal to pack. With 4 grams of protein each, your child will fill up and be ready for the rest of the day. Pro tip: Pack it frozen, and it’ll thaw out by lunchtime.
Emerald’s unsalted packs of walnuts and almonds can add crunch to any lunch—and 3 grams of protein. (If your child is doing in-person learning, just check the school’s nut policy in advance.) Serve as a side with yogurt and fruit for a high-protein meal.
Amy’s has a whole line of organic, quick-serve frozen meals, including this bean and rice burrito. Heat it up before your child goes to school or pop it in the microwave during remote lunchtime. You can slice it into pinwheels for a cool, bite-sized effect.
GoGo Squeez's easy-to-open applesauce pouches make it a snap for your child to get a fruit fix. Each packet contains 100 percent fruit, wrapped up in a fun package kids love diving into.
Ocean’s Halo Seaweed Sea Salt snacks are a smart vegan, gluten-free alternative to chips. These healthy treats come in thin sheets that can easily fit into a lunchbox. Made with natural sea salt, they’re packed with vitamins like B12 and minerals like iodine.
Those PB&J or nut butter crackers you made in advance can end up a soggy mess by lunchtime. RXBAR’s single serve nut butter packets allow your child to open them up and squeeze out the good stuff for max freshness when the moment is right. (If your kid is doing in-person learning, just check the school’s nut policy in advance.)
Wasa’s crisp bread allows your child to get a cracker feel with 12 grams of whole grains in one slice. Pack it alongside nut butter, yogurt or a guacamole pack for a dose of quality carbs.
Take hearty crackers and a pack of Good Foods’ single serve guacamole, and you’ve got the beginning of a solid lunch. Spicy fans will love the guac’s slight kick.
Sistema’s well-organized bento box lunchbox makes separating protein from veggies a breeze. Just fill in the slots with different foods to give your child a well-balanced meal that’s easy to eat.