Plate-Wise •  8/21/2020

7 Essential Foods for Your Back-to-School Grocery List

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Are you strolling the lunchbox aisle of your local grocer or retail store, helping your kids pick between the most popular new superhero or animated movie star? While school may look a little different this year, lunch is still one of the most important parts of the day — whether it’s being served in a cafeteria or at your kitchen table. No matter what school looks like for you, when it comes to school lunches, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.

While school lunch is an important source of fuel for your kids, the daily task of making school lunches can often be just another item on the long parenting “to-do” list. This is especially true for those of you with children who will be learning at home more often this year. While making lunch might seem like an additional, stressful responsibility, it doesn’t have to be that way! Consider including the below items on your back-to-school grocery shopping list to simplify school lunch making.

1. Eggs

Boasting about 6 grams of protein per egg, they’re nutrient-dense and kid-approved. Serve eggs hard boiled or as part of a kid-friendly mini-crustless quiche.   

2. Whole Wheat Bread

This one can be tricky. Many food manufacturers label bread as whole wheat when, really, it’s made of mostly refined flour. To make sure you’re choosing a true whole grain bread that’s higher in fiber and considered more nutritious than refined grains, look for breads that have 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain flour listed as their first ingredient.

3. Peanut Butter

Whether you prefer crunchy or creamy, if your kids aren’t allergic and it’s not prohibited at their schools, peanut butter is a fantastic source of protein. It’s versatile, too, and is as good on top of celery slices as it is sandwiched between bread or served alongside an apple or banana. Certain brands of peanut butter can be artificially high in sugar, so look for a brand that has no added sugar — it’s tasty without! 

4. Cheese

Strings, curds, slices, diced or wheels — exploring the many varieties of cheese is half the fun. Cheese is also a rich source of calcium, fat and protein so don’t forget to throw a couple of varieties in your cart when you’re at the grocery store. Cheese can also be stored easily in your freezer and saved for other lunch ideas.

5. Yogurt

Kids and adults alike know that yogurt is delicious. Fortunately, it’s also high in protein. Put a serving in a to-go dish or snag a prepackaged portion for an easy meal supplement. Looking to choose the healthiest yogurt? When it comes to prepackaged brands, the item with the most fun and colorful packaging isn’t always best. Plain yogurt is often the best choice because it doesn’t have added sugar. You can always add nuts and fruit to add flavor. 

6. Apples, Oranges and Bananas

Although all fruits are tasty and great for school lunch, you can’t beat the portability of oranges, apples and bananas. No packaging required? Sign us up. They also have a longer shelf life than other, more fragile fruits and are available throughout the year in most areas.

7. Cucumber, Carrots and Celery

Although getting kids to eat their veggies can seem like a fool’s errand, don’t stop trying! Sliced cucumbers, carrots and celery sit higher on the list of kid-approved veggies. Try serving with fun dipping sauces like tzatziki, hummus or a homemade ranch dressing made with Greek yogurt.

These are just a sampling of the many delicious and nutritious foods you might consider for school lunch. In our humble opinion, if your kids are eating it and you’re doing what you can to add some variety to their daily lunch, you’re rocking the parent game!