It’s a perennial parenting responsibility—one that’s easy to forget during the laid-back days of summer. But with back-to-school season just around the corner, it’s time once again to think about what to pack for your kids’ lunches.
This year, as you’re surveying the fridge or pantry for healthy, child-friendly fare, consider adding foods that are known for enhancing eye health. Research indicates that a proper diet can lead to strong vision, which in turn can support strong learning outcomes.
Here are a few ways to boost the eye-healthy ingredients in your students’ lunch boxes. These tips and recipes will help you ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need, without sacrificing taste.
Omega-3 fats are a great way to support ocular development in children. They help maintain visual development and retinal function.
Fish like tuna and salmon, are an easy way to fit these fats into kids’ diets. For lunches, try mini packages of tuna and crackers, or tuna fish sandwiches. (Just be careful to limit canned white albacore tuna to recommended servings.) Canned salmon works well too.
Walnuts and roasted soybeans also contain omega-3 and make a convenient snack, either on their own or as a salad topping. Before you send these to school, be sure to check that your student is in a nut- or soy-friendly classroom.
Try this: Tort-tuna wraps.
Citrus fruits, like oranges, tangerines, peaches, and apricots, are especially effective at delivering powerful doses of vitamin C to support healthy vision. These, plus other sweet options like blueberries, strawberries, mangos, cantaloupe, and honeydew melons, contain antioxidants that can help prevent the development of or delay the progression of cataracts later in life.
Try to include whole or sliced fruits in your child’s lunch bag every day. To win a few bonus points, consider including a honey yogurt dip on the side. You can also make a yogurt parfait as a tasty post-lunch dessert.
Try this: Kid-friendly fruit salad.
Certain vegetables are known for helping support healthy eyesight, especially those that contain disease-preventing zeaxanthin and lutein. One super source of these nutrients is leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens. These can be easily turned into a lunchtime salad, like this kid-approved kale salad recipe. Or, try blending the greens into a smoothie.
Carrots, tomatoes and bell peppers also make an attractive and crunchy snack while offering helpful vision-friendly vitamins and antioxidants. Try including a small container of home-made avocado dip along with the veggies to include extra eyesight-boosting nourishment.
Any veggie with beta carotene is also helpful because this pigment can help reduce the risk of eye infection. To work it into your child’s diet, try preparing roasted sweet potatoes in a savoury noontime side dish.
Try this: Whole wheat spinach quesadilla.
When looking for lunch ideas, try to include foods that contain zinc. This is an important mineral for strong eyesight and can help prevent impaired vision and macular degeneration.
There are easy ways to boost the zinc content of a child’s lunch. For example, you can send along a snack pack of any fortified breakfast cereal, as long as the sugar content isn’t too high. Another nutritious source of zinc is bread made with whole wheat flour—bagels, loaves, or wraps will work.
Pumpkin seeds make a handy afternoon snack (especially if you pull and roast them yourself at Halloween), or add a handful of the seeds to a lunch salad. When it comes to zinc-filled mains, your kids will benefit from lean meats like pork and beef, and dark meat portions of chicken or turkey.
Try this: Roast beef & whole wheat “Loch Ness” bagel.
Is your student ready for the new school year? Sending them back to the classroom with a lunch box full of healthy options will not only help protect their eyesight, they’re likely to return with every bite gone.
Contact FYidoctors to book a back-to-school eye exam for your child and to learn more about protecting their eyesight for life.