What to Pack for Summer Snacks and School Lunches?

Often we run out of ideas on what to pack our kids for their summer snacks and school lunches. As a gym owner, Martial Arts Professor at RMA Jiu Jitsu I understand the importance of a balanced and nutritious diet for the most important piece of our lives, our kids. However, during the school year, my wife is on Pinterest and I’m helping her with the brilliant ideas! But are we giving them enough? Just looks pretty or is also nutritious? What’s the right amount? We decided to speak with a Professional to make sure their body is having the right fuel. Erin Murrell is a nutritionist, Physical Fitness, Personal Coaching and a Mom. She gave wonderful insight and ideas for our little one’s lunch!

What’s For Lunch?

Because of the fact that I am not just a nutrition coach, but also a mom, I am often asked what I pack in my child’s school lunch. I think the majority of the time parents ask me this, it’s because their kids are getting bored of their normal lunches. But secondarily, we need to think about fueling our children’s minds and bodies for their day, especially if their day involves after-school sports activities, which can be mentally and physically draining. When selecting foods to include in a balanced lunch (or any meal), there are two different ways of looking at food groups:

1) Macronutrients
2) The USDA’s five food groups

First, let’s talk macronutrients. All the food we eat is composed of one or more of the 3 macronutrients. They are:


Choosing a food from each of these categories will ensure a balance of fast-digesting nutrients for quick energy (think carbs) and slow-digesting nutrients for sustained alertness and fuel throughout the afternoon (think proteins and fats). Choosing a meal with these 3 macronutrients in mind may look something like this:

Sliced turkey – protein
Whole-grain crackers – carbohydrates
Peanut butter – fats

But I think we can do better than that! What about our fruits and veggies?

This brings me to the second category of food groupings which we need to be mindful of — the USDA five food groups. Most of us grew up learning about the food pyramid which recommends we eat from a variety of categories:


So let’s consider the sample lunch from above and add to it:

Sliced turkey – protein
Whole-grain crackers – carbohydrates, grains
Grapes – carbohydrates, fruit
Carrot sticks – carbohydrates, vegetables
Peanut butter – fats
String cheese – dairy

We’ve now managed to get items in all 3 macronutrient categories AND all 5 food groups. You see there is some overlap between categories and some foods fit into multiple categories. This is fine and helps ensure we are getting a balance of energy for blood chemistry stability and an array of necessary vitamins and minerals.

We could deep dive even further into proper ratios of each macronutrient, food combinations for sports performance, or benefits of all the categories of carbohydrates — starchy, fibrous, complex, and simple — but those are topics for another day or a discussion with your nutritionist or physician. For now, eat a variety of food groups and colors, stick to mostly fruits, veggies, and lean proteins, and select foods your children will enjoy to keep meals healthy AND fun.

As always reach out to me with questions or for a sample lunch meal plan at erin@thedietdoc.com.

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