Contributed by Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN
Ready or not, it’s back-to-school season. I could use a few more slow summer days with my kids, but hectic autumn is right around the corner and it’s prime time for building balanced, nutrient-rich meals and snacks into the routine.
Enter blueberries. They are a kid-friendly fruit with tons of flavor in every small, sweet bite—and they require little work, which helps when there’s already so much to juggle each day. Below are some tips that make it easy to add more blueberries and balance into back-to-school meals for your little ones.
Tips for Packing Back-to-School Kid Lunches
Lunch plays a key role in providing the nutrients kids need for optimal energy and focus throughout the second half of their day — especially when we pack school lunches that include a protein food, a vegetable, a grain, and a fruit (like blueberries).
Nutrient-rich (i.e., “nutrient-dense”) foods are foods that contain a large number of nutrients relative to their caloric content. Packing a balance of nutrient-rich foods from different food groups helps supply your child with a longer-lasting energy source along with key nutrients to support growth and development.
Why Blueberries are an Ideal Food for Kids
Blueberries travel well in packed lunches and are a hit with kids, thanks to their distinctive color and sweet-tart flavor. An ideal addition to kid lunches (as well as other meals and snacks), blueberries pack several essential nutrients into each tiny bite. They are an excellent source of manganese for nerve function, a good source of vitamin C to support immune health, and an excellent source of vitamin K for bone growth. They are also uniquely high in anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol and naturally occurring plant chemical responsible for the beautiful blue hue.
Further, blueberries are a good source of fiber, providing 4 grams per cup which is especially important, considering that about 90% of kids today aren’t meeting their needs for dietary fiber.
Back-to-School Meals with Blueberries
For easy ways to grab a boost of blue and achieve a balanced eating routine, check out the ideas below.
- Toss fresh blueberries over breakfast cereal
- Stir frozen blueberries into oatmeal
- Make some Blueberry Avocado Toast
- Meal-prep a batch of no-added-sugar Baby-Friendly Blueberry Muffins, 5-Ingredient Blueberry Protein Muffins,* or this balanced Berry Breakfast Bake casserole, which freezes well and provides plant-based protein, healthy fats, and blueberry goodness all in one meal
- Make a lemon yogurt, granola, and fresh blueberry parfait; serve with sliced bell peppers
- Smash blueberries and a drizzle of nut or seed butter between 2 tortillas, roll, and slice into pinwheels; serve with sliced cucumbers
- Pack a sandwich, baby carrots, and some fresh blueberries along with a cute kid-friendly fork or toothpick topped with your child’s favorite character
- Slide fresh blueberries onto kebabs along with cubed cheese; serve with hummus and whole-grain crackers
- Whip up a Brain-Boosting Smoothie
- Or a creamy Blueberry Basil Tahini Dream
- Or some Blueberry Parfait Pops
- Make a trail mix abundant in antioxidants with dried blueberries, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and a blend of your child’s favorite nuts and seeds
Building more nutritious foods from a variety of food groups into your child’s diet can help set them up for success in all areas of their busy lives. Take advantage of the many ways blueberries add nutrient density, delicious flavor, and texture variety to your child’s meals and snacks as we dive into the school year ahead!
Tell me, how will you grab a boost of blue? Get answers to your pediatric nutrition questions on my blog post and find tons of tips that make feeding babies and kids easy and fun on my Instagram @healthy.mom.healthy.kids.
* Parents should consult their child’s pediatrician before introducing new foods to their diet.