By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D. , September 17, 2009 - 10:40am
Most of the “water cooler conversation” around our office this time of year is about back to school. (Check out the recipes and tips in our new Back to School Guide! )
I’m sure this comes as no surprise because we work at EatingWell, but most of the focus has been on what to pack kids for lunch. You might find it refreshing to know that we too struggle with what to feed our kids.
So we were inspired to pull together this kids menu, highlighting some of the best foods for fueling young brains . Make sure your child’s lunchbox has these 3 foods to help your kids (and you parents too!) start the school year off on the right foot.
1. Oatmeal : Reams of studies show that fueling the brain with breakfast is important for thinking, acting and learning. And children who are undernourished perform poorly on cognitive tasks. But not just any breakfast will do: research shows that fueling your kids’ with slower-burning carbohydrates (also called low-glycemic-index foods) like oatmeal instead of faster-burning, or high-glycemic-index, breakfast foods (think: sugary cereals) helps them to maintain their concentration and attention throughout the school morning.
Make it: Chocolate-y, kid-pleasing Cocoa-Date Oatmeal  is ready in minutes using the microwave. Pack some in a thermos for your kids to eat before classes start.
Try these food solutions too: Bran cereals or whole-wheat bagels. Or send your kid off to school with this grab-and-go breakfast: Apricot-Walnut Cereal Bars .
2. Beans : New studies show that being even mildly iron-deficient affects learning, memory and attention. (About 10 percent of young women are anemic—because of their monthly loss of iron-rich blood.) Luckily, restoring iron levels to normal also restores cognitive function.
Make it: Add the Tijuana Torta  to their lunchbox—it’s filled with mashed spiced black beans and a quick guacamole. It also contains a good amount of vitamin C, which will help improve the absorption of iron.
3. Yogurt : During childhood and adolescence, the body uses calcium to build strong bones—a process that's all but complete by the end of the teen years. Giving your kids enough calcium at a young age will help them to prevent osteoporosis later on. Yet more than 85 percent of girls and 60 percent of boys aged 9 to 18 fail to get the recommended 1,300 milligrams of calcium per day (kids aged 4 to 8 years old need 800 mg; toddlers aged 1 to 2 years need 500 mg). The 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend 2 cups of low-fat or nonfat milk or dairy products per day for children 2 to 8 years old and 3 cups for children 9 years and older.
Make it: Add this delicious, 5-minute, yogurt parfait to their lunchbox for dessert or an afternoon snack: Pineapple-Raspberry Parfait .
Try these food solutions too: Low-fat milk  or low-fat cottage cheese.
What healthy foods do you pack in your kid's lunchbox? Tell us what you think below.