Sending your kids to school with a healthy lunch is one of the best ways to ensure they’ll get the nutrition they need to learn, stay focused and perform better in school. And some of the best “brain foods” your kids need are those that contain lutein.
Lutein (pronounced loo-teen) is a carotenoid, or plant pigment, found in many foods you have in your refrigerator already—leafy greens, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and protein-rich eggs.
Lutein is not only beneficial for eye health, though. Pioneering research conducted by Abbott at the Center for Nutrition, Learning, and Memory (CNLM) along with the University of Illinois, shows the amount of lutein in children’s eyes may have a direct link to brain development and learning skills—it may improve memory, and it may be associated with higher test scores.
You might think you don’t have enough time to pack healthy school lunches for your children, but these five ideas are all quick, easy and packed with the brain-boost of lutein your kids need.
This school year, skip the same old peanut butter and jelly or turkey sandwiches and upgrade your kids’ lunchboxes with these lutein for lunch meals.
There’s something here for everyone, and your kids can help customize their own lunch based on this list of lutein-rich foods!
Now that you have an idea of lutein-rich ingredients, here are some recipes to get you started!
Lutein for Lunch: 5 Brain-Healthy Back-to-School Lunches
Did someone say back to school brunch?
A frittata is a great way to get lutein-rich green leafy vegetables and eggs into school lunches. Since it can be made ahead, leftovers can easily be added to your child's lunch box.
Sauté onion, garlic and add in some tomatoes, spinach, kale, Swiss chard or collard greens. Add eggs, a bit of cheese and bake until cooked. Add a side of blueberries and strawberries for an extra lutein boost and a meal that will keep your kids satisfied all day.
The combination of raw spinach, a chopped hard-boiled egg, broccoli, garden peas and steamed corn give this healthy salad a healthy dose of lutein. Add a vinaigrette dressing and some nuts, seeds or avocado and you have a healthy and satisfying lunch. Kids won’t eat spinach? Try romaine lettuce instead.
Kids love bite-sized lunches and pinwheels are an easy way to get lutein into lunch.
Simply spread a whole-wheat tortilla with guacamole, add beans, tomatoes, steamed broccoli, chopped romaine lettuce and a dab of Greek yogurt. Roll and cut. Add a serving of melon on the side for an extra dose of lutein.
Soup in a Thermos? Yes please.
Soup is a great way to get lots of lutein-rich vegetables into your kid’s diet. To save time, make soup in the slow cooker and freeze large batches for other meals.
Pick your favorite stock, add in chickpeas, beans or lentils, and mix in tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, broccoli and corn for a satisfying and filling meal on a brisk fall day.
Throw an orange in the bag for extra lutein and a healthy dose of vitamin C!
Instead of macaroni and cheese, make a garden vegetable pasta for dinner and serve leftovers for lunch. Sauté garlic and onions with zucchini and squash; add in tomatoes, spinach and a bit of olive oil, add to cooked whole-wheat bow-tie pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Squeeze some lemon on top for a dash of extra lutein.