Along with textbooks and teachers, packing “brain food” in school lunches can be key to academic success for Calgary kids, according to a local registered dietician.

Andrea Holwegner, president of Health Stand Nutrition in Calgary, said that while packing lunch for young kids can be a challenge, she has some solutions.

“Generally what I suggest to parents for healthy lunch packing is first off, make sure that you’re getting three components to a balanced meal,” said Holwegner.

The first of those three components is a starch or a grain, which Holwegner said provides energy to the brain.

“Without that in the meal, kids are going to fall asleep at school,” she said, adding foods like bread, crackers, rice and potatoes will do the trick.

The second component of a brain-food-infused lunch is packing a fruit and/or vegetable, which will give students the vitamins they need to prevent illness, according to Holwegner.

Lastly, a school lunch should include a protein like cheese, yogurt, beans or meat, she said.

“Protein is really important to stabilize blood sugars, especially in little bodies.”

Holwegner said one food that incorporates all these categories is a pasta salad, which she suggests tailoring to each individual child.

“It’s a good make-ahead. You can make up a big container at the start of your week,” she said, adding that allowing children to pick their own salad dressing makes the meal more fun.

Whatever is in the brown bag, Holwegner suggests venturing away every once in awhile from the sandwich.

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