Why Meal Preparation is Important for Teachers

Meghan, Teacher Vision's Marketing Associate, explains why meal preparation is crucial to success in the classroom by helping to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Teacher Meal Preparation Tips


Have you ever gone to bed confident that you’ll pack a healthy lunch in the morning before you leave for the day, only to realize the next day that you’re running late? This forces you to rush out the door without packing anything substantial. We’ve all been there. When it’s finally time to eat lunch and you’re looking for a pick me up to get you through the rest of the day, all you have is a thrown together mixture of unfulfilling snacks. It’s no wonder you’re exhausted by the end of the school day- you didn’t fuel your body correctly. Certified wellness and emotional eating coach Debra Bennett says, “It is common for busy people to compensate by snacking vs. eating healthy, balanced meals - often snacking on high carbohydrate and sugary foods and caffeine.” These types of food give you a short burst of energy and lead to a crash.

The Benefits of Meal Preparation

People meal prep for different reasons, some of which include promoting clean eating, portion control, or simply saving money. We know that as a teacher your time, money, and health all matter. As caregivers, your work is both physical and emotional. This means That it requires a little extra energy, which makes your health that much more of a priority. Additionally, teacher salaries make budgeting all the more important. When you spend a little bit of time planning ahead, you are more relaxed and focused on your role.

For additional resources on how to get ready for the week, check out: What To Do Sunday To Feel Ready To Teach Monday

It’s true, teachers do not have much time for themselves, so it is important to optimize your free time. Healthier eating starts with planning, and this planning prevents the urge for unhealthy temptations. You might only have limited time to yourself all day, and you don’t want to be spending that time stressing about what to eat. If you are unable to leave your classroom, or have other obligations during lunch (i.e., lunch duty or prepping for your next class), packing a healthy lunch you can eat quickly is important. Don’t leave fueling your body last on your to-do list. We talked to nutritionists and teachers to learn quick tips and tricks so that you never have to stress about lunch again.

Skipping Meals Leads To Over-Indulgence

Between dealing with student’s lunch/recess issues, grading papers, and making copies for the rest of the day, you’re lucky to get any time to yourself during a lunch period. Eating bites of lunch amongst the craziness can be challenging, but it is actually more important than ever to make sure you aren’t skipping meals even if you don’t realize you’re hungry.

Hailey Crean, MS, RD, CDE, CSOWM, explains, “The important thing to remember here is that not all meals have to be perfect and if you’re truly in a rush with few options, eating something is going to be better than skipping altogether. Taking the time to stop and eat can be hard when other things seem more pressing but it will almost always catch up to you in terms of productivity later.

While it is true that eating something is more important than not eating at all, the quality of the food you’re eating also matters. This is why packing snacks ahead of time to avoid falling into pitfalls that present themselves throughout the day is vital. Not getting enough sleep leads to sugar cravings. Tara Dusko, a TeacherVision Advisory board member, and 3rd-grade teacher knows exactly how difficult that can be. She shares that, ”eating healthy is a challenge because even if I pack a healthy lunch, there are always unhealthy snacks in the teacher's lounge. It's hard to resist grabbing a doughnut, cupcake, or piece of chocolate to get you through the afternoon.”

Although delicious, refined carbs and artificial sugar affect your energy and focus, so while they’re okay in moderation (it’s okay to indulge once and a while!) it is best to limit them when possible. In addition, sugar makes you crave more sugar, so the more you can limit it the lower the chances of future indulgence will be.

Nutritionist tip: If you are looking for a way to fuel your body and don’t have time to sit down and eat, look to snacks like apple slices, pears, banana with peanut butter (if your school allows it), hummus with bell pepper, cottage cheese, a handful of almonds, Perfect Bars, herbal tea.

How Important Is Lunch?

While it still stands that breakfast is a very important meal, the thought of eating at 6 am could be enough to make you nauseous. If that’s the case, lunch becomes incredibly important. There are different theories, but some experts say that lunch is more important if your goal is to reduce body weight and increase overall health. If you’re eating small meals throughout the day and then a huge meal at dinner, you are lacking the energy you need while awake, and your body does not have time to metabolize and burn off those calories before going to sleep.

Registered Dietician Diana Richards says, “Digestive fire is highest between 10 am to 2 pm, so you can more efficiently burn through that nutritional uptake. Have a larger protein source and more calories at lunch, then smaller afternoon snack and dinner. With the right combo of macronutrients, you'll restore your energy, even have more energy, for the afternoon.“

Nutritionist tip: Meal prep a healthy meal for dinner the night before and bring leftovers for lunch the next day. Portioning food out for the next day when cleaning dinner up makes it quick and easy to grab when you’re headed out the door in the morning.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Preparation is the name of the game. One tactic that many teachers rely on is getting all of their meal prepping done on the weekend. Sunday food prep is great because you likely have the extra time to go to the grocery store and cook. Additionally, buying in bulk saves you money in the long run. However, this is not always realistic. Being a mother of two, Tara encounters busy weekends with no time to meal prep on Saturday or Sunday. She says, ”During those weeks, I make a lot of slow cooker meals. I also make freezer meals over the summer and during school breaks. I pull those out when I don't have meals prepared, too. These posts have recipes for some of my favorite slow cooker meals and freezer meals.“

Weekend Meal Prep

If you are able to meal prep on the weekend, you may think that you’ll be eating the same meal for days on end. However, just because you are buying and cooking in bulk doesn’t mean that you have to eat the same tired meal every day. Buying versatile ingredients and adding different spices can make all of the difference in the world.

Don't Know Where To Start?

A good place to start is by keeping a list in the notes section of your phone or in a google doc, where you keep track of meals that you’ve made and have enjoyed eating the next day as well as meals that you’d like to try. If you’re lacking inspiration or do not have a list of go-to meals already, check out websites and apps for ideas. Downloading the Tasty app was one of the best things I ever did when it comes to elevating my meal prep diversity. In addition to apps like Tasty, there are websites/apps like Mealz, Delish, and Pinterest that will make you feel like a professional chef.

Pro tips: Use mason jars for salads so that the lettuce doesn’t get soggy. For protein-packed lunches that don’t need to be heated, make quinoa based summer salads. Or, if you want to feel fancy, throw together a mini cheese board for lunch. You can also make your own versions of Starbuck’s Protein Bistro Boxes.

Don't Have Time to Prepare at All?

If preparation is still an issue for you and you are able to leave during your lunch period, Debra Bennett made some suggestions for picking up food when you don’t have time:

  • Starbucks has egg white bites, prepared salads, and oatmeal that are all nutritious choices. Additionally, they often carry Siggi’s yogurt in their beverage case, a lower sugar yogurt option.

  • Dunkin’ Donuts has veggie and egg white wraps which are always good options.

  • Picking up a fresh boxed soup at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s (like tomato & roasted red bell pepper) and adding either fresh or frozen veggies like broccoli or zucchini makes for an easy lunch or dinner.

  • If you have a pizza habit, incorporate more salads when possible by modifying pizza portions and limiting it to one slice. Make sure the rest of your meal is a salad or another vegetable.

  • If you love sweets and are in a nut friendly classroom, glam up a PB & J with fiber-rich bread like Ezekiel. You can also use any nut butter of your choice and a tasty specialty jam

Teachers are constantly being looked up to by their students and therefore have the opportunity to set an example of healthy eating. Don’t let malnutrition stop you from being on your A game.

How do you stay healthy during the week? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Meghan Killian is TeacherVision’s Marketing Associate. She graduated from Providence College with a BA in English Literature. Before joining our team, Meghan was a marketing and admissions coordinator at a K-12 all girls’ Catholic school. An avid reader, Meghan loves Shakespeare, and she is a passionate supporter of providing teachers with new and innovative content for their classrooms.


loading gif