Every end of summer, I begin to feel that anxious pit in my stomach that I have to come up with healthy lunch ideas the kids will actually eat. I have several cookbooks and websites dedicated to this endeavor but I inevitably fall into a slump by spring. Never fear though! I have some ideas to share that hopefully will get you at least a few months into the school year.
Things to consider:
- Prepackaged foods are generally higher in fat, sodium, sugar, preservatives, food dyes and mystery ingredients than anything you could make at home
- Your kids need a healthy breakfast and lunch to keep them going throughout the school day = limit processed foods, sugars, and sodium
- Your kids likely won't eat something they've never tried before so consider experimenting at dinner and snack times to see if they'll actually eat it at lunch
- Keep the dialogue open with your kids by asking them what they'd like to bring to lunch, then see if you can work with them to make it healthier if needed
- Get organized! Purchase fun lunch box organizers like Lunch Skins, Bento Boxes, and Pack It Lunch Bags
- Make a plan. Look at your week and see what days would be most suited for a certain type of lunch. Maybe sandwiches on Mondays, salads on Tuesdays, veggies and crackers with dips on Wednesdays, wraps on Thursdays, and burritos on Fridays.
Just a few lunch ideas:
- Salads can be fun, especially if you put them in a mason jar. Layer ingredients and seal with the lid. All they have to do is shake! See this LINK for a quick how-to.
- Sandwiches are usually pretty safe bets but over a week's time, that can be alot of bread, cheese (if you use it) and meats (if you use them). Either cook and slice your own meats or buy preservative-free deli meats. Try to limit sandwiches to a couple per week, even if only to encourage a more diverse palette. If you limit/avoid bread, just roll the deli meat or use a lettuce leaf as a wrap. Try different nut butters with honey or fruit-only jams.
- Cut up veggies with dip (hummus, black bean, msg-free Ranch, etc) are usually well tolerated and add a serving or two of veggies to your child's diet.
- Cut up or whole fruits (with yogurt dip, nut butter or honey, if desired) work well but keep the skins on. Most of the fiber is found in the skin.
- Wraps are usually a hit with most kids. Consider using lettuce or even collard greens if you can get your kids to eat them instead of flour tortillas which are usually full of preservatives. Fill them with all sorts of things from preservative-free deli meats and cheeses, to black beans/corn/salsa or cucumber/sprouts/carrots/olives/hummus. Get creative!
- Don't forget the leftovers!
- Frozen Tamales - Whole Foods sells several types of tamales my kids love, like the vegan black bean, sweet potato-pecan and shredded chicken with lime. Be sure to check the ingredients because often conventional brands use lard, tons of salt and preservatives.
- Frozen Burritos - when I'm in a pinch, I go to Amy's frozen burritos or Evolv or even Whole Foods 360 brand. Again, check ingredients. Skip any with artificial ingredients, lots of sodium or preservatives.
- Frozen veggies - you can usually find small, individual packets of edamame that most kids love. Try frozen lima beans (packed with protein and fiber) or green peas with a pat of butter and a dash of salt
- Fried rice made the night before with leftover rice and frozen mixed veggies, a scrambled egg and a dash of tamari/soy sauce
- Black beans and brown rice topped with avocado (soak in lime), salsa, and cilantro served with organic corn tortilla chips
Check out websites for inspiration! I could list a dozen here, but all of you know how to use the Internet and search for your own new favorites. Adapt recipes as needed and be sure to make note of the ones your kids end up liking.
There are so many ideas and I am sure many of you have some of your own. PLEASE SHARE if you do! Just comment on the blog so all can see! Good luck and here's to a healthy new school year!