We are all back to school and the morning madness is in full swing! Early mornings, rushing around, trying to get the kids to sit for breakfast, pack their book bags and the dreaded packing of the lunches! Are you frustrated by trying to come up with healthy ideas of what to put in our kids lunch boxes? I hear ya!
Ok, Here are some tips and lunch ideas just for you!
Have a plan of what you are going to put in their lunches (see below for ideas).
The way to make sure your kiddos get a balanced meal is to plan ahead. Take a look at some of the ideas I have pictured below and think about what your kids would like. And feel free to make modifications; if your kids don’t like peppers, but they do like carrots, then make that substitute.
Always make a grocery list to make sure you have the food you need in your fridge and pantry.
The worst is when you don’t have what you need and all the unhealthy, convenience food gets tossed in the lunch box. So when you think about what your kids would like using these tips, make a list. Pick up the stuff you need at the grocery store so you have it on hand for the week.
Try to make sure their lunch has 1 fruit and 1 vegetable.
I think this is key. Working at an elementary school, I see so much processed food in kids’ lunches. They need to have a well-rounded meal to put in their best each day. I try to put a fruit AND a vegetable in their lunch each day. You’ll see in m pictures, that doesn’t happen every day.
I am lucky to have kids that like a couple raw veggies like red peppers…and intermittently like carrots and cucumbers. But I also see these coming home unfinished sometimes. If you have a picky eater, find what fruits and veggies your child will eat and always have those on hand. Also try playing a game where you let them come to the store and pick out a new vegetable or fruit that they are willing to try. If they are involved in the process they are more likely to enjoy it.
So keep it simple, 2-4 baby carrots depending on age. They don’t need a bucket of them…and let’s be honest, they are going to eat them last and may not eat them at all. I try to have conversations with my kids regularly about how important it is to get those healthy foods in first (before the treat as you’ll see below) so that they are strong and have energy to do awesome at sports.
Fruit is a bit easier. Kids typically enjoy fruit so this is easier to please with. Apple slices or an organic, natural apple sauce pouch and grapes are my favorites because they travel well. Try to stay away from processed fruit cups – they have added chemicals, sugars and syrups. Fresh is better.
Make sure you always pack a source of protein.
It is SO important for you to think about getting your child a source of protein in their lunch. This is what keeps them feeling full longer and help them maintain their endurance mentally and physically. Common protein sources I put in my kids’ lunches are plain greek yogurt topped with a drizzle of honey and sprinkle of cinnamon, high quality deli meat rolls, cheese and yogurt drinks. You can also pack left over chicken or any other meat if your child will eat them not heated up (mine used to not, but now they do! So keep trying, picky eaters change). Another great protein option is beef jerky. When I find a good one on sale, I get some for lunches! When I am in a bind, a peanut butter and honey sandwich gives some healthy fat and a little protein with a yogurt drink.
Healthy carbs are a must.
Kids need carbs. Thats what their brain functions on, and it gives them energy, but they need the right type of carbs. I like to pack sandwiches on whole wheat bread or a bagel. Another favorite that I put in are Fig Newtons since they are a healthy carb, too. Shelled edamame with a little salt is something i have found that both my kids like so you will see that many times! Such a healthy carb. Sometimes I’ll even pack mashed sweet potatoes with a little maple syrup and cinnamon. A Nature’s Valley granola bar is another good on the go carb to add. I sometimes crush one up and put in a tupperware to top their yogurt.
Always make them feel like they’re getting a treat.
Kids want to have something to look forward to in their lunch. Let your child know that if he/she brings his lunch box home and the “treat” is gone and the healthy food is still there he won’t get a treat the next day. I am perfectly happy to toss a full octane piece of candy in their lunch each day…but if they aren’t eating their healthy food, then this is collateral. You have to be careful, though, because if you threaten taking this treat away if they don’t eat the other food, they might just throw away the evidence! Another treat idea is chocolate milk since they will still get protein with that too.
Over the age of 10, he gets water in his lunch…my 8 year old girl, milk or water. NO JUICE!
Only 15% of kids are getting enough water throughout their day, dehydration can lead to fatigue, dizziness, poor concentration and reduced cognitive abilities, affecting our kids’ ability to learn. Water is all they need. Milk is a great option for extra protein. But the sugar in juices is so unnecessary. They are getting a great amount of healthy sugar from their fruit. So skip the juice boxes and soda and make sure your child is getting plenty of water.
Lastly…and most importantly, GET THEM INVOLVED! The more they are engaged in the decisions and understand the purpose of healthy eating, the better chance you will have of them actually eating what you pack!
Packed Lunch Ideas!
Its all about feeding our kids with the foods that will fuel their little bodies, food that will help them grow, learn and function at optimum levels. Yes, it takes a little more prep work on our part, but they’re worth it. Here are some lunches I have made recently.
Example 1: Deli meat roll-ups, raw veggies, edamame, fig newtons, a few peanuts, and a yogurt drink. This turned out to be too much food for my 7 and 10 year old (even I over do it!!).
Example 2: Oikos Triple Zero Vanilla Greek yogurt, granola, grams, cucumbers, pretzels.
Example 3: Deli meat roll ups, cucumbers, grams, pretzels, yogurt drink.
Example 4: Peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat, cucumbers, apples, pretzels, and a treat!
Example 5: Deli meat roll ups, cantaloupe, edamame, cheese stick, treat.
Example 6: Bagel with peanut butter and honey, cucumbers, cantaloupe, cheese stick and treat.
Example 7: Deli meat roll ups, salami, Babybel cheese, grapes and Fig newtons.
Example 8: Bagel with PB and honey, grapes, leftover dinner veggies, yogurt drink.
Example 9: Deli meat roll ups, salami, carrots, grapes or apple sauce, Fig Newtons and cheese (this turned out to be too much food so I would skip the Fig Newtons next time).
Example 10: Deli meat roll ups, carrots, Babybel cheese, Fig Newtons, and grapes…again, a little too much food for lunch, maybe a few less grapes and one Fig Newton. The granola bars were for snack.
If your kids are not traditional sandwich lovers, here are some extra ideas for you!
- 1 8-inch whole-wheat flour tortilla
- 2 slices deli turkey breast (about 1 ounce)
- 1 slice of cheese
- Ranch dressing (recipe above) or Hummus
Spread about 2 teaspoons of ranch dressing or hummus on wrap. Top with turkey and cheese. Roll the tortilla up and slice into pinwheels. Place in container facing up for a fun view!
Strawberry & Cream Cheese Sandwich: Sliced strawberries and cream cheese come together in a sandwich that’s healthy but tastes like a treat.
- 1 tablespoon cream cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon honey
- 2 slices thin whole-wheat sandwich bread or a round sandwich thin
- 2-3 medium strawberries, sliced
Combine cream cheese and honey in a bowl. Spread cheese mixture on bread slices. Place sliced strawberries on one side and combine two slices.
Crunchy Deli Roll Ups: Love roll ups and this adds a nice salty crunch in one punch.
- 2 slices deli turkey breast (about 1 ounce)
- 2 teaspoons honey mustard or hummus
- Pepper to taste
- 2 sesame breadsticks
Spread each slice of turkey with 1 teaspoon mustard/hummus and season with pepper. Wrap each prepared turkey slice around 1 breadstick.
PB Banana Roll Up: My son loves these! It is a great main dish in his
lunches. My daughter, on the other hand, does not like bananas. For a snack I will make her this with sliced apples but it doesn’t go well in her lunch because the slices fall out.
- 1 8-inch whole-wheat flour tortilla
- 2 tablespoons prepared pizza sauce
- 3 tablespoons shredded part-skim mozzarella
Place tortilla on a warm griddle and spread pizza sauce over half of it. Top half with an even layer shredded cheese and pepperoni if your kids like it. Heat until the cheese is just melted and fold tortilla over. Let cool for several minutes before slicing into triangles.
Most of the lunch ideas I posted above contain allergens so I wanted to provide some other resources if you need them. Here are links to school lunch ideas that are vegan or have allergen free options. These are also great options for your work lunches, too!
Ideas allergen-free for multiple allergies
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