It’s back to school time for kids, which means back to schedules for parents. Organizing backpacks, after school activities, school supply shopping and of course – making lunches. With so many allergies in today’s classroom, packing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or tuna wrap is a definite no go. It can have parents feeling out of ideas quickly. As a parent, you want to ensure you are sending your kids to school with healthy lunches, that are easy to prepare the night before or morning of, and perhaps most importantly – lunches your kids are going to actually eat.
Gone are the days of picking up a ‘ready-to-eat’ package lunch for your kids. They are loaded with sodium, sugar and simply aren’t enough nutrient dense calories to keep them full all day. If you are a working parent, I understand the struggle with time. You just don’t have enough time to cook, make and bake homemade everything. Who does really? But that doesn’t mean your kids nutrition should take the back burner. Here are five ideas on how to make delicious, healthy lunches your kids will be sure to enjoy.
- Leftovers – if they liked it at dinner, they’ll like it at lunch. My sister, the super-hero mom of three, ensures that every lunch and dinner meal has vegetables in it. Be it raw veggies and dip, steamed broccoli, honey carrots or roasted vegetables, her kids love them. Finding a vegetable or two that your kids enjoy is the key to this working. Don’t be scared to send them with the same thing every day – if they like it and it’s healthy, that is what counts. I think I ate the same lunch every single day in twelve years of grade school and never got bored. Taking them grocery shopping (which yes I know, can be a nightmare at times) may help them understand the variety of vegetables they can choose from. Making it a game by having them find and pick out veggies for the cart is a great way to make them feel part of the process. And when they feel like part of the process, they are more likely to eat what you are making.
- Wraps – there are lots of options with what to put inside these. I would suggest choosing a whole grain wrap that typically comes in smaller sizes for kids. Dice up some chicken, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red peppers – whatever they like. Add brown rice or rice noodles from last night’s dinner, and for condiments try mustard or hummus for a healthy dash of extra flavor. Superhealthykids.com has a great article on top ten healthy wrap ideas for kids.
- Pita Pockets – the mini-pita pockets are great for kids’ lunches. Use cream cheese as a base, and add fresh cucumber and tomato. This takes less than 60 seconds to prepare and are delicious.
- Pita, Hummus and Veggies – kids love to dip – have you seen them eat fries and ketchup? Here’s a healthy spin on it. Pack them a bento box with healthy options like hummus, pita and veggies.
- Pasta – assuming your kids classroom has a microwave, send them with whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce. Not only is this healthy, but it’s a cost effective meal that can feed your whole family.
When it comes to snacks, most schools now encourage you to pack healthy snacks – they don’t want to see kids coming with a chocolate bar and a bag of chips to help them get through the day. They too understand the value of nutrition and how it can affect learning and energy levels. Instead, try packing fruit, cheese and crackers or veggies and dip. I loved having something sweet as a kid in my lunch, so if your kids do too, try to provide them with homemade goodies over processed treats.
Lastly, when it comes to packing lunches, be mindful of what you are packing them in. Plastic sandwich bags and brown paper bags that are thrown out every day are terrible for our environment, and the cost adds up quickly. Instead, send lunches in re-usable containers like Tupperware, and pack it all in a re-usable, washable lunch kit.