It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again for kids to go back to school! Before we know it, the holiday season will be upon us. Of course, it’s much too soon to think about that right now. So instead, let’s discuss some healthy lunch ideas for your kids to take to lunch this school year!
There’s many ways to make your kids’ lunches enjoyable yet healthy. It doesn’t have to be a complicated or expensive process either! A few simple swaps can make a big difference, and I think you’ll be surprised to find your kids actually requesting these lunches from now on. 🙂 I also think it’s important to note that despite being ‘kid friendly’ meal ideas, these are great options for YOU as well! Balance and variety is important for providing your body with different nutrients, so it doesn’t become deficient in certain areas and allows your body to function optimally. Plus, it can be boring eating the same things over and over again. Kids typically have about 20-30 minutes to eat lunch at school, and generally speaking, finger foods are always a hit for kids. Sticking to simplicity when thinking of creative healthy lunch ideas is key!
Some suggestions I also encourage are buying your child an insulated lunchbox with a freezer pack, which will allow you to pack more fresh fruits and vegetables, and foods that need to be kept cold such as yogurts and cheeses. I also suggest eliciting the help of your child when packing his or her lunches. This will help engrain how to make healthier choices for your child and something you can engage in together!
There’s nothing wrong with the classic lunch sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a carton of milk or juice, but that can become boring quickly. Try a new spin on your child’s favorite sandwich by turning it into a wrap roll up! Does your child like turkey and cheese? Then instead of a sandwich, use a 100% whole grain lavash flat bread or a whole grain tortilla wrap (tip: you want the first listed ingredient to be ‘whole wheat, oat, bran, whole wheat flour, etc., remember the shorter the ingredient list, the better!) and add some lean turkey, cheese, spinach, and shredded carrots for an added crunch, and depending on your child’s taste preferences, mustard or mayo for a tasty lunch wrap! Roll it up and slice into three sections and you’re good to go! Pair this wrap with a carton of milk or 100% fruit juice and a side of cut carrots (or your child’s favorite veggie) and a piece of fruit like a sliced apple, and now you have a yummy balanced meal for your child!
Does your child like peanut butter and jelly? No problem! Get creative and add sliced banana or apple to the sandwich made with 100% whole grain wheat bread, 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter, and a dap of jelly! Get even more creative for your young ones and make the sandwiches to resemble those frozen uncrustable sandwiches that are widely popular among children by using a cookie cutter or bottom of a large cup to shape your bread. This will work for grilled cheeses as well. Making them at home will eliminate the added preservatives, artificial flavors, and fillers that are sometimes found in pre-packaged foods.
Leftovers from dinner the night before? Instead of chicken nuggets, pack your child grilled chicken strips added to a 100% whole wheat wrap, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, and perhaps a couple slices of avocado for a make-shift chicken burrito!
Does your child like lunchables? Make your own! You can easily buy divided food containers that resemble the lunchable box. For example, to replicate the ham and cheese lunchable, you can create one by adding a bunch of grapes, nitrate free lunch meat slices, carrot sticks, cheddar cheese, and whole-wheat crackers.
How about the make-your-own pizza lunchable? You can even make this for your child at home by using whole-wheat mini pitas, shredded mozzarella cheese, pizza sauce, and pepperonis. English muffins or mini whole-wheat bagels make an excellent choice for replicating mini pizzas as well. Add celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, or carrots as a side, or a piece of fruit.
Finally, some other great ideas include adding diced apple, raisins, or sliced grapes to tuna or chicken salad that will not only enhance the flavor but the nutrient content as well! Make-your-own yogurt parfaits can be another great idea by packing your child Greek yogurt, low sugar granola, and fresh berries that he or she can enjoy by mixing them together! Expose your kids to the different kinds of fruits that they can enjoy. Rather than the typical banana or apple, have them try plums, peaches, kiwis, clementines etc.! Variety will help your child expand his or her taste preferences and learn about how there’s so many delicious fruits and vegetables to try! Finally, sneaking in a few chocolate Hershey kisses is totally acceptable. 🙂 Remember moderation and balance is key to sustaining a healthy lifestyle!