If you pack your kids' school lunch, it's easy to slip into a rut or routine that is more convenient than healthy.
So before you buckle under to kid pressure and grab a high-sodium School Lunchable, consider these five easy steps to a healthy school lunch that youngsters will love.
These tips come from writer Judy Gray. Here's a quick summary of her ideas:
1.) Rainbow of Colors: Colorful and bite-size fresh fruit and veggies are not only fun to eat they are healthy – rich in anti-oxidants, nutrients and vitamins. Cut grapes, strawberries, kiwi and other fun fruit. Baby carrots and cucumbers are fun to dip in salad dressing.2.) Opt for whole grain: Pack whole grain mini-bagels, pita pockets and tortillas for a healthy alternative to doughy white bread. Crunchy rice cakes also are kid-friendly.
3.) Protein packs a punch: Instead of processed lunch meat, consider peanut, almond and even sunflower butter for sandwiches. Think of yogurt, too, which can be used for dipping veggies or fruit. Check labels and avoid high fructose corn syrup.
4.) Nut allergies? No problem: Try tuna fish, beans for tacos or on tortillas or cheese, which kids love. There are many lunchbox-friendly cheeses out there, from cheese strings to wedges.
5.) What to drink?: Milk is a healthy choice. There also is tasty almond milk, cocoanut milk or cocoanut water, or water. A cool thermos of water will keep other lunch box ingredients chilled!
Here are some quick lunchbox fillers from Judy Gray:
- Chicken cubes paired with grapes, almonds slices, and Craisins.
- Whole grain rice paired with raisins, nuts, and diced celery.
- Cooked couscous (or steamed brown rice, orzo, or whole wheat corkscrew pasta). Set aside. Chop zucchini, cucumbers, green, red or yellow red peppers, baby carrots, and celery, and toss. Marinate the vegetables in a light salad dressing, or olive oil with fresh herbs and lemon juice. Chill in the fridge for a few hours. Drain the veggies well after marinating, and then mix into grains or pasta. Place in a colorful, reusable container. It’s a portable meal that is filling, tasty and rich in nutrients.
- Julie Cato I need help with my daughters lunch. She doesn't eat any of the main components like a sandwich, lunch meat, PB on anything. The only thing I can think of is cold chicken nuggets. She loves the other things like fruits, veggies, yogurts, smoothies, but not the main component. Any one have any ideas?
- Pam Ferreira Smith Curly pasta salad, skewer-kabobs (turkey, cherry tomatoes, olives, cucumber, grapes,) spiral sandwiches on tortillas w/lots of veggies, hummus dippers (spears of zucchini, jicama, crackers, carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes,) quinoa mac-and-cheese style w/cheddar&parmesan (cheese holds it together so it's not super messy!) herb cheese spread w/veggies&crackers, roasted fingerling potatoes, mixed salad w/diced dried fruit &/or jicama. Pinterest has some great ideas. (Ours don't look as pretty, not that we try!
- Roni Item My daughter does not eat the typical lunchbox food either. My solution is food packed in a thermos. Pasta, chili, soup, anything served hot.
- Tammy J. Kids are typically more interested in getting to the playground or hanging out with their friends than eating. Most don't eat a lot and you'd be surprised and horrified how much perfectly good food gets thrown away unopened, completely uneaten.
Be sure that EVERY item, including the drink, is nutritious because a lot of times children just choose one thing (usually their "treat" and/or their drink) and THROW OUT the "healthy stuff" so parents won't lecture them for not eating or threaten to stop sending treats. Yep, no chips, cookies, candy, not 100% fruit roll-ups, or not 100% juice. I strive for real food. My kids get their "sweets" in their sandwich - honey, 100% jam, etc. They always have at least two fruits to choose from (usually three) that I make easy to eat (berries, cut -up apples, easy to peel cuties and bananas). If you're looking for easy, Trader Joe's has a ton of healthy snack food that are perfect for lunches (the little crackers with cheese or PB already in them, dried fruits like raisins or apricots, rosemary raisin crackers, trail mix, seaweed (yep, kids love those like chips), string cheese, etc.). I bought a GOOD Thermos that fits in lunch boxes and give leftovers, oatmeal, pasta, even soup. And, as much as my 5yo loves to play and eats sooooo slowly, she has always finished enough good food that I don't worry about how much she's eaten. In fact, most of the time my girls have finished their lunches at late snack or after school on the way home!