This year, make lunch not only part of the back to school thrill, but something your kids can look forward to each day! Instead of dreading yet another PBJ. Let them pick out a reusable, insulated lunch container (they make some that match their backpacks!) and let them help plan lunches at the start of each week. Their involvement will ensure everything gets eaten, because they helped choose it, and will heighten their interest in nutrition, as you teach the difference between healthy foods and junk foods.
Don’t let yourself or them fall into the sandwich rotation rut. All of these ideas work just as well for your child’s lunch box as they do yours.
Taco Kit: Send them with a build-your-own-taco kit complete with shredded low-fat cheese, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, seasoned turkey meat or shredded grilled chicken, and soft whole grain tortillas. Include salsa or a scoop of homemade guacamole on the side.
Little Dippers: Pack protein-rich hummus with a variety of whole grain pita chips, red bell pepper slices, sliced cucumbers and carrot and celery sticks. It’s all the protein and veggies they need for a deliciously different lunch.
Breakfast: This morning meal can be a treat when it’s served off schedule. Scrambled eggs with a couple slices of turkey bacon and fresh fruit will keep well in an insulated tote. A piece of whole grain french toast will make a sweet treat, too. And whole grain blueberry pancakes with honey for dipping will be a hit.
Soup and Salad: Fill a thermos with their favorite soup, low-sodium canned or a fresh homemade recipe. In a separate sealed container pack a salad made of crunchy romaine, nutritious fresh spinach, and any of their favorite vegetables, with a low-fat dressing on the side. Toss in a crunchy breadstick, too! Try this hot soup: Alphabet Soup, or this cold soup: Gazpacho.
Mini Pizza: Let your kids build their own! Use one half of a whole grain hamburger bun, and top with marinara, low-fat mozzarella, turkey sausage or pepperoni, and mushrooms. After a few minutes in the oven, wrap in foil and place in an insulated tote.
Homemade Fast Food: At the start of the week, make a big batch of homemade chicken strips (coated in panko and baked for a leaner crunch) and baked sweet potato chips. With a side of honey mustard, they’ll think it’s a treat typically saved for a road trip.
Pasta: This always packs well and provides a hearty meal they’ll love. Spaghetti and turkey meatballs, macaroni and cheese, or last night’s lasagna all go over well. Plus these are great places to hide vegetables if they aren’t BFFs with greens quite yet. Puree cauliflower in the mac, shred zucchini and squash in the lasagna, and add fresh diced tomatoes and mushrooms to the spaghetti.
Wraps: At its core, it’s a sandwich, but the presentation makes all the difference. Wrap in a whole grain tortilla (or spinach tortilla for a punch of healthy color) turkey, lettuce, tomatoes and even avocado. Then cut in half diagonally, or slice horizontally for finger-food pinwheels. A pickle, cottage cheese and apple slices on the side will complete this fresh but familiar meal.