Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

August 22, 2018
 

By Addison Ford

Healthy, nutritious lunches are great for kids…that is if it ends up in your child's stomach and not in the trashcan. School lunches are often a struggle to put together and to get kids to eat.
To ensure your child's nutritious meal doesn't go to waste, you can encourage interest and appetites with a few of simple strategies.

Planning a week of lunches with your kids on the weekend. Get some ideas that everyone can agree on, pulling from the various food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, protein). If kids have a vested interest in their lunch, they will be more likely to eat it. Let them watch you pack your lunch to set a good example.

Plan lunch menus around special events and holidays. For example, pack an all-red lunch in honor of Valentine's Day or include special treat for a birthday.

Try new foods. Bring your children to the grocery store or farmers market to pick out some new fruits and vegetables. This will encourage an interest in trying new foods and may be helpful for picky eaters. Some grocery stores and most farmers markets also let you try before you buy if you ask for a sample.

Switch your 'wich. Try making sandwiches with whole-grain pitas, English muffins or tortillas for a fun variation on a traditional sandwich. Sandwiches and the like are also easy vehicles for vegetables like a handful of shredded carrots, sliced peppers or some lettuce or baby spinach.

Invest in a lunch container. An insulated lunch bag or food container will enable your child to take a wider variety of foods for lunch. Remember to use an ice pack with their lunch to keep cold foods cold, reducing the risk of food poisoning.

To avoid getting up extra early or making decisions in the morning, have them help build their lunch the night before. Thinking of some good lunch ideas before you go grocery shopping is an easy way to make this a less painful process.

If your child's school has a school lunch program, look over the menu and see if there is something appealing for lunch. Many things have changed since school lunch as we knew it, tater tots and mystery meat. More and more schools are including salad bars and farm to school items in their programs providing some low cost, nutritious options for days when you are all too busy or forget to pack a lunch.

Some Healthy School Lunch Ideas:

  • Yogurt with fruit. Plain yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit. Frozen fruit has the added benefit of keeping the yogurt cold without a cool pack! Add a touch of honey or maple syrup for sweetness if needed.
  • Veggies and dip. Hummus with carrots and cucumber, nut or seed butter with celery and carrots…don't knock carrots and nut butter until you try it.
  • Fresh fruit. Trying to follow the seasons makes for especially delicious fruit- stone fruit, melon and berries only have about a month left!
  • Sandwich, wrap, or lettuce rolls. Fill with things like: cheese, chicken, turkey, hummus, sliced bell peppers, shredded carrot, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, sprouts, etc. Make sure not to layer the veggies right next to the bread as it can become soggy. Packing them separately and adding right before eating will also eliminate this problem.
  • Pasta salad. This is an easy one to add veggies and proteins too, see above for some ideas.
  • Soup. Soup is one of the easiest ways to use what you have in your cupboards and fridge. Sad wilted spinach or greens? Roasted chicken from a previous dinner? Canned tomatoes and beans? You are almost done making a soup! Make sure you use a well-insulated container- coffee mugs can work great if they have a good seal. If the soup typically has some sort of pasta in it, cook it separately and add to the soup as needed right before eating. If the pasta sits in the heated soup, it will become overcooked and mushy and no one wants that.

The author is a clinical dietitian with NorthBay Healthcare.

Tags: Nourish

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