With Oregon schools returning to remote learning this fall, parents find themselves scrambling to find food that their kids are excited to eat. They have been providing home-cooked lunches for months now, and kids are bored. You can overcome the boring lunch challenge, but it will take some creativity. In some cases, parents are returning to work but still want to provide healthy easy to fix lunches for their kids. Here are a few ideas for how to keep lunch simple and fun.
Homemade Hot Pockets
While making the hot pockets ahead of time is time-consuming, you can create a healthy lunch that your children can heat and eat with little help. Consider making these ahead of time and freezing them for a quick and simple lunch anytime. You can even choose fillings not commercially available. Try this recipe for a freezable lunch that you control the ingredients.
Lunch Bento Boxes
Children often enjoy Lunchables, but parents want them to eat healthily. Rather than giving them sugary, salty bento boxes, think about making your own. You can offer things that they like, but you are comfortable feeding them. Try celery and peanut butter, homemade roasted chicken, and cheese for a quick meal. If you want a lower fat meal, consider substituting fruit instead of the cheese. Carrots and ranch, sunflower seeds, and other small foods can be substituted as well.
Last Night’s Dinner
Make leftover bowls for your kids if dinner was a hit. You spend time planning and cooking healthy dinner meals, so you can certainly cook a little extra for tomorrow’s lunch. Pick up some glass bowls for lunches, and you can even freeze a few to add to the hot pockets above for a selection of quick reheatable lunches that you control the nutritional value.
When you get up in the morning, throw soup ingredients into the slow cooker. By lunchtime, you will have a wonderful warm lunch when the weather is less agreeable. You can always let your child help you prep the soup for the crock-pot as well.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Apples
A fresh take on an old standby is to replace the bread with apple slices. Not only does it add fresh fruit to the lunch, but you can also use sugar-free jelly, or forego the jelly for just a peanut butter and apple sandwich. Sprinkle a little cinnamon for an added layer of flavor. Pair with whole wheat crackers for a healthy lunch with a little crunch.
Lunchmeat, cream cheese, and pickles rolled and secured with a toothpick can be a tasty lunch. If your child always pulls the insides out of sandwiches, consider skipping the bread as you did above, but this time, just roll the ingredients together. Carrot Sticks or Vegetable chips can make this meal complete!
Build Your Own Nachos
Buy low salt tortilla chips or make your own from whole wheat tortillas, season the ground meat, and chop vegetables to create a nacho bar. You can even make it the night before and let your child reheat it the next day if he or she will be home alone.
Fruit Kabobs and Roast Beef Roll-Ups
Layer roast beef, cheese, and condiments in a whole grain tortilla and roll it up. On the side, you can offer fruit kabobs with strawberries, blueberries, and pineapples for a sweet and tart treat. If you would like, you can also make this dip for the fruit.
You might want to just let your children make egg salad sandwiches with raw veggies on the side. Sandwiches may be kind of boring, but egg salad is a less common choice for kids. Many kids love it, but they are generally served things like peanut butter and jelly. Give them a simple twist.
Another take on the bento box is a protein box. Serve your children a protein-rich lunch with boiled eggs, cheese, veggies, and hummus. If your child is studying hard, the finger foods that are not too messy might be easy to eat at the computer. Encourage your kids to get their exercise, though. It is good for brain development too.
Breakfast for Lunch
We often hear about breakfast for dinner, but how many of us have breakfast for lunch? Egg cups, waffles, pancakes, and other breakfast foods can be premade and reheated for simple lunches that do not require children to do much prep.
Build Your Own Pizza
Like the nachos, prepare ingredients for building a pizza. Use tortillas or crackers for the base if you do not want to premake the dough. Children can customize their pizza so that if they do not want pepperoni or mushrooms, they can leave them off. Everyone can be happy.
Children like variety in their lunches. You can allow them to help you prepare their lunch so that they take more stock in what they are eating. Provide them with healthy choices and help them understand which foods offer the most nutritious meals. Do not forbid foods or call them unhealthy to prevent poor food relationships. Help your child see that some foods offer more or fewer nutrients than others. Always encourage them to make the healthiest choices possible, but take time for treats now and then. Do you have a favorite quick, healthy lunch?