Every year as children go back to school, parents ponder what they should pack in their kids’ lunchboxes. Some kids are creatures of habit and want the same lunch each day or regularly. Other kids, however, want a variety of lunches. Here are a few tips if you are having trouble choosing your kids’ lunches.
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a classic kids’ lunch. However, not all schools allow peanuts. Before you send a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, make sure that you check to see if there are any severe peanut allergies in the classroom. Consider homemade jelly, whole wheat bread, and natural peanut butter for the sandwich to keep this healthy. For sides, pair it with carrot sticks, celery sticks, sugar snap peas, or slices of fresh fruit.
Think of this as more of a charcuterie for your cutie. Lunchables are incredibly convenient, but they are not always healthy. By choosing your child’s items, you can control the ingredients. Deli meat, cheese, crackers, fresh fruit, and a crunchy veggie are often favorites. For instance, you might use turkey, Colby jack cheese slices (cut them into 1-inch squares), whole grain crackers, grapes, and broccoli (yes, some kids eat broccoli).
Last Night’s Leftovers
Some schools will allow children to heat food in the cafeteria. However, not all schools do, so check with your child’s school before sending something to be reheated. Send a divided dish with last night’s diner if your child was a big fan!
Consider sending a variety of dippable foods and some delicious dips. Hummus with cucumber, pita slices, carrots, and bell pepper are often a child’s favorite combination. For dessert, you might pair a yogurt-based dip with grapes, apple slices, or melon. Get creative and send flavored hummus. It’s not that difficult to make homemade. You might even have your child come up with their favorite flavor combination.
Sometimes preparing homemade foods is time-consuming. However, that doesn’t have to mean that you can’t serve healthy options. Some convenience options for entrees include Uncrustables Rollups, Hormel Flatbread wraps, or deli wraps (each store has its own brands). For sides, you can purchase single-serve packs of carrots, apple slices, celery sticks, cheese sticks, peanut butter/ nut butter dips, apple sauces, yogurt pouches, and pudding cups. Be sure to balance the choices your child can make.
Not all children love meat. Sending deli meats or even last night’s chicken might not be appealing to all children. Be sure that you include alternatives. Boiled eggs, cheese/ cheese sticks, nut butter, and beans can be meat substitutes.
Thermoses and insulated containers keep foods hot longer than ever. Send some warm soup on a cold day. Your child will thank you for it. Don’t forget the crackers. If the mess is a concern, you might choose goldfish or oyster crackers for tiny fingers rather than large saltines.
Yes, kebabs are often grilled deliciousness, but you can turn anything you like into a kebab. Let your child choose the items on their kebab. Be sure that they will not ruin the rest of the kebab, but tomato, mozzarella, deli meat or grilled chicken cubes, lettuce, and other veggies can be fun and delicious. Try to see how many rainbow colors you can squeeze into the kebab for an extra healthy snack. You can also make one for the entrée and another for the sides. A fruit kebab and a veggie/ meat kebab can also help your child develop fine motor skills.
One fun lunch item can be cheese quesadillas cut into triangles and paired with some salsa. Some bell peppers or whole-grain tortilla chips complete this meal nicely. To create a theme, you could make a dessert quesadilla with a tortilla, cream cheese, and fresh fruit.
Breakfast for Lunch
Pancakes, fresh fruit, and boiled egg and bacon slices are big hits for breakfast-inspired lunches. Pair them with healthy dips and sauces (maple syrup is fine in moderation) for more flavor profiles. Nut butter is also delicious with fruit and pancakes.
Pizza Inspired Roll-Ups
One of the bestselling Lunchables varieties is pizza. However, the ingredients can be challenging to open and aren’t always the healthiest choices. You can still follow their inspiration. Spread sauce on a tortilla and roll some cheese and pepperoni inside. You can even skip the sauce if cold sauce doesn’t appeal to your kiddo. Make roll-ups of the sides too. Roll veggies in lettuce for a healthy choice.
Don’t Forget Healthy Drinks
Water, juice, and milk can be healthy for children, but we haven’t talked about these. Milk can spoil throughout the day if it isn’t kept cool. Juice can also be high in sugar and corn syrup. Rather than sending extra sugar, you might make some fruit-infused water—everything in moderation. Milk and juice can undoubtedly be a part of a healthy diet, so you should have a variety of choices, but be sure to send what your child will drink. Fruit-infused water is useless if your child won’t drink it.
What About Sweet
Just as juices have a place in a healthy diet, sweets can too. We do not recommend sending them chocolate cake every day, but a sweet treat now and then is okay. Some schools do not allow sweet treats in lunches, so you need to know the rules before sending something like this. Generally, a fun-sized candy bar or snack is okay, but an entire cupcake or piece of cake is not.
Whatever you decide to send for your child’s lunch, be sure that it is part of a healthy, balanced diet. A protein, vegetable, fruit or whole grain, dairy, and dessert can all be included in a healthy diet. Be sure to include minimally processed foods when possible.