Brighten school lunches with these healthy ideas!
Whether you’re new to packing lunches or just are stuck in a lunch menu rut, here are some ideas to make lunchtime more delicious and nutritious for your child. The goal of providing lunches that are healthy every day may seem daunting at first, but just a few small changes can make a really BIG difference. When children eat a balanced diet, they feel better and are able to better focus on their studies, and maintain energy levels for the full length of the school day. Feeding them wholesome and nutritious food is one of the best ways you can help to prepare them for success at school.
Before doing anything drastic, keep in mind that there is no need to break the bank and spend hundreds of dollars at the health-food store, and you don’t have to start milking your own grass-fed cows or baking your own bread, either.
The first goal might be to pack a lunch 1-2 days per week. The second goal might be to change the fruit packed it from packed with syrup to packed in natural juice.
As with any healthy lifestyle, focus on making small, positive steps. Kids tend to prefer more simple foods. First, take stock of what you currently pack in your child’s lunch box. Is there a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables and fruits? Read food labels. Are there any pre-packaged items that you could trade out for more simple, wholesome ones? Anything containing added sugar? Common culprits of added sugar that masquerade as “healthy” food are cereals, granola, granola bars, fruit bars, protein bars (any kind of bar, really!), pre-packaged yogurt cups and smoothies, and trail mix with added chocolate pieces.
• Prepare foods in advance, and pack lunches the night before. For example, on the weekend, you can plan meals and divide portions into separate containers. Then, the night before, prepare anything that needs to be cooked or assembled. Try not to send juice boxes to school — water is the best thirst-quencher!
• Leftovers make great lunches. Soup, burritos, potatoes, rice and beans, and whole grain pasta all are good, nourishing options and easy to warm up and pack into a thermos.
• When it comes to bread, pita and crackers, choose brands with the least amount of ingredients.
• Instead of pre-packaged yogurt cups with added sweetener, purchase a larger tub of whole-milk plain yogurt and divide into smaller containers for the week. Add a handful of chopped fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries or peaches. You can even add a little bit of honey for a little more sweetness. A delicious and more healthy snack. Also, keep in mind that greek yogurt has more protein and fewer carbohydrates than regular yogurt.
• Many schools are peanut-free due to students with life-threatening allergies, so check your child’s school policies. Popular peanut substitutes include almond butter, sunflower-seed butter and cashew butter.
• What veggies will your child eat? I have noticed that kids tend to prefer carrots, avocado, green peas, broccoli, cauliflower, and beans!
15 Easy Lunch Menu Ideas Your Child will LOVE!
- Lentil soup with rice crackers
- Whole-milk yogurt with strawberries and cashews
- Sunflower seed butter & sliced banana on whole-grain bread
- Tortilla chips & avocado salsa
- Hummus, with carrots and olives
- Caprese skewers (tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, olive oil, basil, salt & pepper)
- Hard-boiled egg and popcorn
- Simple chicken noodle soup: rice & quinoa pasta, with cooked carrots and peas in chicken broth
- Avocado & goat cheese toast: 1/2 ripe avocado + 2 Tbsp. goat cheese, spread on gluten-free toast
- Sliced apples & almond butter
- Whole-grain crackers with cucumber slices & cream cheese
- Black beans with roasted garlic & brown rice and raspberries
- Quinoa salad with chickpeas
- Tzatziki (yogurt & cucumber salad) with gluten-free pita chips
- Turkey, lettuce and mayo wraps
What’s in your child’s lunch box?
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