While parents may be looking forward to ushering their kids back into school routines, the thought of whipping up inspiring, nourishing, delicious lunches that will that let kids perform at their peak seems to strike fear into of nearly every parent I know.
Read on for tips and lunch ideas to help kids when they’re eating at school.
While it’s tempting to load up on single serving, pre-packaged snacks and foods to make loading up a lunchbox a breeze, remember that to help your kids stay focused, energized and satisfied, the best lunches have a combo of:
- 1. Whole grains and complex carbs
- 2. Lean Protein
- 3. Heart healthy fats
- 4. Fresh, minimally processed foods (lots of fruits and vegetables).
And yes, you can have fun with it! Think of back to school as a fun opportunity for you and your kids together to freshen up the lunchbox – here are 4 delicious ideas that we use in our home that are fast, easy on a budget, yet loaded with good nutrition and taste.
Tip 1: Build a Pasta Pleaser from Leftovers
In my book, leftovers are a busy parent’s best friend; they not only tend to be better for you than a processed lunch alternative, but they help you save money and time (it’s already cooked!).. pasta is the winning ingredient kids love:
Herbed Chicken Tortellini Salad:
- 1. Cheese tortellini, cooked (or your favorite whole wheat pasta or whole grain couscous)
- 2. Cubed chicken (leftover)
- 3. Chopped broccoli (leftover)
- 4. Sliced cherry tomatoes
- 5. Your favorite bottle of Italian dressing (or if you want to be fancier, your favorite pesto).
- 6. Simply toss all these ingredients together and drizzle with a bit of your favorite Italian dressing. You can also and add all sorts of other items to this such as Frozen peas, chopped spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, even pesto or olive tapenade for more adventurous eaters.
Tip 2: Make Dipping Healthier with Tasty Guacamole
Kids all ages love to dunk and dip…but the challenge is that oftentimes they are using a ranch, mayo, sour cream or cheesy dipping sauce, which is high in artery-clogging saturated fat. Let your kids dip in guacamole instead! Bite for bite, avocados are one of the most nutrient-rich foods your kids can eat-loaded with 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in each bite. And the rich, creamy taste of avocados gives kids that satisfying mouthfeel they love. Kids can use this simple guacamole recipe (below) to dip their favorite sandwich, veggie sticks, or multigrain chip:
Simple Avocado Guacamole:
- 1. 1 ripe avocado
- 2. Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
- 3. Pinch of sea salt
- 4. In a small bowl, mash avocado with a fork
- 5. Add juice and salt and combine
Serve with a whole grain or veggie based chip that has at least 3 grams fiber per serving for a nutrient rich snack kids will love!
Tip 3: Build a Bento Box: Hard Boiled Eggs and Simple Sushi Rolls
Hard boiled eggs are another place busy parents can find economical, fast, and kid approved protein. And kid’s sushi and bento boxes are a fun trend right now. I love Bentology because they are BPA free and dishwasher safe. Here’s a delicious, economical bento box idea loaded with nutrition:
- 1. Sliced cucumber
- 2. Pumpkin seeds
- 3. Fresh fruit
- 4. 1 or 2 hardboiled eggs, sliced in half
- Sushi rolls:
- 1. Whole wheat tortilla
- 2. Hass avocado
- 3. Cream cheese
Tip 4: Custom Quick Fixes for Picky Eaters
Want something kids can easily do themselves, provide the right nutrition, and is economical? Instead of the same old granola or snack bar (which can be loaded with sugar and refined grains) try these nourishing and equally easy alternatives instead. Kids love to customize!
- Fruit Kebabs and Yogurt Dip:
- 1. Let kids select their favorite 3 fruits
- 2. Build on a kebab, serve with greek yogurt or nonfat cottage cheese (I love greek yogurt because it contains twice the protein and half the sugar of regular yogurt, with a rich creamy taste).
- Tasty Trail Mix Bar:
- 1. Set up a Trail Mix Bar in the morning and let your kids build a custom one just for them: if you put out different options each day, kids stay interested and adventurous: