It’s Easy to Pack a Healthy and Tasty Lunch
Monday, August 16, 2010
The kids are heading back to school and I’m sure you’re thinking about what to pack for lunch. Let me stress that it’s really not difficult to pack a tasty and healthy lunch that your kids will eat. I’m one of the most unorganized and last minute gals around, but I’m still able to put together a good lunch with little effort…and I’m going to share some of my favorite lunch staples. I simply like to focus on taste and nutrition. And I’ve learned not to stress too much if a lunch comes back half eaten. After all, there are a lot of interesting things going on at school. Sometimes carrots get trumped by the yellow truck in the corner, or the cute boy across the cafeteria.
To get you started, below are some ideas and some pictures of my son’s lunches from his summer preschool. If you’re still itching for more, visit these great links I found through The Rookie Moms: Wendolonia’s bento project and Laptop Lunches.
I struggled with this at first because I was used to cooking my son’s lunches. Then I realized that I could still pack those same foods, as long as they’re not sitting out for longer than 3 hours. Also, surprisingly, kids don’t really care about the meal’s temperature either.
A Sunbutter and jelly sandwich is a perfect alternative to peanut butter. Sunbutter is made in a completely nut and tree-nut free facility, so there’s no need to worry about cross contamination. (If your child attends a nut-free school, you might want to let the teacher know about this sandwich to make sure it doesn’t accidentally get tossed.)
Standard luncheon meat and cheese sandwich, on whole wheat bread or wrapped in a pita or tortilla. Or, you can skip the bread and make meat and cheese pinwheels.
French toast with cream cheese spread. The French toast can be made with apple, pumpkin or any other puree you have on hand. Plus, you can make an entire loaf at one time, freezing leftovers. The cream cheese can be plain or whipped with fresh fruit to change things up.
Omelets. I like to mix a couple scrambled eggs with broccoli, cauliflower and a bit of shredded cheddar. It can be served with ketchup or another sauce for dipping.
Toasted whole wheat waffles with Sunbutter and honey—makes a nice variation on the classic sandwich.
Whole wheat mac and cheese with peas and carrots mixed in.
Cheese tortellini or ravioli with marinara sauce for dipping.
Crackers, cheese and luncheon meats.
Tuna on bread or served with crackers.
Leftovers from dinner.
Fruits and Veggies
I try to include a fruit and veggie in every meal and it seems lunch is the easiest time to do this.
Fresh fruit: Orange slices, grapes (cut in half for the little ones), apple, kiwi, blueberries, strawberries, mango chunks, bananas and peaches.
Fruit leather and other natural fruit snacks can be pricey, but they’re a good option when you’re short on time and need to throw a lunch together in a snap. They also serve a good purpose when your child is complaining that everybody else gets fruit roll-ups.
Raisins, plain or coated with yogurt or chocolate.
Just Tomatoes makes a variety of dried fruits and veggies that are perfect for snacking. I haven’t tried them yet, but I’ve heard a lot of great reviews from other bloggers.
Veggie Pirate’s Bootie is actually quite a tasty snack. It’s made from puffed rice and corn, with vegetables such as kale, spinach, carrots and parsley.
Fresh Veggies and Dip (see dip section for ideas): carrot sticks or organic baby carrots, sliced bell peppers, cucumber, avocado, celery (for the over 5 crowd) and grape tomatoes.
You can also mix veggies into the main dish by adding peas and carrots to mac and cheese, broccoli to noodles or eggs, spinach on a sandwich or squash puree in French toast.
Kids love to dip and it’s an easy way to add taste and nutrition to any meal. Here are a few to get you started, but let me know if you have one to add.
Cream cheese whipped with fresh fruit, cinnamon, dried onion soup or ranch dip, or steamed veggies and your favorite herbs.
Ranch dip made with plain Greek-style yogurt adds more protein to a kid favorite.
Broaden your child’s palate with other low fat salad dressings such as French or Thousand Island.
Ketchup…who doesn’t love ketchup?!?
Yogurt makes a great dip for fresh fruit, French toast or crackers.
Pureed squash such as pumpkin, acorn or winter squash. Add a little cinnamon for added flavor.
Snacks and Miscellaneous Foods
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like my son never gets cookies. But, I do try to limit the amount of useless calories he gets in a day. So, I usually leave them out of his lunch…or I find a healthier alternative. Here are a few you might like.
Soy nuts are super yummy and loaded with protein. Try them roasted with salt, or covered with yogurt or chocolate.
Soy crisps are just like rice cakes, but come with a bit more nutrition…especially protein. My son loves the cheddar flavor, but there are plenty other great choices
Whole wheat oatmeal cookies. I use this recipe from the Food Network. I just replace the white flour with wheat and plop them down on the cookie sheet rather than following the twisting instructions.
Yogurt adds a sweet finish to any meal. Try the Greek style for extra protein.
blue corn chips (with dip)
Pita chips, with or without dip
Breakfast and granola bars
Related Post: Affordable Tools to Pack a Healthy, Waste-Free Lunch