School has been back in session for a few weeks now and the creative, cute lunches are harder to keep up than you originally thought! So let’s get back to the basics, using real food that’s yummy and healthy. And while we’re at it, let’s get the kiddos involved in packing their own lunches. They’ll love helping mom or dad in the kitchen and will most likely come home with an empty lunch pail, if they had a tiny hand in packing it.
Now, I understand that not every kiddo has a colorful pallet, but I firmly believe that eating the rainbow is the best way to get the most nutritious food in our little one’s bellies. Make substitutions where needed, to accommodate your child’s taste buds – but try to keep it as colorful as possible. Also if they’re old enough and willing, get them in the kitchen and helping when your packing their school lunches, with your supervision, of course. They can help by rolling up their wraps, spreading alternative peanut butter options, melon balling watermelon, cubing cheese (with a child-safe plastic knife), scooping hummus or low fat ranch, or even shelling edamame.
Here are some yummy kid-friendly lunches that your little ones will eat up!
- Turkey and cheese roll-ups screwed with a small pretzel stick*
- Broccoli and cauliflower florets with hummus or low fat ranch
- Sliced kiwi and strawberries
*Directions for creating roll-ups: Use your favorite turkey meat from the deli & sliced provolone or swiss cheese. Lay a few slices of turkey deli meat out flat and place a slice of cheese on top. Next loosely roll up the turkey and cheese until you create a small roll-up. Then, using a small pretzel stick, screw the roll-ups, so they stay together.
- Hummus with sliced bell peppers and mini whole wheat pitas
- Blueberries and cubed mango
- Sliced hard-boiled egg
- Apple sandwiches with your favorite nut butter (almond, sunflower seed, etc.) and raisins*
- Celery, sliced cucumbers and baby carrots with hummus or low fat ranch dressing
- Reduced fat cheese (cubed)
*Directions for apple sandwiches: Slice apple in 1/4 slices and drizzle with a little fresh lemon juice (to prevent browning). Then core the slices, using a small cookie cutter (like a heart or star shape). Next spread on your favorite nut butter and sprinkle raisins over the spread on one slice of apple. Finally, top your sandwich with another apple slice.
- Avocado, string cheese & turkey or ham wrap*
- Watermelon balls and mandarin oranges (cut watermelon in half and use a melon baller to scoop out small watermelon balls)
- Shelled edamame
*Directions for creating the wrap: Lay a small whole wheat pita out flat. Next place your favorite ham or turkey deli meat on wrap and layer with sliced avocado and light mozzarella string cheese. Then roll tightly until the avocado smashes a bit and helps the wrap stick together. Finally cut the rolled wrap in half.
- Nut butter safe alternatives and sliced banana sandwich on a mini whole wheat bagel
- Sliced peaches or pineapple chunks
- Grape tomatoes and cucumber moons* with hummus or low fat ranch
*Directions for creating cumber moons: Peel cucumber, then slice the it length-wise and slice into half moons.
A Few Tips to Make Your Child’s Lunch More Fun and Edible
- Add some lunchbox love with an encouraging note or positive affirmation; check out Lunchbox Love or Lunchbox Notes
- It’s best to buy your lunch meat from the deli counter at your local grocery store; choose meats that are nitrate-free (such as Publix Boars at the deli counter) and meats that are lower in sugar – no honey-baked, maple or sugar-cured
- Check out the 2014 Dirty Dozen list to find out what organic fruits and veggies you should be buying organic, and the 2014 Clean 15 to see what fruits and veggies contain the lowest pesticides
- If you’re in the market for a new lunch box for your little ones or yourself, check out Planet Box lunchboxes; they are a little pricey, but I’ve heard they last for years and years AND are great for eating healthy, real food lunches (without all the preservatives)
What ideas for a healthy lunch have worked for your kids?
Apple sandwich photo credit: ohsohappytogether / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Peanut butter bagel sandwich photo credit: jessiejacobson / Foter / CC BY-S