Back to school is here already, and busy parents tasked with packing lunches five days a week are on an endless quest for new, fun and healthy school lunch ideas. Here are some twists and interesting presentations you may not have tried yet.
Instead of a sandwich.
Try a cracker spread, which is less likely to get stale or soggy from morning until lunch hour. Think of it like those beautiful charcuterie trays seen in magazines, and use silicon muffin cups to offer a selection of nuts, cheeses, sliced cucumber, smoked salmon or turkey, grapes, pumpkin seeds…you get the idea. If kids like peanut butter and jelly but are tiring of it, try putting jam in a small, lidded container and pairing with plain table crackers for dipping.
When it comes to encouraging kids to enjoy a wide range of foods, there’s nothing they love more than eye-popping presentation. Toothpicks stacked with alternating blueberries and raspberries, or tomatoes and cheese, always look great and are a blast to scarf down. Dried fruits, like apricot and cherry, also make a great combo. Get creative and you’ll find can make a kebob out of almost anything.
The bravest parents may know how to pack last night’s soup so it doesn’t spill in a backpack, but many of kids’ favorite dinners can be tweaked for transport. Bake classic meatloaf in a muffin tin (it freezes well) so it can be easily tossed into a lunchbox and eaten by hand. Scrambled-egg cups (add ham, peppers, cheese, bacon bits, or just salt and pepper), made either in an Instant pot or baked in the oven, can be refrigerated and eaten all week.
Another way to avoid having to pack—and ask kids not to lose!—utensils is to focus on dips and handheld foods. Pita chips work well with a small, lidded container of peanut butter, sunflower butter, hummus or homemade tzatziki, which will keep in the fridge for about four days.
Don’t forget the treat!
Banana bread muffins are ideal to pop into lunch boxes, or try chocolate-covered nuts or seeds, which add protein. To keep with the kebob theme, skewer strawberries and add brown sugar to sour cream for an instant dessert dip. Breakfast items also make good lunch treats: Try a defrosted, but not toasted, chocolate-chip toaster waffle. It’s delicious even at room temperature.