Fast, easy, healthy—and fun—lunches for kids.
We all want healthy meals for our children. But with our busy lives, achieving this is sometimes easier said than done. School lunches don’t have to be complicated, though. Simple and healthy—with a bit of fun mixed in—are the way to go. Here are some tips on how to do it.
- Prepare and organize school lunches for the entire week on Sunday.
- Ask your children to help out—let them choose favorite fruits, veggies, and sandwich ingredients. Assign them the role of assistant chef.
- Pick fun foods–if kids can squirt it, dip it, or sip it, they will love it.
- Use the rainbow approach–make meals healthy by including veggies of differing colors.
- Remember fresh is best–try to limit prepackaged foods and include plenty of raw veggies in lunches.
Keep in mind that a child’s metabolism is high when he or she is growing. Debby Demory-Luce, R.D., L.D., a nutritionist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, recommends that a lunch should provide one-third of the daily intake of vitamins, minerals, and calories for kids. Make a goal to Include:
- a source of protein: meat, eggs, beans, legumes, tofu, or seeds
- a source of calcium: milk (substitute fortified soy, almond, or rice milk), figs, cheese, yogurt, or tahini
- vegetables and fruit, especially dark green veggies like broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, and orange veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes
- two servings of grains or bread: pasta, rice, bread, oatmeal, or couscous (brown or whole grain versions are best)
- a treat
Treats that aren’t tricky
Treats are a big thing in kids’ lunches. They’re the hot ticket item that often gets traded. The good news is treats don’t have to be bad. Dried fruit, popcorn, whole grain crackers, granola, and homemade muffins or cookies are all good choices.
Cubed cooked chicken skewer with grape tomatoes and cucumber wedges
- Salad dressing as a dip
- Cheddar cheese
- Whole-wheat crackers
- Fruit salad of diced banana and apple in low-fat vanilla yogurt
- Slice of pumpkin loaf (with jam or honey on the side)
Whole-wheat tuna wrap with low-fat salad dressing, spinach, and sliced tomato
- Carton of milk with a fun straw
- Sliced peaches
- Stringless snap peas
- Homemade trail mix (multigrain cereal, raisins, almonds, sunflower seeds, pretzel sticks, and chocolate chips)
Whole-wheat pita pizza with chicken, diced veggies (mushrooms, tomato, broccoli, and peppers–arranged to make a face) and cheese
- Unsweetened applesauce
- Granola (to blend with applesauce if they want)
- Low-fat, low-sodium cottage cheese
Whole-wheat salmon sandwich with sliced cucumber and alfalfa sprouts
- Baby carrots and celery with low-fat salad dressing or hummus
- Low-fat yogurt
- Oatmeal cookie
Whole-wheat quesadilla (cut into wedges) with extra-lean ground beef, corn, tomato, peppers, and cheese
- Salsa and sour cream
- Red pepper slices
- Cheese cubes
- Air-popped popcorn sprinkled with Parmesan cheese
These are just a few healthy school lunch choices. Take time to discover more options on your own using these as a starting point. Happy packing!
Talking to kids about food
Changing our language around eating can nourish our children’s willingness to try something new! Instead of directing our kids to eat certain foods because they’re “good for them,” let’s get more specific and consciously help them understand why.
Red foods help keep your brain sharp and focused.
Orange foods can protect your eyes and help you see better.
Yellow foods can help your heart beat stronger.
Green foods help heal your cuts and get you feeling better faster.
Blue foods keep your muscles strong.
Purple foods keep your body healthy and protect against diseases.