Back-to-school is just around the corner and as such so is the dilemma of what to pack your kids for healthy lunches at school that are easy to make, and full of foods that they'll actually love to eat. Too often parents fall prey to the ease of pre-packaged food items to send off to school. Grabbing a frozen pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an individual container of applesauce, a kid sized bag of pretzels and a juice box, and sending them on their way is easy, but eating that for 180 days of the school year is going to expose them to lots of ingredients their bodies don't need, and isn't going to help them feel their best to do their best in school.
How to pack healthy lunches
The trick to packing healthy lunches is to think ahead. When you're cooking dinner, make a little extra for lunches or spend one day a week or month preparing homemade foods and freezing them to use throughout the month in the kids' lunch boxes, and choose as many organic ingredients as possible. Packing healthy lunches doesn't have to be a challenge. Here are ten ideas for healthy lunches that are parent and kid approved.
1. Roll up a few slices of low-sodium, nitrate and nitrite-free meat such as turkey or ham, and pair it with cheese cubes and carrot sticks with a side of hummus.
2. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over whole wheat or rice noodles and add a side of cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices.
3. Instead of chicken nuggets, slice a chicken breast into strips and pack it with a side of homemade applesauce and snap peas.
4. Pack your child's favorite flavor of Greek yogurt (bonus if it's homemade) along with a banana and a serving of granola. Your child can mix them all together or enjoy them separately.
5. Jelly has a lot of sugar in it so swap it out for banana or apple slices with peanut butter on whole grain bread. Or make your own strawberry chia jam that has the added benefits of healthy fats and you can control the amount of sugar. Add grapes and a cheese stick to round out the meal.
6. Bagels aren't just for breakfast. Pack a whole grain bagel with almond butter and a side of strawberries and melon balls.
7. Grilled cheese isn't always at the top of the list of healthy lunches, but when you take out the butter factor and properly portion the cheese, cheese and whole grain crackers make a nice alternative, and add a little fun when kids can stack their own. Add a side off orange slices and some sunflower seeds.
8. Most kids love pizza, and it's really not that bad for them when prepared on a thin crust and topped with a moderate amount of tomato sauce and cheese. You might even be able to sneak a few vegetables onto it or buys a sauce with hidden vegetables. Pair it with apple slices and celery sticks.
9. While you may need to make a milder, kid-friendly version, turkey chili is a wholesome and filling dish thanks to the beans and tomato base, and it can easily be kept warm in a thermos. Serve it with an organic corn muffin, avocado slices, and small cheese cubes that can be eaten separately or melted on top.
10. If your child loves eggs for breakfast, he'll love them for lunch as well. Keep a bowl of hardboiled eggs on hand and pack two of them for lunch paired with a fruit salad and a zucchini muffin.
Providing your kids with healthy lunches throughout the school year…and any time of the year for that matter…can be a piece of cake if you can compile a list of options you can refer to easily. Try these tasty lunches and feel free to improvise depending on your child's preferences and needs.