If you have kids headed back to school, you may be struggling with what to send in their lunch boxes. While you want their meals to be healthy, you also want their lunch boxes to come back empty. But there are definitely tips, tricks and creative meal ideas that will make creating lunches for your little ones.
The first step to building a healthy school lunch is to make sure meals are balanced by including a protein, a healthy fat and a carbohydrate. If you can add fruit and veggies most days of the week, that would be ideal. And it’s important to pack their balanced meals the night before. Below is a mini checklist of how to balance your kids’ meal:
Pasta, Bread, Tortilla, Quinoa, Rice
Chicken (chicken sausage, BBQ chicken), Turkey (bolognese, deli slices from my ), Eggs (egg and cheese muffin, hard boiled egg), Beans (edamame, chili, hummus), Tofu
Avocado (guacamole, chocolate avocado mousse), Olives, Olive Oil
Grape Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Sugar Snap Peas, Baby Carrots
Berries, Kiwi, Clementines, Bananas
Tip 2: Make meals look appealing
Your kids will be more likely to eat their lunches if they look appealing and fun to eat. One way is to present familiar foods in a fun way to entice them. For example, making funny faces or using cupcake holders are easy ways to make a typical meal more appealing. Also engage them by offering items like dips, which most kids love.
I also highly recommend investing in a good lunch box. My two favorite lunch boxes are YumBox and PlanetBox.
YumBox is leak proof so you can put hummus or yogurt right in the lunch box. Plus they are absolutely adorable!
PlanetBox is made from stainless steel and includes removable parts so you can modify the box depending on what you’re including in their lunches.
Tip 3: Have your kids help in the kitchen
Have your kids help prepare the meals so they will be proud and excited about what they’re eating. You can have your kids help by allowing them to choose between options (e.g. apples slices or orange segments, chicken or turkey, etc). In addition, you can have them help by having them actually prepare the food (e.g. dip strawberries in chocolate, put veggies and cheese on a toothpick/skewer).
Tip 4: Use leftovers
Make meal planning easier by reusing leftovers. For example, you can make a big pot of chili, or even soup, for dinner one night and then send your child with it in a thermos for lunch later in the week. With meals like chili, you can also include a variety of food groups in one pot and also use up any other leftover foods that you don’t want to go to waste.
Do you have a difficult time getting your child to eat protein, like chicken or beans? What about those healthy fats. Are your kids not fans of guacamole or olive oil in their pasta? Well, here are two of my favorite easy yet creative recipes that you can put in your child’s lunch box!
Mini Egg & Cheese Muffins
Servings: 24 mini muffins
1/2 cup Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup Mashed Potatoes (optional)
3 T Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1 T Applesauce (optional)
1/4 cup chopped Bell Peppers (optional)
1) Preheat oven to 350F
2) Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse till blended (whisk by hand if needed)
3) Spray mini cupcake tin with cooking spray
4) Fill tins 3/4 of the way full
5) Place in oven for 18-22 minutes
Chocolate Avocado Mousse
1 Ripe Banana
1/2C Milk Chocolate Chips (melt in microwave for 15 seconds at a time for 1 minute)
1/4C Cocoa Powder
1C Almond Milk
3T Chia Seeds (Note: Chia seeds make this a very high fiber treat!)
1) Chill Almond Milk with Chia Seeds for 20 minutes till Chias gel
2) Mix Almond Milk with remaining ingredients in a food processor
3) Blend well and chill!
What’s your favorite healthy school lunch to make? I would love to hear your tips, tricks and ideas!