Healthy School Lunches
Its back to school time and with all the new policies and protocols it can make it more challenging to come up with some fun/tasty/nourishing and allergen free lunch ideas…parents…your job is hard!
I thought I might make it a little easier by putting together some great tips and ideas to get you started.
Here are my suggestions for stocking a great pantry, fridge and freezer with healthy foods to make packing healthy lunches less challenging.
In the Pantry:
- Whole grain bread and crackers
- Ready to eat/lower sugar cereal
- Canned fruit (make sure its canned in water for a no added sugar option)
- Fruit cups or sauces with no added sugar
- Canned salmon/tuna/sardines (make sure they are canned in water for a lower sodium option)
- Canned beans/legumes
- Spaghetti or pizza sauce
- Dried fruit
- Pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds
In the fridge:
- Yogurt in any form…cup/dip/tube/drink
- Cheese in any form…stick/string/cottage/cream
- Fresh veggies
- Fresh fruit
In the freezer:
- Wraps and pitas
- Frozen fruit for smoothies ( frozen berries added to yogurt can also keep the yogurt cold longer and it thaws by the times the kiddies are ready to eat!)
So lets put some of these ingredients together! Here are some of my favorite meal ideas:
- Pitas and wraps can be utilized for so many things!
- Sandwich or pizza wraps/pitas with your fave toppings inside. Some sandwich/wrap ideas could include leftover chicken or stir fry with lots of veggies. I love pizza roll ups with turkey pepperoni. Butterball has a great version that’s low in fat and sodium. Tip: You can put all the topping in the wrap or pita, roll it up and cut it into sushi like pieces.
- Baked pita/wraps cut in triangles for dipping. Add plain greek yogurt (in place of sour cream), salsa and guacamole or hummus for dipping.
- Leftovers like chili, soup or stir fry in a thermos to keep warm
- Classic sandwich with cheese or left over chicken/beef/pork shredded or tuna salad
Some healthy snack ideas include:
- Fruit with yogurt for dipping, or yogurt and fruit all on its own.
- Fruit cups or sauces with no added sugar.
- Whole grain crackers + cheese sticks or cubes
- Veggies + hummus for dipping
- Nut free trail mix with raisins/cranberries or other dried fruit + pumpkin or sunflower seeds + your child’s fave cereal.
- Homemade muffins
Dietitian Tip: set aside a crisper or area in your fridge as a snack space. Pre assemble the above foods for easy lunch assembly and after school snacking.
Involve your kiddies in the process. There are lots of age appropriate tasks and even the smallest of hands can easily measure out ingredients.
- Give your kiddies 2 or 3 healthy options so they do feel like they have some choice in the matter. I say choices but you can heavily weigh these choices to be things that are healthy with a fave option mixed in.
- Get them in the kitchen! Many hands make light work as my grandmother used to say. Try to prepare things on the weekend when everyone has a half an hour or an hour to spare. Small kiddies can be given measuring cups for portioning cereals, dried fruit and seeds, older kiddies are completely capable of making their own sandwiches or cutting up cheese. Dietitian insight: kids are much more likely to eat food they prepare themselves!
- Take them shopping with you and let them pick their fave healthy foods with a treat or 2 mixed in. Set boundaries before heading to the shop so they know what options they have to prevent supermarket melt downs.
Dietitian Tip: expose your kiddies to lots of different colors, shapes and sizes. You can cut sandwiches in squares one day, triangles the next and even get some fun cookie cutters to make other shapes (the kiddies will love helping with this too).
Lastly I want to talk about food safety because it’s a big part of the process!
- I am sure this point has been bought up many times over the last few months but talk to your kiddies about washing their hands before eating. To that effect, parents should be washing their hands before preparing the lunches as well.
- Thoroughly rinse fresh fruits and veggies
- Use an insulated bag if possible
- Freeze water bottles or juice boxes to keep not only beverages but the rest of the lunch options cold and fresh. Ice packs serve this purpose also but can be costly
- Use a thermos for hot foods like chili and soup but they also double to keep foods cold like milk or smoothies!
- Do not reuse perishable foods like leftover meat/fish/poultry, or milk products that come home. They have been left at room temperature far too long and the risk of foods poisoning is increased.
I hope this little post has given you some inspiration for the new school year. Check out my healthy snack section for some great muffin recipes packed with fruits and veggies!