Fun, Back-To-School Lunch Ideas
Back to school is a bittersweet time of realizing summer is fast coming to an end but exciting with the idea of new beginnings. Something to keep in mind while you’re doing shopping for new outfits, books and school supplies are fun ways to spice up lunch for your kids. It can make creating their lunches for fun for you as well as keeping them happy and healthy, a sometime impossible seeming feat. With so many ways to dress up the typical peanut butter sandwich or trail mix, there’s a never ending list of creative ways to make sure that the lunch you so lovingly spend time making doesn’t get traded for candy and a bag of chips. With children’s minds so wonderfully moldable at young ages, it’s easy to show them that food can be fun!
That’s why we’ve devised a number of ways to put some pep back into your kids’ lunch prep. Some of the recipes can even be made in advance to help reserve a little bit more of your morning time for those beloved minutes or drinking your cup of coffee and cruising the internet.
We know what it’s like to get into sandwich ruts. Eating the same thing, day after day gets old quickly for most adults, not to mention the shortened attention spans of children. Lucky for us, just the small little changes can turn that same old sandwich into something brand spanking new. Take peanut butter, for instance. All it takes is a little extra love, and that typical PB sandwich could have a whole new look and taste. And whereas we’d never put down how delicious marshmallow Fluff is, there’s so many healthy alternatives that pair well with peanut butter that you’ll be bursting with awesome new combinations. Some of our favorites include sliced grapes and peanut butter to opt out of adding high fructose corn syrup riddled jelly. And since we’re on the topic of fruit, you can never go wrong with sliced apples, strawberries and/or bananas, which add both texture and awesome flavors. If you want to give them a little treat, you can throw in a little bit of dark chocolate, giving them the great chocolate taste while leaving out most of the added sugar and preservatives. Recent studies have even found that feeding children dark chocolate can help with digestive balance. Just make sure to buy the bars or morsels that have at least 65 percent cocoa to ensure what you’re giving them is actually the good stuff. Honey is also an incredible addition to any peanut butter sandwich, giving children the healthy alternative to the sugar they crave. The benefits of honey are endless, ranging from anti-bacterial, immune booster, scrapes or cuts healer, blood sugar regulator and allergy symptom reliever. For the best results, eat honey created from locally based hives. You can often find it at your local farmer’s market or health food store. But you don’t have to stop at pb&j sandwiches. Get creative with what you put on the meat, the condiments you use and vegetables you throw on. If your kid likes it, anything is game. Yummy spreads to sub out mayonnaise or mustard can be guacamole, hummus or a bean spread. Pesto also makes for a great, flavorful spread that can liven up any chicken or turkey sandwich. Vegetables are all on you but also keep in mind to never leave egg, chicken or tuna salads out of the mix. They’re easy, are better when they’re made the day before and can have nuts, dried fruit and chopped veggies add a whole bunch of great flavors and textures.
Since we assume most children aren’t exactly pulling their parents hair to go out and buy tons of kale chips, we get that it can be difficult to think of healthy snacks that also appease their appetites. Like, really difficult. But with all sorts of new ways to do chips, trail mixes and vegetables and dip, we’ve got a few ideas to help make snack time one of their favorite times of the day. Let’s start with one of our favorites: chips. There can be nothing more satisfying than the methodical crunch, salty taste and finger-lickin’ goodness that come from a bag of chips. However, they’re loaded with trans fats, empty calories and contain about zero nutrients. One great alternative that leaves endless possibilities are vegetable chips, which can be made with anything from potatoes and beets to sweet potatoes and spinach. Pick your children’s favorite veggies (or veggies), slice them thin, season and bake them. They stay good for a while and are a great alternative for that mindless need to crunch. Another chip option is a homemade pits or tortilla chip that’s baked instead of fried. They can use it to dip into some yummy hummus, salsa or other dip. They’re also super duper easy to make by picking your favorite brand of pita or tortilla, cutting them into wedges, tossing with some salt and baking for 10-15 minutes at 350F. One of my favorite alternatives is homemade gourmet popcorn, which can be seasoned like a chip, made at home and still retains a good amount of its nutritional value as long as it isn’t slathered in butter. Throw some Parmesan cheese, garlic salt, paprika or cumin on for some fun flavors. For trail mixes, just go with whatever your child likes and throw it together in a big bag. Mixed nuts, freeze dried versions of their favorite fruits, dark chocolate morsels, yogurt covered raisins and various other ideas make for one great mix that can last you a couple of weeks. Snack time is about to get exciting again!
One of the healthiest, heartiest and simplest things you can give your child for lunch can be contained in a thermos. Always one of my personal favorite lunch times, soups contain just about everything you need to get by with optimum brain power and energy in a day. Soups are also incredibly easy and cheap to make and often contain loads of vegetables, legumes, beans and protein. The result is a powerhouse meal that doesn’t leave the body wanting in any way. Try sticking to broth rather than cream based soups, which are often loaded with tons of unnecessary sodium and fat. Great, kid-friendly vegetables include (but are definitely not limited to) potatoes, carrots, green beans, corn, peas, zucchini, tomatoes and many, many more. If you’re kid is cool with beans you’re in even better shape. Throw in some beef, chicken, ham or sausage for added flavor, rice or noodles for a little carb energy and season to taste. There are endless soup recipes out there to give you something different to make every day if you wanted to. One of our favorites is to play around with different broths and vegetables combinations for a delicious bowl of ramen. Warm it up and stick it in a thermos in the morning and it’ll still be hot by the time your little ones eat lunch. Seriously though, soup. Go for it.