Lots of us are thinking about school lunches these days (as if there is an acceptable alternative to peanut butter and jelly every day). Lots of us are also thinking about different foods to take to work for our own lunch (because we are grown up enough to appreciate variety beyond pb&j).
Girlfriend Guru, menu expert, and mom of four, LISA HOLCOMB, has some great ideas for sending kids with healthy (and affordable) lunches. We think a lot of these ideas are pretty good for taking to work, too!
It’s almost that time of the year again. You’re busy gathering up school supplies, new school clothes and getting your kiddos ready for a new school year. Whether you are dreading the end of summer and having to send your little angels back to school or counting the moments until they head back, you still worry about how you can keep your children eating healthy lunches while at school.
Do you buy some pre-packaged, grab and go meals that cost more and aren’t even healthy? Maybe your child’s lunch box has a bag of chips in it or the small individual packets of cookies. Yes, getting your child to eat a nutritious lunch can seem like a battle. Here are a few easy, inexpensive, AND nutritious ideas to pack in your kids lunches this school year.
Use leftovers. When you’re planning your menus at the beginning of the week, think about how you might use leftovers in a lunch for the following day. Make a few extra servings for dinner and set them aside for the next day’s lunch. Leftover homemade pizza is great for lunches as well. Kids will even eat leftover pizza cold.
Cook some chicken breast at the beginning of the week (most stores sell the larger less expensive bags of frozen chicken breast) and slice them up to use in sandwiches rather than using the processed packaged deli meats. Deli meats and luncheon meats are packed with sugars, preservatives, and sodium. Yuck!
Boiled eggs are great in kid’s lunches. Boil and peel them the night before. You can pack them whole or sliced. Protein baby!
Tortilla roll-ups are always a kid-pleaser. Use whole-wheat tortillas and roll up just about anything in it. Peanut butter, veggies, chicken, tuna, or just plain cheese. Tortillas are a life saver.
Veggies and dip. I don’t know why, but if I put a plate of veggies in front of my kids for a snack or lunch they will look at me like I’ve just lost my mind. Add some Ranch dressing to it and they look at me like they want to give me the Mother of the Year award. Well, not quite that adoring but I don’t get the “have you lost your mind” look. Kids love to dip their food. Pack some carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, etc. and a small container of dressing and they’ll be happy.
Fruit should always be included in your child’s lunch. If your child isn’t a big fruit eater, maybe try some sugar free applesauce? Experiment with different fruits that are in season. In season means they are more nutritious and less expensive. Let your kids go with you to the grocery store and pick out the fruits they want for their lunches that week.
If you must use bread, make sure you use whole grain. Read the labels.
Beware of overload. Don’t get carried away and add too much to your kids lunches. Not only is it a waste if they don’t eat it but if they do, it can lead to overeating.
Avoid the fat packs. You know what I mean. Individual packages of chips, crackers, cookies, etc. While kids may love these, they are packed in fat, sugars, carbs, and no nutritional values. Instead, stick to the fruits and veggies. Your kids will forgive you.
Stay away from the fruit juices. Those individually packed drinks that want you to think they are packed with real fruit juice. Instead, introduce your kids to water. Yes, just water. Even when our kids are home it’s hard enough to get them to drink enough water during the day. Send them to school for several hours a day and they get very little of the required water they need for the day. This is even more important if your kids are participating in sports or if it’s just plain hot outside. Send them with a bottle of water packed in their lunch box or, better yet, save the money and send them with their own reusable water bottle.
Whatever you send in your kid’s lunches, make sure it’s real, clean, and unprocessed. Unprocessed foods are best for our physical and mental health and our kids are no exception. Have a great school year!
LISA HOLCOMB is the “Queen of Meal Time Makeovers.” She is an advocate of family nutrition, savvy grocery shopping, and family dinners. She’s a published writer and speaker who lives in Texas with her husband and four boys. Lisa and her husband adopted their two youngest children and are strong advocates of adoption. She is founder of Build A Menu, an online menu planning service that gives a portion of its proceeds to orphan care.
What are your tips for planning lunch-on-the-go?
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