Good nutrition in the morning and early afternoon is vital for attention and learning, and it helps keep kids focused and alert all day. I’ve taught hundreds of youth to plan and cook for themselves, and the vast majority of them, given the opportunity, will choose healthy, nutritious foods, if...
- They taste good
- Are offered in variety
- They feel like they are allowed to choose for themselves.
Kids get bored with the same old, same old…and a variety of foods helps ensure more balanced nutrition.
Here are a few of my favorite "quick & easy" tips for school lunches...
- Wraps are sturdier and less messy to eat. Who wants to eat a smooshed sandwich?
- Quesadillas are quick and easy to make. Ham & Cheese, Pizza, Turkey and cheddar
- Vary hot and cold lunches. A thermos of their favorite soup or stew is a nice break from cold lunch, especially in winter.
- A hot sandwich, wrapped in foil, will stay warm in a thermos, all day!
- Pita Pockets are easy to eat, less messy, and because pita it denser than sandwich bread, you can assemble them the night before, and they won’t get soggy.
Tip: Small rewards for bringing home rinsed dishes and thermos’ are totally worth it!
Leftovers of favorite dinners make GREAT lunches
- Slightly under-cook veggies, so they don’t turn to mush when re-heated.
- If you struggle to get them to eat it at home, don’t bother packing it for lunch.
- Let your kids help make the meal. Kids LOVE to bring and brag and are twice as likely to eat something they helped make.
- No kid worth their My Little Pony back-pack will turn up their nose at cold pizza!
Kids love stuff they can assemble!
- Deli meat: slice it into cracker-size squares, and put it right back in the bag!
- Cheese slices: Ditto
- Crackers, whole-wheat pita pockets, small flour tortillas
- Raw veggies (carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc.)
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Trail mix
- Treat (cookie, pudding, yogurt, etc.)
A whole rotisserie chicken can make a week’s worth of protein for one hungry teen-ager or a couple of littles! Chicken legs, chicken with rice (use your rice-cooker), chicken salad wraps, sliced chicken-breast pitas…the list is endless!
Concerned about all that knife work? Worried about the future of your fingertips? Here's a quick and easy "knife skills 101" to keep those digits safe! ;)
Check out the bulk food section, it’s not just rice and beans anymore. Buying staple lunch items in bulk can save a ton of money over the same items in pretty bags.
Want to add a little more variety, without buying the whole produce section? Check out my post, “Shopping the Salad Bar!”
Make a master list of healthy lunch ingredients, and let your kids take turns choosing items from each food group the next time you go shopping. It works, it really does.
Save yourself some time!
Does it really need to be sliced on a perfect bias? Does every sandwich need to be cut into cute shapes and adorned with smiley faces? We’re not Martha Stewart, people, and nobody’s giving out Michelin Stars for the contents of our kid’s lunch bags.
Fresh fruits and veggies begin to lose their flavor and texture as soon as they’re cut. My daughter is just as happy gnawing on a 4-inch chunk of cucumber or popping whole grape tomatoes. Slice your veggies into manageable pieces in advance, and store in a large, sealed container of cold water for the week.
Spend those precious minutes assembling fresh, quality foods that your kids will eat. Flavor will trump fancy every time!
Chef or Cobb salads are quick and easy to assemble. Send with a small reusable container of their favorite dressing and a baggie of croutons.
What to Skip
Bananas do NOT travel well, and nobody wants to eat a brown, mushy banana. Save the bananas for breakfast! Always wrap the stems in foil.
Prepackaged “Lunchables”. Sure they’re convenient, but you’re paying double, sometimes triple, for something you can easily assemble (with fresh fruit and veggies!) yourself.
Probably the biggest rip-off in home-packed lunches are juice boxes.
Non-recyclable containers filled with a few swallows of sugar-laden “fruit” juice, and a grossly inflated price…ugh! Invest in a few reusable drink bottles, and fill them with pure, no-sugar-added juices at a fraction of the cost.
This goes for just about any “individual serving size” items (chips, cookies, fruits & veggies, trail-mix, etc.,)
All of these can be purchased in family-size portions and added to a sandwich baggie for pennies on the dollar.
Make it a team effort!
Make a (supervised) lunch “assembly line” in the morning. Kids can pick and choose what they want from a selection of meats, cheeses, fruits and veggies. All YOU need to do is pop a treat in the bag at the end of the line!
Stop over-paying for greasy burgers, spongy pizza, and chemical-laden processed “convenience” foods, and give your kids a leg up on learning with fresh, healthy, money-saving lunches.
They deserve it (and so do you!)