- Food and Cooking
Easy School Lunches
Struggling with what to make for lunch? You don't have to. There are lots of easy school lunches that you can feel good about sending and your child will love eating. Here are some of the top ideas.
Traditional school lunches revolve around the "lunch meat" sandwich. Fortunately, there are lots of other ways to get protein into your kids lunch.
- Nut butters - If your child doesn't have nut allergies, nut butters are perfect for school lunches. You can put them in a sandwich or you can serve them for dipping.
- Soy Butter - If your child does have a nut allergy, consider soy butter as an alternative. I've heard lots of kids and parents rave about soy butter and how it really meets that peanut butter craving.
- Tuna Salad - Made with Greek Yogurt, diced fruit (grapes or apples), chopped egg, diced celery and chopped almonds, tuna salad doesn't have to be boring.
- Hummus - essentially a bean dip, hummus is a great way for kids to get added protein during the lunch day. It can be served as a filling for lettuce wraps, or as a dip for vegetables or pita bread.
- Salmon Burgers - Our little ones devour salmon burgers (AKA salmon patties). They also eat them cold the next day (if there are any left) so it lends itself well to school lunches. They particularly like slider-sized patties. We tend to mix the recipe up each time, but always add in lots of veggies, such as chopped spinach and pureed carrots.
- Nuts - Toss in a handful of nuts rather than making a sandwich. It's quick, easy and high-protein.
Fruit and Veggies
Parents are constantly confronted with the fact that kids need to eat more fruits and vegetables. But, executing that isn't always as simple. Here are ways to add fruits and veggies into easy school lunches.
- Grapes - At our house we add diced grapes to tuna salad sandwiches as a way to pack in more fruit. You can also freeze grapes, which will help keep the rest of the meal cooler until lunchtime.
- Celery sticks - Add peanut butter to celery sticks for a healthy, quick snack. You can also consider sending a small container of nut butter for dipping veggie sticks.
- Edamame - a surprisingly kid-friendly vegetable, edamame makes the perfect finger food.
- Lettuce wraps - let kids make their own lettuce wraps. Pack some leafy greens, chicken or tuna salad, diced fruit and shredded cheese. It's a fun alternative to the traditional sandwich.
- Clementines - these are the prefect size for lunches and they are much easier to peal than traditional oranges.
Here are some ways to make sure your kids are getting their whole grains in their lunches.
- Pita Bread - Under proteins, I mentioned hummus; this goes perfectly with whole grain pita bread cut into triangles.
- Whole grain bread - All sandwiches at our house are served on whole grain bread. In fact, most grains at our house are whole grain (even the pizza crust).
- Croutons - Sounds boring and lacking in nutrition, but given that our kids devour them, we tried to kick up the health factor. We make homemade croutons with whole grain bread, fresh herbs and a little extra virgin olive oil. If that sounds too time-consuming, you can toss in a few store-bought whole grain croutons for an alternative to the common cracker.
- Popcorn - We have a hot air popcorn popper, which means no added oils. In fact, our kids eat it up with no butter at all and just a sprinkle of salt (if that). This makes for a surprisingly healthy whole grain snack.
- Water - No meal is complete without a glass of water.
- Juice - While whole fruit is best, fruit juice is a nice occasional treat. We are particularly fond of the fruit and veggie juice combinations.
Pick and Choose
Putting together balanced meals is actually pretty easy, and a good way to help is a quick chart or checklist - protein, fruit, veggie, whole grain. Pick something easy from each column and call it good. Don't over think lunch.
Another great idea is to come up with some standby options that include a little of everything so you don't have to do as much packing. Think chicken noodle soup in a thermos (Protein? Check. Veggies? Check. Whole Grain? check). Leftovers are also a great way to make an easy school lunch.
I hope these ideas inspired you. If you are like me, you want to send your kids a healthy lunch without breaking the bank. I tried to find ideas that are both healthy and easy on the budget. It's nice to know that you can eat healthy on a budget. Of course, let's not forget delicious. Healthy, delicious, and budget friendly - I like to think of it as the trifecta of school lunches.