Trying to get our kids to eat a healthy lunch at school has its obstacles. First, there's the temptation of the school lunch. From the chocolate milk to the corndogs and a la carte cookies and ice cream, it makes brown bagging it look rather dull.
Secondly, your kids have a whopping 20 minutes to eat their lunches, five minutes to walk from the classroom to the lunch table, 20 minutes to eat, and five minutes to pack up, clean the tables, and return to their classroom. There's not a lot of time to socialize between bites. My kids have often come home with their packed lunches half eaten because they "didn't have time to finish."
Finally, parents have to battle the morning rush, and sometimes packing a lunch is an afterthought about two minutes before running to catch the bus. Here are some healthy lunch ideas that are easy to pack, easy to eat, and make both parents and kids happy.
You may have one child who wants the same PB&J sandwich every single day, or the kid who will eat bread and lunch meat, but don't you dare ask her to eat them together as a sandwich. Either way, it's nice to have an arsenal (yep, it's warfare) of healthy lunch options for those fickle eaters.
Changing up the sandwich format may do the trick to get your child to eat his lunch. Try serving their favorite nut spread or tuna salad with whole wheat crackers, pita wedges, or wheat roll-ups, making it a wrap can make even a salad more enticing, or forgo the grains and serve up some turkey and cheese roll-ups with some pretzels on the side.
In the Thermos
When the weather gets cooler, I start looking for ways to serve up warm food for lunches. The kids love it too, because eating out of a thermos is a fun change. Here are some options that will leave their bellies warm and full.
Veggie Dogs: Serve a veggie dog cut up by itself or with baked beans or mac-n-cheese and give your child some great protein with half the fat of a regular hot dog.
Turkey meatballs: Change the flavor by adding different condiments: Italian (just add their favorite pasta sauce), Swedish (gravy and sour cream), or BBQ
Ravioli: it doesn't have to come from a can. Buy ravioli in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, and cook only the amount needed for lunch. Add sauce or just butter and some parmesan cheese.
Dinner leftovers: Don't you know their little faces will light up when they see their favorite dinners like spaghetti with meat sauce or mac-n-cheese in their thermos.
Brunch: If your kids love "Brinner" (breakfast for dinner), won't they get a kick out of brunch in their lunch box? Serve up some warm scrambled eggs and turkey sausage for a protein-packed lunch.
Buying milk at school, even when packing a lunch, may be tempting in effort to get the kids the calcium they need. Just keep in mind that the milk served at school is usually a higher fat content (at least 2 percent), and the sugar in the flavored milks is like eating dessert. Some great dairy alternatives to milk are cheese sticks, cubed cheese, yogurt tubes, cottage cheese snack packs, or pudding.
Snacks and Sweets
I love the ease of throwing individually wrapped snacks in the lunch box, but I cringe when half my grocery bill is dedicated to these little snack packs! I'm willing to put in a little weekend work to try out some homemade options that are not only less expensive, but also healthier than the store-bought variety.
Trail Mix: Make your own combination of favorite trail mix ingredients, and divide them into snack-sized Ziploc bags.
Sure, I'm still going to let my child buy lunch when she knows there's something extra special on the school lunch menu, but I'm hoping that I won't use the kids' school lunch as a crutch because I can't think of what to pack in their lunch boxes.
Having a bunch of lunchbox ideas and a few goodies made ahead of time should help keep our kids happy at lunchtime and getting the nutrition to keep them healthy.