Wondering what to put in your child’s lunch box that is easy and nutritious? If your child is one who will eat almost anything you give them, you are in luck! A varied assortment of fresh fruits and veggies, cheese, crackers, meats, sandwiches, milk, juice, and water will satisfy their hunger and taste buds.
If you have a picky eater, things may not be so easy. Most of us know that lunch should offer a balance of some carbohydrates, protein, fruits and vegetables and a beverage. Knowing it and doing it, and then having your child eat it, is another story!There are those who say that if your kid gets hungry enough, they will eat whatever it is you pack for them. I know from my own years at school and from the time I have spent in schools as an adult that this isn’t exactly the case. I have seen a lot of carrot sticks and other healthy foods in the trash. I have also seen kids with the more healthy lunches ditch their food if they have a friend who will share their lunch with them. What is the point of packing these things for your kids if you know pretty much that they will hit the garbage or still be in the lunch bag at the end of the day?
Peanut Butter and Jam sandwiches are a staple for many, and were all my son would eat for years (and it is still a favourite!). I had to remind myself that although it was the same thing day after day, it was part of a nutritious lunch when we balanced it out with some fruit and milk. However, if nut products are banned at your child’s school, this easy lunch is not an option. After talking with other moms, and a little trial and error, I came up with some simple and healthy lunch ideas that most kids will love.
Even fussy eaters will often gobble up bite sized pieces of fresh fruit when they have a yummy dip to go along with it. Try mixing a little whipped cream into some strawberry or vanilla yogurt, or mix 1 cup plain yogurt with 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla and the kids will be asking for more fruit! You can also try putting the fruit on skewers to make it even more appealing, and try adding some grilled chicken chunks, carrot sticks, and cubes of whole wheat, raisin, or focaccia breads to the skewer to make it a complete meal!
Many dinner leftovers can be popped into a whole wheat tortilla shell. Add a bit of grated cheese and lettuce and wrap it up!
There are a lot of recipes out there for muffins, cakes, and cookies that incorporate vegetables into them. The kids get a treat, and you get peace of mind knowing there is some great nutrition in there too!
Make some smoothies ahead of time and freeze them. Pop one in your child’s lunch box in the morning – it will be thawed enough by lunchtime and has the added benefit of keeping the rest of the lunch cool. A good one to try is blending together 2/3 cup orange juice, 3/4 cup plain or vanilla Yogurt, 10 ounces frozen raspberries, and 1 teaspoon honey – Yummy!
There are some days when you just do not have a lot of time to pull together a creative lunch – and that is ok! Here are a few really quick ideas for those days when time is tight:
Growing kids need to eat every few hours to – a healthy snack at morning recess can help kids from getting overly hungry before lunch. How about some granola bars, popcorn with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, cheese and crackers, or yogurt and fruit? Or, try some muffin recipes that incorporate fruits and veggies.
In wanting to make sure your child gets enough good food to eat, often we will over pack – giving them more than what they can or should eat. This can lead to them eating just their favourites and leaving the rest (for example, eating just the fruit and not the veggies or proteins). It can also lead to kids over eating.
Getting your kids to help prepare the foods may also encourage them to try new foods and eat what is packed for them.
Good luck and Bon Appetite!