From pasta to pizza, and even dessert, we’ve got simple and healthy lunch ideas that your kids will love. But before you open the fridge consider this; the first step toward success is to let your children make lunch decisions. The second step is to help them make their meal.
Offer two or three healthy options each day. After your child chooses, team up to make and pack the lunch. Let them spread on condiments, roll up tortillas, or fill baggies. Your child’s effort will give them a sense of pride while teaching them to eat more healthy food.
Can a healthy lunch include cold pizza? With this version, the answer is “yes.” The tomato sauce comes packed with vitamins and may even have cancer-fighting properties. Plus, it’s a great way to get your kids to willingly eat some veggies.
Simple pizza recipe:
- Spread low-sodium tomato or pizza sauce on a large flour tortilla
- sprinkle with reduced-fat shredded cheese
- add chopped turkey, pepperoni, or ham
- let your kid add their favorite chopped veggies
- roll up the tortilla like a burrito
- cut into equal halves
An even healthier option would be to make your own tomato sauce. Dozens of recipes are available online.
Pasta sometimes gets a bad rap for the carbs. But some pasta dishes are a good base for a healthy lunch. Cold pesto pasta can be filling, especially if you use whole grain pasta. Ingredients such as olive oil, nuts, basil, and other greens make a cold pasta lunch as delicious as it is healthy.
Simple pesto pasta recipe:
- cook whole grain pasta according to instructions
- drain and set aside
- blend olive oil, basil, walnuts or pine nuts, and garlic
- add greens such as spinach, kale, or arugula into the food processor and blend well
- add salt, pepper, and parmesan to taste
Make sure a fork gets packed with their lunch, and you’re good to go.
Fresh fruit smoothies are a great way to “hide” the vitamin-rich fruits (and even veggies) that you want your kids to eat. Satisfy their sugar cravings, but keep the sugar content down my making smoothies. Use liquid bases like coconut water or low-fat milk instead of fruit juice. Yogurt adds extra protein and healthy bacteria, which is important for kids’ immune systems.
Simple smoothie recipe:
- add low-fat plain yogurt in a blender
- add fresh or frozen fruit, and flaxseed
- include a spoonful of peanut butter for extra protein
- blend well
Fill a thermos with the smoothie, and tell your child to shake it up before drinking.
You hope that your child will eat the apple or orange that you put in their lunch bag. But more than likely, it’s getting tossed in the trash at the end of lunch period.
You’ll have a better chance of getting your kids to eat fruit if you peel or segment it and seal in a zip-top bag. Sectioned oranges, pear slices, and apple slices travel well. Berries and other juicy fruits such as melon and pineapple tend get smashed or leak into other foods if not packed separately.
Add a small cup of peanut or almond butter for dunking, and they’ll be eating two nutritious foods at the same time.
At some point, cold sandwiches can get really boring, no matter how you prepare them. But who said school lunches have to be cold? A hot lunch can be just what your child needs on a chilly winter day. Grab a thermos and you can toss in soup, chili, casseroles, and even spaghetti and meatballs.
A wide variety of insulated food-storage lunch bags and thermos jars are available. They come in many shapes and sizes to keep soups, stews, and entrees hot until lunchtime. Large discounts stores such as Target or Wal-Mart, and online stores such as Amazon.com, carry a large selection.
What was the first thing you looked for in your lunchbox? You got it — dessert. Sweet treats that keep fat and sugar to a minimum are great additions to your child’s lunch.
Individual portions of snacks are marketed toward dieters. But they are a great way to include a little something sweet in your child’s lunch and still limit high amounts of fat and sugar. Choose snacks that are minimally processed. A short ingredients list is a good indicator. But also opt for real-food snacks when possible. Try dark chocolate covered pumpkin seeds or raisins for a little sweetness and nutrition. Alternatively, chocolate-covered strawberries, apple, pears, or fruit and nut bars granola bars will satisfy a kid’s sweet tooth and a parent’s aim for good nutrition.
There are always mixed emotions sending your child back to school at the end of each summer. In addition to packing healthy lunches, here are our tips to help prepare you and your favorite student for a brand new school year:
- Back-to-School Health Tips
- Backpack Safety
- Bullying Prevention Clinic
- Cyberbullying 101