Back-to-School Lunch Box Bliss
Whether you and your kiddo are nagging or cheering for school to start, stress less and prep right for school mealtime. When it comes to lunch preparation, don’t go it alone; encourage your kids to pitch in. Their help not only will save you energy and time, it also fosters kids’ confidence and aids in creativity. Plus, hungry helpers will be more likely to consume a food dish they put together.
Now, how do you build a healthful lunch? Model your child’s ideal lunch box meal off the “My Plate” food module, established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Strive to include one serving of each food group.
Fabulous Fruits: Peaches, pears, apples, strawberries, grapes, mixed berries or raisins. Think: Fresh, canned, frozen or dried.
Various Vegetables: Cherry tomatoes, avocados, carrots, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers or broccoli.
Delicious Dairy: Milk, yogurt, string cheese, cheese cubes, cottage cheese or pudding.
Great Grains: Whole grain bread, pasta, crackers, brown rice or corn tortillas.
Powerful Proteins: Skinless and boneless chicken, turkey, canned tuna, salmon, tofu, beans or hard-boiled eggs.
Now that you’re ready to start lunch prep, try some of these no-fail meals.
Homemade pizza: whole-grain English muffin with tomato sauce, shredded cheese, topped with spinach.
Wrap rollups: roasted chicken breast with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and a spicy dressing spread onto a whole wheat wrap and sliced into 1-inch pieces.
Cracker sandwiches: whole wheat crackers with slices of cheddar or mozzarella cheese combined with turkey or ham.
Pasta salad: chopped veggies, whole wheat pasta and diced grilled chicken mixed with vinaigrette sauce.
Bagel bites: peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese on a mini whole grain bagel.
Pita pocket: a whole wheat pita pocket, stuffed with corn, beans, hummus, cheese and veggies.
Finger sandwiches: Cut out mini sandwiches using festive cookie cutters. Try turkey, turkey bacon, cucumber, tomatoes and avocado spread with cream cheese on whole grain bread.
Or, perhaps you’ll take the menu advice of Timothy, an Olathe middle schooler: grilled and diced chicken breast with a side of ranch dressing for dipping, along with baked kale chips.
Finally, keep these details in mind: Include ice packs and a reusable water bottle. Consider how the food and drink will travel and keep. Incorporate variety throughout the week.
So instead of relying on hard-on-your-wallet prepackaged foods, do lunch yourself with a healthy twist. And remember that kids who get involved with their nutrition and meals are more likely to enjoy healthy foods—oftentimes without realizing they’re healthy!
Amy Hundley is a registered dietitian nutritionist, licensed in both Kansas and Missouri and a published freelance nutrition writer. She is currently practicing as a clinical RD and has been a resident of Olathe since early childhood.