Do you know that feeling when your kid comes home from daycare, camp or school again with almost all of the food they left with that morning? We’ve all been there! Whether it’s packing for school, daycare or camp, coming up with kid-friendly nutritious lunches your child loves can feel like a small miracle. We’re here to help with strategies and offer simple solutions so you can hit a home run for healthy and tasty bagged lunches!
Vary the Color
Adding different colored fruits, vegetables and legumes are great eye appeal. By adding in a mix of colors, you are truly packing a punch! Each color contains unique health benefits through phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. You can plan ahead to make sure the colorful foods hold well in your child’s lunch box by picking up some of the following options during your next trip to the grocery store:
When packing lunches, aim to include at least 4 of the 5 food groups – dairy, fruit, grains, protein, and vegetables. Using bento boxes, mini containers, or zip lock bags can help to make sure the foods don’t blend together since most kids prefer their foods separated. If you’re preparing or cutting certain foods, always make more than you will use for that day to have extra snacks on hand, and for easy grab-n-go options for the rest of the week! Another trick to keep up your sleeve is to avoid food boredom by adding variety with different dressings or food pairings!
Keep it Real
Aim to choose food options that are as close to their original source as possible, which will also help your kids to identify the foods they are eating! Do your best to avoid snacks and foods with additives, dyes, and chemicals. These are commonly found in popular kids’ foods, so make sure to read your food labels to double check. Do your best to keep your expectations real in the process! Kids tastes do change- their favorite meal one week could be a meal they despise the next. It’s hard to imagine, but even the most adorable cookie cutter lunch or juiciest fruit will go uneaten at times. There are always solutions if you’re patient and creative!
Cook Once, Pack 3 days-worth
Packing lunch 5 days a week can be stressful. When you are preparing meals, save yourself time by making enough for 3 days. If you’re cooking chicken for dinner or pasta, throw in a bit more to the pot or pan and you will have lunch covered! With your creative hat on, you can use the same items many different ways. For example, chicken + pasta can also turn into chopped chicken aioli in a wrap, or a barbeque chicken sandwich on whole grain bread. Just remember to pack the bread and barbeque separately for kids to reassemble later –no one likes a soggy sandwich!
Here are some lunch ideas that require minimal preparation and can be enjoyed right out of the lunchbox with no heating required!
Tip: A sprinkle of parmesan cheese is a great flavor booster! To prevent parmesan cheese from spoiling in the fridge, place it in a ziplock bag and pop it in the freezer.
• Bean and Cheese “Sushi Wrap” – spread mashed black beans with a bit of lemon juice on a whole grain tortilla, sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese, and roll into a tight log. Then cut it into slices just like sushi!
Tip: Beans provide protein, fiber, phytochemicals, and magnesium, which are all important for maximizing kids’ health potential. Switch things up from time to time and use pinto or cannellini beans.
• Turkey, Cheese, and Cucumber Stackables
*Place in zip lock bags and encourage kids to stack em’ and eat em’
• 2 clementine
• Chicken and Broccoli Salad with Pita chips or Pita pocket (while the pitas are in stock, try these Greek Pita Pizzas)
Tip: Include a fun fact on a post-it note in the lunch box. For example, “Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene and are good for your eyes.”
• Taco Salad Lunch Bowls
• Apple slices with nut butter
Tip: Popcorn is a great whole grain snack that can be sprinkled with an array of crazy flavor combinations. Exposing children to different flavor profiles early on really develops their palates.
See more tasty lunchbox ideas with the Bento Box strategy.