Healthy School Lunches your Kids will Eat!

healthy homemade school lunches

A healthy breakfast & lunch are vital for attention and learning, and help keep kids focused and alert all day. I’ve taught hundreds of kids to plan and cook for themselves, and the vast majority of them, given the opportunity, will choose healthy, nutritious foods if they taste good, are offered in variety, and if they feel like they are allowed to choose for themselves.

Healthy school lunch ideas
Click the image to watch this morning’s segment on the AM Northwest webpage!

Ham and cheese wraps in lunch boxVariety

Kids get bored with the same old, same old…and a variety of foods helps ensure more balanced nutrition.

  • Wraps are sturdier and less messy to eat. Who wants to eat a smooshed sandwich?
  • Quesadillas are quick and easy to make. Ham & Cheese, Pizza, Turkey and cheddar
  • Vary hot and cold lunches. A thermos of their favorite soup or stew is a nice break from cold lunch, especially in winter.
  • A hot sandwich, wrapped in foil, will stay warm in a thermos, all day!
  • Pita Pockets are easy to eat, less messy, and because pita it denser than sandwich bread, you can assemble them the night before, and they won’t get soggy.

Tip: Small rewards for bringing home rinsed dishes and thermos’ are totally worth it!

yumbox-lunchboxLeftovers of favorite dinners make GREAT lunches

  • Slightly under-cook veggies, so they don’t turn to mush when re-heated.
  • If you struggle to get them to eat it at home, don’t bother packing it for lunch.
  • Let you kid’s help make the meal. Kid’s LOVE to bring and brag, and are twice as likely to eat something they helped make.
  • No kid worth their My Little Pony back-pack doesn’t like cold pizza!

Lunchable

Homemade “Lunchables”

Kids love stuff they can assemble!

  • Deli meat: slice it into cracker-size squares, and put it right back in the bag!
  • Cheese slices: Ditto
  • Crackers, whole wheat pita pockets, small flour tortillas
  • Raw veggies (carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc.)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Pickles
  • Trail mix
  • Treat (cookie, pudding, yogurt, etc.)
  • A 011316.f.ff.LostItalianwhole rotisserie chicken can make a week’s worth of protein for one hungry teen-ager or a couple of littles! Chicken legs, chicken with rice (use your rice-cooker), chicken salad wraps, sliced chicken-breast pitas…the list is endless!
  • Check out the bulk food section, it’s not just rice and beans anymore. Buying staple lunch items in bulk can save a ton of money over the same items in pretty bags.
  • Want to add a little more variety, without buying the whole produce section? Check out my post, “Shopping the Salad Bar!” over on our outreach page!

Make a master list of healthy lunch ingredients, and let your kids take turns choosing items from each food group the next time you go shopping. It works, it really does.

Save yourself some time!

Does it really need to be sliced on a perfect bias? Does every sandwich need to be cut into cute shapes and adorned with smiley faces? We’re not Martha Stewart, people, and nobody’s giving out Michelin Stars for the contents of our kid’s lunch bags. 😉

CARROTSTICKSFresh fruits and veggies begin to lose their flavor and texture as soon as they’re cut. My daughter is just as happy gnawing on a 4 inch hunk of cucumber, or popping whole grape tomatoes. Slice you veggies into manageable pieces in advance, and store in a large, sealed container of cold water for the week.

Spend those precious minutes assembling fresh, quality foods that your kids will eat. Flavor will trump fancy every time!

Chef or Cob salads are quick and easy to assemble. Send with a small reuseable container of their favorite dressing, and a baggie of croutons.

What to Skip

Bananas do NOT travel well, and nobody want to eat a brown, mushy banana. Save the bananas for breakfast! Always wrap the stems in foil.

Prepackaged “lunchables”. Sure they’re convenient, but you’re paying double, sometimes triple, for something you can easily assemble (with fresh fruit and veggies!) yourself.

16236AProbably the biggest rip-off in home-packed lunches are juice boxes.

Non-recyclable containers filled with a few swallow of sugar-laden “fruit” juice, and a grossly inflated price…ugh! Invest in a few reusable drink bottles, and fill them with pure, no-sugar-added juices at a fraction of the cost.

This goes for just about any “individual serving size” items (chips, cookies, fruits & veggies, trail-mix, etc.,)

All of these can be purchased in family-size portions, and added to a sandwich baggie for pennies on the dollar.

Assemble

Make it a team effort!

Make a (supervised) lunch “assembly line” in the morning. Kids can pick and choose what they want from a selection of meats, cheeses, fruits and veggies. All YOU need to do is pop a treat in the bag at the end of the line!

Stop over-paying for greasy burgers, spongy pizza, and chemical-laden processed “convenience” foods, and give your kids a leg up on learning with fresh, healthy, money-saving lunches.

They deserve it (and so do you!)

~Chef Perry

PS – Be sure to subscribe to my blog, and get many more healthy, delicious, budget-friendly tips, techniques, and recipes!


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