Making sure your kids are eating healthy at school can be a challenge. The best way to ensure that they are getting a complete and balanced diet is by packing their lunchbox yourself. With our hectic schedules, it can be hard to come up with a healthy lunchbox every night. So we’ve put together some healthy snack and meal tips to make sure your child is getting a healthy balanced lunch every single day:
What Should Be Packed In Your Child’s Lunchbox?
Packing your child’s lunchbox is easy if you know what you should put inside. First, you always should always pack a starch and a protein. This is their main course and will give them the healthy energy they need to get through their day. Next you will want to add some healthy fruits and veggies. Normally, children should eat more servings of vegetables in a day than fruit, but sometimes they need a little extra healthy sugar intake to push through the day. Feel free to pack an extra apple or clementine, it will not only give the power to get through their studies, it will also give them enough healthy sugar they won’t reach for the candy when they are feel low energy. Next, add a simple healthy snack, such as string cheese, yogurt, or popcorn so they have something if they get hungry later in the day. Lastly, make sure to always pack a bottle of water. A great investment is to buy a refillable water bottle. Most children do not drink enough water, but it helps them stay focused and healthy, so you want to encourage it!
Start With A Healthy Balance of Starch And Protein
You want to start by packing a healthy main course; here are some super simple and kid-friendly options to pack in their lunchbox:
- Hard-boiled egg and whole grain crackers (Check out this how to for making the perfect boiled egg: http://greatist.com/eat/perfect-boiled-eggs-tips)
- Low sodium deli turkey and Swiss cheese on whole grain bread
- Whole wheat pita bread and hummus
- Beans and rice (Check out this easy crockpot recipe, it’s vegan and gluten free: http://delishknowledge.com/slow-cooker-vegan-red-beans-and-rice/)
- Simple quesadilla wedges made with refried bean and cheese
- Ham provolone cheese rolled up in a tortilla
Now those are meals anyone would feel good eating, right? These yummy, unintimidating options will not only satisfy their nutritional needs but will help you cut back on your guilt and spare your wallet.
Don’t Forget Your Fruits And Vegetables
Next you will want to add some simple fruits and vegetables. If your little one is a picky eater, this might be a challenge, but you can take it as an opportunity to expose them to new foods too. Maybe you will find something they actually like! Here are a few fruit and veggie combinations to throw in for lunch:
- Carrots and an apple (or apple slices)
- Snap peas and grapes
- Cucumber and cantaloupe
- Bell peppers and pineapple
- Celery and strawberries
- Tomatoes and clementine wedges
- Squash and mango (some squash, like zucchini, is yummy raw – other’s you can cook up with a little oil and spices for an extra treat, like this easy garlic butternut squash recipe: http://www.healthyseasonalrecipes.com/easy-garlic-herb-butternut-squash/)
How easy was that! If your kids will not eat veggies and fruit plain, throw in a tiny bit of hummus, plain yogurt, or ranch dressing make them more enticing. We love these little Mini “Bites To Go” snack containers for the job.
Add A Healthy Snack
Finding healthy snacks for your kids among the grocery aisles can be a serious challenge. Thankfully, we have a list that will give them some variety and you can feel good about. Just be sure to try to keep snacks at 200 calories or less. Also, if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, it is probably best to leave it on the shelf.
- Roasted Chickpeas: With excellent levels of fiber and protein, roasted chickpeas are a great pick-me-up snack. Plus, at schools with nut restrictions, it is still a safe snack to send in your child’s lunch. If your little one has nut allergies, do not fear. Companies like The Good Bean chickpea snacks are roasted with safflower and sunflower oils in a dedicated nut-free facility. If you would rather cook at home, here are some instructions for roasted chickpeas five different ways: https://pulsepledge.com/about-pulses/roasted-chickpeas-5-ways/
- Popcorn: Buy a bag or make it on the stove. It is easy and fun to kids to help pop popcorn, plus they can add their own seasonings and you can monitor how much butter and salt is added. Popcorn is a good source of fiber and protein. Here are some yummy ideas for dressing up your popcorn: http://www.swansonvitamins.com/blog/jenessa/diy-popcorn-seasonings?SourceCode=INTFSF01B&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=INTFSF01B&utm_content=fb-blog-popcorn-seasonings
- Date Balls: These are an extra special treat for your little ones to provide them with the energy they need to finish the day off strong. Throw 2-3 in with their lunch. Your kids will love helping you make these at home. Here is a delicious, simple recipe for date balls. Feel free to experiment with the recipe ingredients and rolling toppings too: http://www.sweetphi.com/no-bake-coconut-date-energy-bites/
- Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds have a ton of fiber and even better protein values. Eden Foods has a great dry roasted, lightly salted pumpkin seed that would be great by itself or with some dried fruit: http://www.vitacost.com/eden-foods-organic-pumpkin-seeds-dry-roasted-unflavored-4-oz-17
- String Cheese Or Yogurt: What kid doesn’t love playing with their food? String cheese is a fun snack for them to get a little silly with. If string cheese doesn’t hit the spot, try plain or Greek yogurt. These are good sources of vitamins, like calcium, and provide healthy proteins. You can easily find low-fat alternatives. If your kid lactose intolerant, you can find lactose-free alternatives and soy or rice-based alternatives.
Other great snack ideas include lightly salted pretzels, low sodium black olives, roasted veggie or rice chips, unsweetened dried fruit, and mini zucchini or carrot muffins. If your child’s school allows nuts, a nice treat of roasted, unsalted almonds with dark chocolate chips will put a smile on their face.
Get Your Kids Involved In Packing Their Lunch
If your kids are a little older, have them give you a hand packing lunches. Find out what they prefer and do a little meal planning, so they understand what a well-balanced meal consist of and how to do it themselves. This will set them up with skills to last a lifetime, it is one of the best gift you could give them!
Consider A Bento Box For Easy Packing
Make packing lunch a breeze with a reusable bento box. They have differently sized compartments to help you pack a well-balanced lunch. Check out LunchBot’s stainless steel three compartment Bento Box.
We also love Yumbox’s leak-proof Panino Box.
For a bonus, throw in a mommy note or some cool stickers. Showing your kids some extra love is good for a healthy relationship, so start scheming some cute ideas to along with these healthy lunch ideas. Your kids will not only love finding all the delicious, healthy treats in their lunchbox, they’ll love the extra surprise!