Soooo, before we get started with the whole “I’m so great, my kids make their own lunches, blah, blah blah” let’s just have a little truth telling session right here and now, shall we?
Yesterday my son went to his first day of Jr. high/7th grade. When he sauntered through the door (because that’s what 7th graders do, they saunter), he did not tell me about the long bus ride, which friends he had caught up with, or how horrible his teachers were. No, he started down the list of all of the junk food he bought at school. Donut, Frosted Flakes w/ milk, a sub-sandwich, a Twix ice cream bar, and the list goes on. And just to add insult to injury, he left his homemade healthy school lunch untouched in his locker!
So, although I am now going to go on to tell you how important it is to teach children how to put together a healthy meal, I must also warn you that once they manage to leave your juristiction, they may just revert right back to the Standard American Diet (SAD). That being said, I have high hopes that once he gets his first zit, he’ll beg me for advice and start eating like his mama taught him once again.
Ahem, and now it’s time for me to get on my high, high horse. Here we go……….. 🙂
Teaching children how to put together a healthy and satisfying meal is just as important as any lesson they’ll learn at school. Lunch is an easy meal to start the learning process. Plus, it lightens mom’s load, and helps get everyone out the door in a timely manner.
In the above video I showcase foods and containers that we use for school lunches in my house. Plus, I show how to teach kids how to use a sharp knife (I started letting my kids use sharp knives around age 5).
Below I’ve compiled a list of convenient lunch-time foods from each food group.
First though, here are a few ways we make lunches fun in my house:
Petite fours, sushi, Lunchables, individually wrapped anything, let’s face it, young or old, we love finger foods! Not only that, we (especially the kiddo’s) like to play with our food. That’s why “Toothpick Lunches” are a favorite in my house. Anything that can be stabbed with a toothpick and gobbled up is fair game.
“Kool Kabob Lunches” in which the foods all go onto a kabob stick and are wrapped in foil, is another big hit with kids.
Another variation is “Bento Box lunches“, where bite sized foods are compartmentalized. Call it what you will, they’re all the same foods, just packaged differently to create a little bit of whimsy in a structured world.
Simply choose one or two items from each list, package in a fancy bento box type container, add a toothpick, or skewer and you’re set!
Choose from the categories below and you’ve got a healthy, satisfying and yummy lunch!
Protein and Fat
Cheese (raw cheese is readily available at Trader Joe’s, easier to digest, safe and full of nutrients)
Hard boiled egg white, quartered with yolk saved for another use (too crumbly)
Nuts or nut/seed butters
Many schools are banning peanuts and nut products altogether. Sunbutter is one of the only alternatives that is always allowed.
Coconut- full of healthy fat, fiber, and very filling!
Dried coconut flakes
Butter- The brain needs fat to function. A low-fat diet is NOT healthy for children. Grass-fed butter like Kerrygold is well worth the extra $ because it is high in vitamins and is a healthy source of fat. Fat also keeps us full and is the most efficient fuel that our bodies can use. Butter actually aids the body in digesting bread and other carbohydrates. So when your school so “No nut butters” don’t feel badly about sending your kids to school with a bread and butter sandwich!
Avocado– Although avocados can be a hit or miss with kids, I find that most kids like the creamy texture and mild taste of guacamole. Squeeze a little lime juice on top to keep it from turning brown, and add some organic (one way to ensure that the corn used is non-GMO) tortilla chips.
Sprouted whole grain bread. This is the brand I buy for my kids.
If you want to try your hand at homemade bread, try my tried and true Multigrain Bread Recipe. It’s kid approved!
Gluten free? Try this sourdough gluten free bread.
Whole grain bagel, cubed- buy gluten free bagels here
Whole Grain crackers (although not easily stabbed with a toothpick, finger foods are always acceptable)
Gluten free crackers buy wheat free, gluten free crackers here
Whole grain tortillas cut into mini triangles (do this with a pizza cutter, it’s fast and kids can do it themselves). Make your own with this cast iron tortilla press.
Mini muffins (here’s a recipe for my Pumpkin carrot chocolate chip muffins)
Popcorn– I often pop a large batch of popcorn, salt and butter it, and serve it as an after school snack. Any leftovers go into individual baggies for school lunches. My kids love to take popcorn in their lunch and it is very filling and considered a “whole grain.” Remember to buy organic to ensure that non-GMO corn is used.
Garbanzo beans, in particular, pack well.
Bell peppers cut into chunks, or mini bell peppers
Mushrooms (I like marinated best but my kids just like plain, raw mushrooms)
Jicama (peel and slice ahead of time as large jicama can take awhile to process)
Banana (sprinkle with a bit of lemon or pineapple juice to keep from browning)
*Apples (see above note to prevent browning)
Orange segments cut in half
Coconut (can be a choking hazard for toddlers)
Gummy type candy (preferably made with fruit juice)
The best thing about these lunches is that they can be prepped ahead of time and then kids can make their own! Enjoy!
*Preferably organic as these are among the Dirty Dozen– meaning they were tested and rated very high for pesticide residue.