It’s that time of year again, the air is crisp and pumpkin-spiced everything abounds! It’s back to school for kids and back to a busier schedule for the family. Back to school also means getting into the swing of packing lunches and snacks for our little ones. This can be a daunting prospect, especially if you have a pickier eater on your hands. Not to worry though, we’re here with a round-up of 10 easy and fun lunch ideas for you to choose from!
1) Mini omelettes
Whisk up some eggs and add your favourite vegetables like mushrooms, peppers, frozen spinach etc. Add a protein like chicken or ham and some shredded cheese along with spices your child loves – try Italian blend or paprika to broaden their palate! Once you’ve mixed it all together, grease a muffin tray and add your egg mixture, bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes and store in the fridge for grab and go breakfast or lunch!
Breakfast foods can be repurposed as lunch, making them both a convenient and nutritious option. Make pancakes on the weekend and send a few for lunch served with fruit and some yogurt in a portioned lunch container. Try making your pancakes with less sugar than the recipe calls for and swap out half the white flour with whole wheat flour. If your child is gluten-free, try almond or buckwheat flour instead! You can also send a small container of honey or maple syrup as a dipper or try to swizzle some into plain yogurt with cinnamon.
3) Homemade lunchables
Instead of sending boxed lunchables to school each day, try making them on your own at home. It takes a little bit of preparation but once your ingredients are ready you simply put them in a container each night and send it with your child in the morning. Try purchasing a bento box or some other portioned lunch container for this idea. Look to include a fruit, vegetable, whole grain starch and source of protein (cooked chicken, yogurt, or cheese) to make this a balanced meal. Cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes make for easy dippers into hummus or yogurt. Pair this with some baked chicken cubes and try whole-wheat pita triangles, a cut-up whole wheat bagel or whole-grain crackers as your starch.
4) Burrito bowls
Experiment with new cuisines and try out a burrito bowl! What’s your child’s favourite protein? These can be made with beef, chicken, fish or beans. Simply put protein in a bowl with rice, lettuce and toppings like chopped onions, peppers, corn etc. Top this all off with sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, salsa and guacamole or whatever other condiments you have on hand. These are a fun and healthy way to introduce beans and lentils to your little one!
We all love a beautifully plated meal and kids are no different. Presentation is everything, especially with picky eaters. Try deconstructing a sandwich and skewering the ingredients on a plastic kebab stick that you can get from the Dollar Store. Cut small squares from whole wheat bread and thread this on with chicken or turkey, vegetables and cheese. Send a few of these kebabs in their lunch box with additional snacks for the day and they’ll be properly fueled and nourished.
6) Mexican pinwheels
Use a small whole wheat wrap and spread some refried beans onto it. Add some shredded cheese and chopped vegetables. Roll this up and cut it into pieces producing “pinwheels”. Send this in their lunch box along with some salsa for dipping. Kids love to dunk and dip their food so this is a wonderful way to introduce new foods or encourage eating.
7) Mini pizzas
This is another batch cook option that is a time saver and a popular choice with kids. Try using whole wheat English muffins or mini pita’s. Spread some sauce and add your toppings. Use lots of veggies and some protein with cheese. Your child will love having pizza for lunch!
8) Sandwich dippers
Try purchasing a small thermos for your child to take hot foods to school. They can be easily found at department stores like Walmart or Canadian Tire and some Dollar Stores even carry them! Send some tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich cut into strips for easy dunking. If you’re feeling up to it, fire up your slow-cooker and make a heartier soup like minestrone or lentil for higher protein and vegetable content.
9) Pasta salad
Most kids love pasta making this one a popular choice! Try adding some feta cheese with chicken, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle a little greek dressing on top and you have a flavourful combination that will last a few days. Does your child avoid tomatoes? No problem, swap it out for a vegetable they do like. Up the protein and fiber by trying out some of the new bean-based pastas on the market!
Change things up and try making meatballs from ground chicken or turkey. Up the veggie ante by adding shredded carrots and zucchini into the mixture. Coat in buffalo sauce and serve with carrot and celery sticks with ranch dip. It’s a play on wings that’s healthier for their day but still delicious!
With a little meal planning and preparation, healthy and nutritious school lunches can be a breeze! If you decide to try these out, let us know how things went in the comments below! At NutriProCan we work with many families and children who are overcoming picky eating, allergies and more. Our team of dietitians can help you plan a well-balanced diet for your whole family while taking into account the specific barriers to change that you may be facing. Reach out to us at any time for a free 20-minute consultation to get started!