The one thing I dread every school year, aside from the early mornings, is the battle of the back to school lunches.
Don't laugh, the struggle is REAL!!
My kids refused to eat school lunches (unless it was pizza day). So every day I would pack five lunches. Trying to remember which kid liked peanut butter and jelly this week, or which kid would only eat veggies if they were drenched in balsamic vinegar.
After having one too many uneaten lunches return home, I announced to my kids that I was DONE. If they didn't want hot lunch, they were responsible for making their own lunches from now on.
This system has been working out for the past two years, and now the only complaints I get is when we run out of something.
To keep things simple, I stock the fridge and pantry with foods they can use to create quick, healthy lunches.
Studies show that children are much more likely to eat healthy if they prepare the food themselves. Plus, they can't complain if they don't like it!
With just a little bit of prep work from mom or dad, kids can make their own healthy and delicious lunch nearly as easily as grabbing a pre-packaged, preservative-filled snack pack from the fridge.
Not only are pre-packaged “lunch snacks” expensive, but they have high amounts of sodium, sugar, and fat, and contain little to no protein, fiber, or vitamins.
School Lunches Made Easy
Here are five quick tips to help take the struggle out of school lunches:
1) Stock up on easy-to-eat fruits that don't have to be cut up or need the skin cut off to eat, like apples, bananas, nectarines, peaches, or pears.
2) Keep lots of colorful, fresh “grab and go” veggies on hand, such as mini sweet peppers, celery sticks, baby carrots, and grape tomatoes.
3) Growing kids need lots of protein to keep their energy up! Pick up sliced ham, turkey, salami, roast beef, and/or various cheeses, like Babybel rounds, cheese sticks, goat cheese spread, or cream cheese.
4) Don't forget the dip! Hummus, Greek yogurt mixed with honey or herbs, salsa, and honey mustard dressing, are all healthy and tasty. Those creamy, soft cheese wedges are also a great choice and they only have 25 calories a serving.
Your junior chef can create all types of crunchy, sweet, and savory treats that will keep them going all day long.
5) Skip the juice boxes! They are full of sugar, artificial flavors, and colors. Keep kid-sized water bottles in the fridge within easy reach so they aren't forgotten. My kids' prefer flavored waters, so I pick up Capri Sun Roarin' Waters Flavored Water pouches. The grape flavor is my favorite! Roarin' Waters has a nice light, fruity flavor without the empty calories of juice. AND you can put them in the freezer the night before to use as an ice pack in the lunch box. It will keep everything nice and cold, and on a hot day the icy water tastes especially delicious!
Or even better, purchase a reusable, leak-proof water bottle. My current favorite is this Thermos Nissan Intak Hydration Water Bottle. It has yet to leak, even after being dropped on the hardwood floors and concrete driveway a hundred times.
After deciding to ditch the disposable zipper bags, I found these awesome Bento Lunch Box Meal Prep Containers. They have three removable compartments and a tight fitting, sturdy lid that is leak proof, thanks to the airtight, silicone seal. My girls love that none of the foods touch. Especially my youngest, who also happens to be my pickiest eater.
Speaking of my youngest, last year she attended a mini-chef program at a local store and created a delicious entree that we call Ham and Cheese Sushi. It's her favorite thing to eat and she doesn't even like tomatoes!!
Super easy to make, this dish can be customized it to each child's tastes. Don't like cream cheese? Substitute honey mustard or a yummy herb cheese spread. Not a fan of ham? Use turkey, roast beef, or sliced chicken! The possibilities are only as limited as your imagination!
Check out just how quick and easy it is!
Ham and Cheese “sushi”
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 1x
- Category: Snack
- 2–4 pieces honey ham
- 1 tablespoon cream cheese (or to taste)
- 2–3 cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1 Babybel cheese, cut into thin slices
- Honey mustard to taste
- Lay out overlapping slices of honey ham on a cutting board. Depending on the thickness of the ham you made need more to keep everything contained.
- Spread with about a tablespoon of cream cheese (or to taste) over the ham.
- Place the sliced Babybel cheese in a line across the ham.
- Add the cherry tomatoes on top of the Babybel cheese.
- Squeeze a small amount of honey mustard.
- Roll up the ham.
- Cut into chunks.
Here are two more simple ideas your kids will love.
What do your kids like to eat for lunch? Share their favorites below in the comments!