Even though it is the end of summer break, beach days are few and far between and we are getting the kids ready to go back to school, I must say, it is nice to be getting back into a routine again!
When it comes to packing kids lunches it can be difficult to get creative and find healthy options, it is very easy to head for the “snack” isle of the grocery store and fill their lunch bags with these items. While you might have a something relatively healthy packed for their main meal, chances are they are going to gravitate to the “less healthy” items first if they are there as an option. In my experience, kids do not get much time for lunch and they want to have whatever is quick and easy so they can eat and then get on the go for the remainder of the break to play!
So here are a few easy and healthy options for school lunches for kids:
Roast chicken and veggies (my favourite option!) I like to get a fresh organic chicken and do my own version a grocery store roast chicken. You can put the chicken in a slow cooker (4 hours high - 8 hours low) season with sea salt, pepper, turmeric and smoked paprika, extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil. Once the chicken is done, remove from the slow cooker and pull meat away from the bones and store in the fridge for quick lunches for the week. This is great served with veggies - cut up cucumber, carrots, peppers, etc.
Low sugar granola (check out this recipe recently shared on the blog) and full fat yogurt. You can also add some fresh berries on top or on the side!
Homemade soup (or chilli) Investing in a good thermos is a really good idea. Schools that have microwaves usually limit the heat up time and the line up can be long, this can deter your child from wanting to heat up their lunch and could end up not even eating much at all. And let’s be honest here, kids just want to get outside and play at lunch time! I like sending soup during the winter months since because you can make big batches and load it up with lots of immune boosting/protective ingredients. (Hot tip: save the bones and drippings from your roast chicken and throw in some celery, onion, garlic, apple cider vinegar and some herbs and keep the slow cooker going to make your own broth, freeze and store for soups later!)
Veggies and dip This could be a lunch on its own, but also works well as a snack option. Pairing with sunflower seed butter (nut free!) or hummus adds some extra protein. I would try to avoid using any kind of dressing (unless homemade and sugar free) as most store bought versions contain sugar, not something you want to add too much (or any at all) of to your child’s lunch.
If there is one piece of advice I can give you, it is totally worth it to invest in a metal bento box style lunchbox! You can fill up those little spots with so many different healthy foods! Variety is key with kids, and with so many options you are not limiting them to just one boring old sandwich day after day. Another reason I like these is because you can sneak in something new and encourage your child to try it, even if it is just one bite and if they don’t like it, they have other options as well! Fun fact: it takes 7 times of trying a new taste to get the palate used to the flavour! Something to keep in mind when introducing new items to kids!
A few other quick tips to keep in mind when packing school lunches….
Have fun with it and involve the kids in the process, take them grocery shopping with you and let them pick out their favourite produce and items from the health food section (avoid the inside isles of the grocery store!). Letting kids have a choice in what they have to eat will make them more likely to actually eat their lunch. If you are making big batches of soup or granola or even some homemade snacks, let them help in the kitchen so they can feel like they were part of the process too.
Keep in mind any restrictions in place for the school. As you know most (probably all) schools are nut free when it comes to food, but sometimes classmates can have certain allergies as well that could be harmful to them if they are in close proximity. (Usually the parents will be informed of anything serious, but just incase its better to be safe than your kid without a lunch!)
The less sugar the better! Most kids packed lunches contain two times more sugar than what is recommended, and to be quite honest the recommendation is on the high side. Making sure your kids lunch has very little to no refined sugar is key. Upping the protein, healthy fat and balancing whole grains and fruit and veggies is just as important for kids as it is for adults. You do not want your child to be crashing after lunch because of what they ate. This will also make them ravenous and go on a snack craze when they get home from school because they are just not satiated enough from their meals earlier in the day. Its also important to fuel the brain with these good foods to help with their concentration levels for later in the day (the first half of the day is covered with their healthy breakfast!)
A final tip is about hydration! Keep it simple with water! My kids like to use a steel water bottle because it keeps it cold all day long, and most teachers are ok with keeping it in the class or in their school bag if they want a quick drink, and its a much better option than the school fountains….
I hope these help with ideas for lunches for your kids this coming school year, if you have any healthy tips you like to do, let us know what they are!
Enjoy the long weekend!