You need back-to-school lunch ideas that are quick, nutritious, and taste great without taking a lot of time to prepare.
Back to school means homework, new friends, and after-school activities. It also means time to come up with new lunch ideas. According to Healthy Food Choices in Schools, the benefits of a nutritious lunch are numerous. For example, children eating healthier meals result in better attention spans, improved cognitive functioning, and higher test scores.
However, coming up with fresh ideas for school lunches is sometimes overwhelming. A nutritious lunch doesn't mean much if a child won't eat it. The first step is to find a well-insulated lunch box or food container to ensure your child's lunches remain at the right temperature for several hours. The following are several great back-to-school lunch ideas that are quick and healthy. Plus, the kids will love them.
1. Tofu and Rice
Tofu is a plant-based source of complete protein that's most nutritious when eaten raw. You can combine raw tofu with steamed white rice. Add a few veggies, and you have a complete meal.
If your child is hesitant to eat uncooked tofu, you might try baking it first. Cut the tofu into cubes, drizzle in olive oil, and bake for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Add the tofu to steamed or fried rice.
2. Tuna and Crackers
This is a quick, inexpensive lunch that you can jazz up in various ways to suit every child's taste. You can mix the tuna with mayo or Greek yogurt. Add some Dijon mustard for a bit of spice. Finely chopped tomatoes or celery are veggies that mix well with tuna and add more flavor.
Almost any type of cracker will compliment tuna. Make sure to cover the crackers and pack them separately from the tuna so they don't get soggy. If you're looking for gluten-free crackers, there are now plenty available at most grocery stores and supermarkets.
3. Eggs and Toast
The great thing about eggs is that you can cook them in various ways, most will store well in the refrigerator overnight, and they're super healthy. Scrambled, hard-boiled, and even a basic omelet are all good choices.
You'll want to wait to make the toast in the morning while you're packing lunch. You can easily slice a few hard-boiled eggs, skip the toast, and add some salad greens to make a nutritious salad.
4. Cheesy Quesadillas
Quesadillas are a fun favorite for kids. It also gives parents a chance to sneak in a lot of healthy veggies. Cheesy quesadillas are easy to prepare the night before. Just add shredded cheese to a tortilla and fold in half. Grill each side for a few minutes or until the cheese melts. After cooling, wrap them securely in a plastic baggie.
These usually keep well in a lunch box since they don't get soggy. You can add shredded beef or chicken and an array of veggies to make these a complete meal. Quesadillas are easy to experiment with by adding a variety of ingredients. This will help your child develop a healthy relationship with food.
5. Pizza Dippers
Any kind of leftover cold pizza is a big lunch favorite for most kids. If you're looking for a healthy lunch idea, choose a veggie pizza with a whole wheat crust. Cut the pizza into thin strips to make it easy to dip.
The type of dips you can pack is almost endless. Marinara sauce, ranch dressing, and cheese dips are all good choices. If you're looking for a healthier dipping option using salsa is a sneaky way to get more vegetables into your child's diet.
6. Veggie Bento Box
Try to purchase a sectioned lunch or bento box to keep all items separate. Providing a variety of colors as well as textures is an excellent way to make your bento box as appealing as possible.
Cherry tomatoes, green peppers, and carrots are all good choices. Add lima beans, green peas, or chickpeas in one section to ensure you have at least one protein source. Grapes or mandarin oranges are excellent options when you want to add a little fruit with the vegetables.
7. Ants on a Log
This is a classic that's both healthy and fun to eat! Ants on a log normally consists of celery pieces with peanut butter and raisins on top. There are plenty of alternatives for kids with peanut allergies. These include sunflower seed, soy nut, and coconut butter. If your child has a peanut allergy, consult with your pediatrician before sending an alternative for lunch.
Even if your child doesn't have a peanut allergy, there are so many fun variations that you'll want to try at least a few. "Ants on a ranch" has cream cheese and peas scattered across the top. There are "beans on a stalk" with guacamole and black beans. You might also want to fill celery sticks with hummus or ranch dressing. Then, sprinkle anything from goldfish crackers to all kinds of diced fruits and vegetables across the top.
Coming up with quick, healthy lunch ideas that your kids will love to eat doesn't have to be stressful or time-consuming. While the old-fashioned PB&J and turkey sandwich are great options, children will enjoy trying new textures, tastes, and colors. You can help kids learn which foods provide long-term health benefits by packing a tasty, nutritious lunch daily!