When it’s time to pack your kids’ lunches you face that constant battle: Will you pack something brightly colored and artfully packaged that your kids are begging for, but that lacks nutritional value? Or, will you pack something with nutritional value that will fuel their minds for a day of study? You know, all too well, that the healthy option often ends up in the garbage or brought back home at the end of the day. Here are some easy and fast ideas that can get your youngsters excited about eating a healthy lunch.
Stock a Bento Box
Bento boxes are small lunch boxes with individually portioned spaces ideal for holding fresh foods. Fill each space within the bento box with fresh fruits, salad and diced meats. The novelty of the bento box, especially if it is bright and colorful, will entice your children to eat the healthy choices.
Make a Fresh Twist on Salad
Salad makes a great lunch option that is healthy and fast. Prep your veggies and toppings at the beginning of the week and simply toss it all in a container with a side of dressing in the morning. To tempt kids to eat salad, add some fun toppings. Find out what their favorites are, and buy those.
One fun, kid-friendly salad is a pizza salad. To make this salad, prep salad veggies as usual, then add bacon and pepperoni as toppings, along with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Finally, if you are feeling creative, cut a thin pizza crust into cracker-sized portions, brush with olive oil and toast in the oven to make “croutons.”
Cut the Sandwich
Are your kids getting tired of their healthy sandwich? Invest in some large cookie cutters and cut the sandwich into fun shapes. You can make a themed lunch, like a fishing theme with whole-grain fish crackers and a fish-shaped sandwich. The fun shape may be all it takes to get the kids interested in that boring sandwich again.
For some reason, Lunchables — those tiny slices of meat and crackers that kids can turn into miniature sandwiches — have universal appeal. Yet the amount of food in a Lunchable is really not enough, and some parents prefer fresher ingredients. You can provide your kids with the same fun by making your own Lunchables.
To do this, purchase a type of sliced meat with ingredients you approve. Then, cut it into quarters. Cut slices of cheese into small squares or other fun shapes. Add whole-grain crackers of your choice, and place them all into the lunch bag.
Give Them Dip
Do you want your kids to eat more fresh fruits and veggies in their lunch? Give them something to dip them in! This has universal kid appeal, and you can use something healthy, like hummus for veggies and peanut butter or yogurt for fruit, to add a bit of nutrition to the mix. A meal of finger foods with dips is fun and can be quite nutritious.
Any time food is different, it becomes fun. Instead of simply packing a sandwich, take the meat and cheese you were planning to use and skewer them with a pretzel stick for instant, fully edible kabobs. You can also make fruit and veggie kabobs for additional fun in the lunch box.
Ditch the Lunch Meat
While there are nutritious lunch meat options for health-conscious parents, sometimes your kids just want something different. Consider ditching the processed meat in favor of something new. Peanut butter and jelly can be upgraded to peanut butter and fresh fruit slices. If your child is in a nut-free school or class, you can assemble sliced strawberries and cream cheese on whole grain bread.
Making lunches is a task many parents dread. If you aren’t careful, it can quickly become routine. To keep your kids from getting bored, and seeking less-healthy alternatives (and to keep yourself excited about the task at hand) consider making some changes to the way you pack lunches. Everyone will thank you when you do!