It’s almost back-to-school time and parents everywhere are looking at supply lists, figuring out what’s needed for new clothes, and of course . . . wondering what to do about lunch. While many children receive their meal via the school lunch program, there are many others who bring their lunch from home. Coming up with fresh ideas for the noon-time meal can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few suggestions to help you plan your child’s lunch menu:
- Make a list of your child’s favorite foods and meals
- Narrow the list down to those that are easily transported
- Choose things you can prepare and pack the evening before. Your mornings will go more smoothly if lunches are ready to go before the morning rush.
- Start with main dishes and list out five options, one for each day of the school week.
- Add in side dishes as needed to balance out the meal.
- Check each meal to see if it contains a good source of protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and a dairy item. You can download my lunch menu worksheet to help with this.
- Desserts can be added, but don’t have to be. Add them occasionally as a fun treat for your child.
To help you get started here are 5 healthy lunch ideas for back-to-school time. I serve each with milk, so that is not listed:
- Tuna salad on whole wheat bread, grape tomatoes, melon slice or chunks.
- Turkey roll-ups (sliced turkey, lettuce leaf, tomato slices, low-fat cheese slice – all rolled in a whole-grain tortilla wrap with low-fat cream cheese or hummus), grapes, carrot sticks with hummus. For dessert serve dried fruit with granola in small jelly jars.
- Nut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread, sliced cucumbers and peppers with hummus or low-fat dip,
- Vegetable and pasta salad (whole-grain pasta, halved cherry tomatoes, broccoli florets, sliced black olives, mushrooms, or whatever fresh vegetables you have on hand that your kids enjoy, mozzarella cheese cubes, sliced turkey, and your favorite vinaigrette). Apples slices on the side help round out the meal.
- Egg salad (made with plain Greek yogurt and mustard) on whole-grain pita halves, celery and carrot sticks with hummus, mixed fruit cup.
Make lunch enjoyable for your child. After all, there’s a lot more to eating than food. Let her know you’re praying for or thinking of her during the day by adding an encouraging note to her lunch box. Invest in a Bento box and arrange her food choices in a fun, playful way. Wendolonia has all kinds of ideas and information about making Bento boxes.
Whenever possible, include your child as you plan the meals. Getting his input will get you “buy in” and it is a great opportunity to teach about the essentials of nutrition. Lunch is an important meal for your child, so take a little planning time and help him through the day with a healthy, filling meal that will give him the energy and nutrition he needs to be healthy and do well in school.
You can find more healthy lunch box ideas in recipe books like Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love by Katie Morford.
Have any lunch box ideas or tips that work for your family? Please share them below. I’d love to hear about them!
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