23 Aug Creative, Healthy, Easy-to-Prepare Lunch Ideas from NYC Registered Dietitian
Let’s be real. Life is busy. And finding time, and energy, to make healthy, varied, and balanced back to school lunches is a tall order for most. Sure. There’s always that parent who manages to make star-shaped sandwiches with a yogurt parfait. If that’s you, you can skip this blog because you’ve got it down.
I, too, was a working mom. I, too, had kids that complained about how boring their lunches were. And, I, too, felt overwhelmed. Back to school lunches, though, don’t have to be a family battleground.
Here are 8 tips to creative, healthy, easy-to-prepare lunch ideas. Really! It’s possible.
- Get the kids involved. What do they want to eat? Have them help create the grocery list and do the shopping. They can pack their own lunches. Shift the responsibility of choosing, and quantities, to your child.
- YOU provide the choices. Okay. As soon as I say, “Have your kids pack their own lunch,” we imagine bags of chocolates, soda, and tar-like fruit bars. There is a division of responsibility in eating. I refer to Ellen Sattyr’s work often. As a parent, you are responsible for what, when, and where. And your child is responsible for how much and whether.
- Have a list of lunch box choices hanging up on the refrigerator or in the pantry. Include a three-column approach: protein, fruit, carb. Let your kids mix and match.
- Trust your child to eat. Food isn’t about control, instead about nourishment, relationships, family and more. Some days kids eat non-stop. Others, they’re not hungry. Trust your child.
- Get trending. In-season fruits and vegetables are more flavorful, less expensive, and fresher. This guarantees variety, as well. Take advantage of August’s harvest before the chill of fall sets in. Berries, peaches, and avocadoes top the list. If you can, buy extra to freeze for a mid-winter surprise.
- Save time! 6:00 am is no time to be chopping up carrots or blending garbanzos for hummus. Roast a chicken on Sunday, cube it up, and use it in sandwiches and salads during the week. Make kebobs with roasted chicken and chunks of cheese, cherry tomatoes, and olives (for the more adventurous eaters). Spiral raw vegetables while watching your favorite show. Store them air-tight containers for a quick go-to snack or lunchbox item. (They will save 3 – 5 days).
- Nothing’s better than leftover pizza. Leftover pasta salad? Leftover roast beef? These are your lunchbox friends. Clean out the fridge and give your kids lunchbox variety.
- Rethink the classics. Instead of sliced (boring) bread, wrap ingredients up in whole wheat tortillas, pita bread, lettuce (for wraps), whole-wheat pancakes and crepes. Bring on the inner Elvis with bacon, peanut butter, and raisins on a whole grain bagel. Go dipping with guacamole, hummus, or yogurt paired with cut up fruits and vegetables. Easy, quick presentations that are enticing and interesting can keep kids interested and eating well!
- Water! Water with lemon slices, strawberry slices, melon and mint are refreshing takes on this classic beverage. 😊 Steer clear of juice boxes and sodas that are usually packed with sugar.
- Ideas. Okay, what’s for lunch? Here are just a few ideas to keep your lunches interesting and delicious.
- Turkey, bacon and cream cheese wraps.
- Fruit salad with yogurt and drizzled honey.
- Hummus with carrot sticks and pita triangles.
- Bagel pizzas (tomato sauce, chunky roasted chicken and shredded mozzarella).
- Sub sandwiches with whole-grain bread, leftover roast beef (or turkey, chicken etc.), bacon, and all the yummy toppings.
- Pasta salad with chunky chicken, cheese, raisins, shredded carrots, and other favorites.
- Homemade trail mix (peanuts, dried fruits, chocolate chips, granola, shredded coconut) with a yogurt and drizzle of honey.
- Crunchy PB sandwich wraps (whole wheat tortillas with cut up apples, peanut butter, and craisins. Add celery sticks for that extra crunch!).
Lunches can be healthy, inexpensive, and easy-to-prepare. It’s easy to fall into the same old sandwich rut. But with a few twists and adjustments, you can keep kids eating well while giving them the variety they need for a healthy diet.