It’s a given. When it comes to preparing meals for school, parents must often juggle their kids’ ever-fickle taste buds with the underwhelming variety of foods offered by schools.
But while many schools provide breakfast or lunch, not every parent is comfortable with their offerings. This is why an overwhelming majority of parents opt to pack their kids’ meals instead.
To help you find alternatives to school lunches for your child’s daily meal prep, which are suited for both flavor and nutrition, we’ve compiled a list of things every parent should consider:
1. PACK HEALTHY SNACKS
Image source: Nature's Bandits
Let’s face it. The average school day is about 6.5 hours; which is a long time for any kid to be expected not to feel the pangs of hunger.
This is why it’s important to either provide them with a single meal that will make them feel full in one sitting, in addition to a meal, also providing snacks that can be eaten sparingly throughout the day whenever hunger arises.
Variety Fun offers several kid-friendly snack options, including Hippeas, a line of organic chickpea puffs (which are a great alternative to Cheez Doodles, Cheetos, and similar cheese puff-style snacks), and Nature’s Bandits, a line consisting entirely of gluten-free, non-GMO and organic fruit and veggie-based snacks.
Nature's Bandit's snacks also exclude the use of artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, artificial preservatives and colors, cholesterol and fat.
2. PACK A HEALTHY MEAL
A hearty meal is, of course, good for both the mind and body at any age. But particularly for children, healthy meals are essential to hunger and disease prevention; the former of which can contribute to learning deficits in the classroom.
In order to ensure your child reaches their proper developmental milestones, always provide them with nutritional options.
For example, you can swap out pizza bites, mac and cheese and other frozen foods (which are usually high in Sodium, as they’re used as preservatives), for these super easy pita pockets or pasta salad recipes filled with fresh fruits or veggies.
For sweet tooths you can substitute ultra-sweet peanut butter with almond butter, sunflower seed butter or other similar alternatives.
3. PRAISE HEALTHY CHOICES
In addition to providing your kid with good, wholesome foods by packing their lunch boxes, parents can also pave the way for better decision-making by modelling good eating habits and praising their kids when they’ve made those choices for themselves.
The family that eats well together, grows well together.
Let your kids see their parents meal planning not just for them, but also for themselves, as well. In addition, you can gamify every trip to the grocery store by turning it into an educational opportunity to teach them about food.
By guiding your kids towards healthier options, you will not only help them feel good about the food choices you’ve made for them, but will also make them feel empowered enough to want to make those same choices for themselves.
Specific Lunch Ideas For Kids
1. SANDWICHES & WRAPS
Sandwiches are by far the most common food prepared for kids’ lunchboxes. Quite simply, this is because busy parents like yourself don’t always have time to cook rigorously curated meals for their young ones.
But just because you don’t have all of the hours in the day doesn’t mean you can’t create a meal that’s deliciously nutritious.
2. Avocado & turkey wrap (WITH A TWIST!)
It’s as easy as one, two, three to make this creamy avocado turkey wrap. The best part is you can substitute mayonnaise for Greek yogurt.
Simply mash together the avocado, yogurt and garlic to get a flavorful alternative that will pair well with the turkey and (optional) cheese.
Vegetables, like tomatoes or banana peppers, can also be added to the wrap for added flavor. Additionally, you can change up the type of greens you add as well (swapping Iceberg Lettuce for Romaine or Arugula).
3. FISH - THE ULTIMATE BRAIN FOOD
Excluding fish that have an overabundance of mercury, those which only have trace amounts, which include salmon, tilapia, flounder, etc. have a lot of nutritional benefits. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin D (mostly salmon) and Iron are just some of the benefits of eating fish.
One easy way to incorporate this into your child’s meals is in fish tacos or tortillas.
4. SOUPS - NOT JUST FOR COLDS!
While you can buy canned soups for ease of preparation, one of the best things you can do for your kids is make their soup from scratch. Remember, most foods at your local grocery store, particularly those on the shelf or in the freezer, tend to have a lot of sodium.
So to offset unnecessary intake of Sodium, we recommend you make as much from scratch (Spaghetti sauces, soups, etc etc).
Here are a few soup recipes you can try.
Some great ideas for kids include Cream of Mushroom, Chicken Noodle, Pasta E Fagioli (A good alternative to Chef Boyardee or Campbell’s), Lentil Soup, etc.
Inspiring your kids to eat healthy while they’re young will have positive repercussions in the future.
What your kids have for breakfast and lunch sets the tone for the entire day; particularly in their ability to learn and retain information while in class.
It’s not merely about making choices for your kids, as teaching them to make those choices for themselves. Instead of reaching for the tastiest option, - usually a hot lunch that’s microwavable in under a minute, get them acquainted to healthier foods not as a chore, but as something that is as much a joy to eat as the fast alternative.
Many kids grow up to see fruits and vegetables as a punishment for bad behavior, or something only old folks obsess over...So our advice is to find inventive ways to get your kids to see all of the culinary delights that are possible with healthy food, through flavor.
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