Preparing Easy School Lunches Should be a Family Affair

Think back to when you were in school. What kind of delightful food did mom or dad pack you for lunch?

It could have been the standby PBJ, or pre-packed Lunchables. If you liked it, you probably ate it. If you didn’t, you traded with a classmate for something more to your liking.

Now, think about the healthy lunches you are currently packing for your student. Is it something he or she will like, or will it go on the trading block?

There are a variety of ways to all but guarantee that the healthy and nourishing food will stay with your child. Since you have to make about 200 lunches during the school year, suggests you get some help from within.

Let your student help choose, prepare and pack a lunch to their liking.

Now that doesn’t mean a bento box or brown paper sack filled with candy, cookies and other obvious kid favorites. Depending on age, have your child get fruit out of the refrigerator and pack it, or let older ones cut up the vegetables or pinwheels they’ll have later in the day (or even the next day, depending on how organized you are).

Not only will this help them develop life skills they will need later in life, such as using kitchen tools and knowing where different foods are kept, you can also take the opportunity of packing a lunch together to teach them why some foods are healthy, and others are not so much. Your child will feel invested in the lunch and is more likely to eat it in the cafeteria.

And let your future cook choose some of the lunches to make, including some of his or her favorites.

Finally, be sure you have the right sealable containers. It can be a plastic container with separate compartments or a bento box, but be sure it seals tightly and stays sealed.

Here are some suggestions for creating healthy and tasty lunches:

Rotisserie Chicken Taco: Shred meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Using a whole-wheat tortilla, place two pieces of sliced cheese on the tortilla, topping it with a leaf of romaine lettuce. Add the shredded chicken, six cherry tomatoes cut in half and a few tablespoons of prepared ranch dressing.  Pack it in a sealed container and pair it with vegetables and fruit.

DIY pizza bagels: Simple, tasty and a favorite for kids. Pack a bagel, turkey pepperoni, low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese and some pizza sauce — an easy DIY lunch for all ages.

Any wrap or pinwheels: Busy parents can do this ahead of time or provide the ingredients in the lunch box and let the student do the assembly. Ingredients are based on taste preferences. Include a whole-wheat tortilla, thinly sliced meat, ranch dressing, lettuce, sliced tomatoes and cream cheese (or low-fat Neufchatel cheese). Put the parts together at home as a sandwich or cut into bite-sized pieces for pinwheels.

PBJ on a stick: Make a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and cut it into 12 bite-sized pieces. Alternate a piece of a sandwich with a grape threaded onto a wooden skewer or chopstick (be sure to cut off the skewer’s sharp end if you are using one). This gives the student three or four kabobs for lunch.

BLT salad: This one could be completely assembled the night before by your child. Lay down a bed of lettuce and top with bacon, sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped avocado, shredded cheese – use your imagination. Pair with fresh fruit and a hard boiled-egg and you have a nutritious lunch.

Turkey and cheese roll-ups: Skip the bread or tortilla entirely for this easy lunch. Wrap thin chunks of cheese in deli turkey and cut into bite-sized pieces. Include some ants on a log – celery sticks filled with peanut butter and topped with a few raisins – in one compartment and a dollop of vanilla yogurt in another and you’ll have a fun and easy lunch.

Bon appetit!


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