The summer has officially ended, and we’ve begun to shift our minds and plan for school lunches, sports, activities, and more. As we add more to our already full plates, this can quickly overwhelm many moms.
We all want to ensure our kiddos have the best school experience, so we work tirelessly to purchase school supplies, backpacks, and items to prepare lunches. As if all the preparation isn’t stressful enough, we must worry about our children’s immune systems and health!
If you’re like me, you know it is important to pack your child a healthy lunch to fuel their brains, give them energy, and prevent them from getting sick. Packing lunches for our kids can quickly become daunting and an easy area to slack off. So, how do we take on this daily task with ease without the worry of what to pack and succumbing to school lunch?
With some creativity and planning, you can make daily nutritious lunches for your kids to take to school each day. This method is so easy that it can also be utilized for an on-the-go breakfast!
When planning lunch ideas for the week, there are a few things to consider. First, there’s no fridge. Our children’s lunches will live in their backpacks until they head to the lunch room.
Packing lunches that don’t need to be refrigerated is one key to your kids eating their lunch when the time comes.
Sending them to school with items that end up soggy will discourage them from eating and will incline them to purchase items from the cafeteria. Making delicious items that can be eaten at room temperature ensures they look forward to the awesome lunch you made that they will actually eat!
I’ve found that the easiest way to pack nutrient-dense foods that my kids enjoy that they will eat in school is to use a Bento Box. Depending on your child’s age, you can purchase one that accommodates them. I prefer the larger style because it provides my kids with options and ensures they will not be hungry throughout the day. You can also add in condiment cups or silicone cups to keep items separate and prevent things from spilling and becoming soggy and unappealing.
Consider packing each section with a different food group when packing a lunch. You will want to incorporate protein, carbs, healthy fats, and fiber. Your main component is protein. Next, fiber-rich fruits and veggies followed by a serving of healthy fats and carbs.
Lunch doesn’t always have to be a main course such as a sandwich either. Loading up on smaller healthy items will still keep them full. Choosing sturdy options like carrots, blueberries, and grapes paired with homemade muffins, granola bars, or date balls will support their brains and their bellies.
If this all seems daunting, it doesn’t have to be! These items can be prepped in advance and stored appropriately for a grab-and-go morning. You can pick up pantry baskets along with some clips or mini clothespins to organize lunch foods to keep in both the fridge and on the counter. Labeling the baskets by step allows your child to grab and place their items into their own lunchbox or to organize them into the Bento Box.
Step One: Proteins
This can include things like sandwiches, quesadillas, pinwheels, crackers with cheese and meat, ham or turkey roll-ups, and more. Some of these items can also be frozen to preserve freshness. Make sure to keep condiments and extras prepped on the side so the sandwich doesn’t get soggy.
If your child enjoys salads, then this can also be prepped ahead. You can pack salad in a mason jar. Pack the toppings on the bottom and the lettuce on the top so it does not get soggy. All they will have to do is dump it on the plate!
Choosing a children’s protein bar is also a great and easy way for them to get their protein in, and this requires no prep. Selecting a balanced protein bar such as Cliff Kids Z Bar, Zone Perfect, Perfect Bar, Outright, or Power Crunch will fuel their body and provide a sweet treat! Throw the bars into your bin to keep your step-one options from becoming boring. In addition, another option can be beef sticks, hummus, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, and more, so choose what your kids like and get creative.
Step Two: Fruits and Vegetables
Rotating items such as applesauce, dried and fresh fruit, fruit leather, and edamame are great ways to get in fiber. When choosing these items, make sure they are stable when cut up. Fruits that turn or become soggy are best eaten whole and unpeeled. Using a mason jar will preserve freshness if you choose to dice up fresh fruits and veggies.
Step Three: Carbs and Fats
My kids love trail mix, but some schools do not allow it. If they do, individual trail mix packs are a great option. If your child’s school is nut-free, they can take individual nut-free butter such as sunflower butter packets or tahini. Sunflower seeds are another great option if the school is nut-free. In addition, packing complex carb items will help to sustain your child throughout their busy day. Some complex carb lunch ideas include quinoa salad, pita chips, puffed corn, whole grain cereals and crackers, rice cakes, sweet potato crackers, and more.
You can create a list, organize your child’s favorite foods into these categories, and then mix and match them throughout the school year. This will keep lunch fun and exciting for them and easy for you!