Kids’ Healthy Lunch & Snacks
By Paula Seefedlt, owner of Head to Soul Nutrition
For parents, September means back to school – new shoes, backpacks, homework, sports practice—it all starts again. For many of us, it also means a return to packing school lunch and snacks. So, how does a busy mom put together a healthy, kid-friendly lunch day after day that kids will actually eat?
Start by getting your supplies: a cool new lunch box and some good reusable containers, an insulated thermos, a cold pack and a stainless steel water bottle. Now, let’s fill them up.
If you read my last post about food additives, you can guess that I’m not a Lunchables fan but you can make your own healthy versions. Rolled up deli meat (Applegate Farm makes good nitrate/antibiotic free versions), cubes of cheese and sliced veggies with dips can all be put into small containers for something that looks more fun than a turkey sandwich. Go for lots of color too: sugar snap peas, baby carrots, grape tomatoes and sliced red or yellow peppers are all good dipped in dressing, hummus, BBQ sauce or peanut butter. And don’t be afraid to pack vegetables. Kids will eat them if you make them fun. Skewers are good too – try kebabs of fruit and cheese or prosciutto with cantaloupe.
I like to use a thermos to pack whatever was left over from dinner the night before – rice and beans, soups, pastas and meatloaf all travel well. Or try breakfast for lunch and put oatmeal in your thermos. (Quick tip – pour boiling water into the thermos for a few minutes before filling it with food to keep it warm longer.) Cold items can work well too. Frozen packs of edamame will defrost by lunchtime and are fun to pop open and eat and frozen grapes make a great snack. Other good fruit choices for fall are sliced apples or pears sprinkled with cinnamon.
In the mood for something crunchy? Try homemade popcorn. (Another tip: you can microwave whole kernels in a brown paper bag. Pour ¼ cup kernels into bag, fold the top several times, lay flat and microwave for approximately 2 minutes.) Popcorn can be topped with Parmesan cheese or any other flavoring you like. Whole grain pretzels are also good as is make-your-own trail mix.
For dessert, try baking something with fruit or vegetables in it like pumpkin, banana or zucchini bread. These can all be sliced and frozen for a ready snack. Baking your own desserts does take more time but it allows you to control the amount of sugar and the end product is guaranteed to be chemical free. Experiment with whole grains and, in most recipes, the sugar can be reduced by 1/3 to ½ with no difference in taste. If they love cookies, try this easy recipe: 1 jar all natural peanut butter, 2 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla, and ½ cup sugar. Mix together, drop dough on cookie sheet and press with a fork. Bake for 6-10 minutes. You can also add a few dark chocolate chips.
For schools or children who are peanut free, substitute almond or cashew butter in sandwiches or on whole grain crackers or wraps. Nut free choices include sunflower seed butter or soy nut butter. And for some reason, cutting sandwiches into fun shapes with a cookie cutter always seems to make them more appealing.
For more kid friendly recipes, visit our website at www.headtosoulnutrition.com. We welcome suggestions too. What have you tried that was a hit with your kids?