Making lunch for your little ones is one of the most important ways you can nurture their development. Not only are you offering them energy for the school day, you’re also developing eating habits that will last well beyond childhood.
Plus, as we all know, the lunchroom is the site of a lot of social interaction. Pulling an exciting meal out of their bag can make your child the talk of the school! So let’s take a look at some delicious and healthy meals you can put together for your kids.
Think Outside the Box
When it comes to spicing up the lunchtime routine, it’s important to think outside the box. Just like you wouldn’t enjoy eating the same sandwich and vegetable every day, your kids also want variety in their meals.
Using different ingredients is good for their health, plus it helps your child learn what foods they like and which ones they love.
The next time you’re looking for a new meal you can whip up for lunch, try taking inspiration from one of these.
1. Bowl It Up
Bowls are all the rage among the Instagram set, so why not put one together as a school lunch! Preparation couldn’t be easier.
Start with a base of your favorite grain – quinoa, brown rice, or cold pasta are always winners.
Once your base is in the bowl, top it off with different types of fruits, vegetables, and protein.
Some bowls work well with just these simple ingredients, but others do well with a light sauce drizzled on top.
The best part about this lunch is that it’s easy to swap in seasonal ingredients. Introduce your kids to the process of growing and harvesting food by teaching them when carrots are best or which fruits taste great in the spring.
You can also easily make adjustments based on your child’s preferences. If you notice bowls keep coming back with their tomatoes untouched, you can always swap those out for a different vegetable.
For a fun trip outside of the usual sandwich, try kebab-ifying your kid’s lunch! Right off the bat, we should point out that this is obviously not a meal you’d give to any child too young to deal with the skewers themselves.
You can, and should, take a quick step to make the skewers safer by clipping off the sharp tips before the meal leaves the house.
But even with this step the sticks could still be a choking hazard, so please exercise caution.
That being said, kebabs can turn even simple meals into a fun adventure for your kid.
Pick out a protein and some veggies and make a skewer with two or three bits of each. You can even use cold cuts as your protein – just take small slices and roll them up so they’ll stick on the kebab.
One of my favorite combinations is to use some chicken breast (maybe leftover from last night!) with cherry tomatoes and red bell peppers.
You can even string up pieces of fruit and cheese for a tasty, and healthy, dessert kebab.
3. Dips, Dips, Dips!
The best part about a good lunch is that it’s not just tasty, it’s also fun to eat!
You can really give your kid a fun midday meal by preparing a dip-centric lunch.
The most popular route to go here would be hummus for the main course.
Grab your favorite brand from the store (or you can use your food processor to mix up some of your own if you’re really feeling adventurous) and pair the dip with some fresh vegetables.
You can also add in a whole wheat pita, which your child can either dip or use to make their own little vegetable gyro!
Remember, too, that dips don’t just have to be savory. You can also make an extra fun snack for your dip meal by pairing some fresh fruit with a sweet dip such as vanilla yogurt or a light cream cheese spread.
4. Breakfast for Lunch
We’re always told that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day,’ so why not drive that message home by sending your kid off with some breakfast for lunch!
Use your favorite pancake recipe to make up a few silver dollar flapjacks (try Kodak Pancakes for a higher protein option), and pair them with a collection of healthy breakfast foods, like a hard-boiled egg or some fresh strawberries with yogurt.
The best part about this meal is you can prepare it at the same time you’re making breakfast for the family, saving you time and some dishes in the process.
If you’re looking for a fun twist to put on this meal, or any other pancake breakfast, try skipping the syrup and instead add some peanut butter to your cakes.
It might sound odd, but it’s very tasty and the cakes won’t go soggy, so you can add the peanut butter on in the morning and things will still be appetizing come lunchtime.
Don’t Forget the Fun!
We all remember how much fun lunchtime can be! When crafting meals for your child, find little ways to make each one special and fun.
My parents used to slip notes into my lunch, always on Fridays, and I came to look forward to them just as much as the food itself!
You might draw smiling faces on the bag or fruit that you peel.
One parent I know always sends their kid off with one ‘swap’ item – a sweet treat that’s in-demand at the school which the kid always uses in lunchroom trades.
The specific method you use is up to you – just don’t forget to find the fun!
Introduce New Foods Little by Little
When it comes to making lunches your kids will love, the most important step is to listen to your kids about their likes and dislikes.
While you can’t just let their whims completely run the show, as you might end up sending your child to school with a big bag of cookies each day, you can listen to what they enjoy about their lunches and use their taste to guide decisions in the future.
If you want to introduce a new ingredient, first try mixing it in with some food you already know your child likes. By doing this from time to time, and using these fun meal ideas, you can help your child learn healthy eating habits that will serve them well!