Packing a lunch for your child can feel monotonous at times, and by the second month of school, you may feel like you are out of fun, healthy, and creative ideas. Still, sending your child off to school with a homemade lunch ensures that his or her belly will be filled up with good-for-you ingredients to fuel all the learning and playing that happens in class and in physical education. As a partner of the Together Counts™ program, we recognize how important a belly of nutritious foods can be for our little school-goers.
If you feel stuck making a carousel of the same school lunches every week, take a look at these healthy options to shake things up.
Think outside the typical fare and let your kids create their own mini sandwiches with a variety of goodies, including:
- Lean protein, like turkey pepperoni or even strips of baked chicken from dinner the night before
- Low-fat cheese, like mozzarella
- 100% whole grain crackers
- A healthy dip, like hummus
You can even add in some veggies, like lettuce and tomato, to give their lunch some added flavor. Add in some apple slices with peanut butter and a few chocolate chips for dessert. The awesome thing about homemade “Lunchables” is that the combinations and ingredient options are endless!
Chicken Noodle Soup
Make a wise one-time purchase of a high-quality thermos that will keep soup nice and warm until the lunch bell rings, and now healthy, convenient soup can be a regular lunchtime favorite! You can make homemade soup ahead of time on the stovetop or in the crock pot and have plenty of leftovers to last throughout the week. Use wholesome ingredients, like:
- Low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- Chicken breast
- Lots of veggies, like carrots, broccoli, celery, garlic, peas, and tomatoes
- 100% whole grain noodles in fun shapes
Add some whole grain crackers or a whole grain roll for dipping. Really, any soup that your child enjoys can be put inside a thermos and carted off to school.
Burritos and Wraps
If it can fit between two slices of bread, it can fit in a wrap! Try a burrito made with brown rice, black beans, fresh salsa, and a little low-fat cheese wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. Or go for a creative wrap with chicken, lettuce, hummus, and veggies. So many flavor combos work well wrapped up in a convenient hand-held meal. Choose the flavors your child loves the most and get creative!
Chicken nuggets: Kids (and let’s face it, adults) love them, and they are not very difficult to cook. Making them at home also provides a great opportunity to get your kids active in the cooking process. We like this recipe from PBS Parents. Simply slice chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks, cover them in a yummy, crunchy mixture, and bake to perfection. In about 20 minutes, you’ll have chicken nuggets that can be munched hot or cold, for snack or lunch.
Whether you make mini pizzas specifically for lunch time or make pizza for dinner and use the leftovers for a yummy lunch, homemade pizza can be nutritious and wholesome. Try a whole wheat pizza crust topped with homemade sauce (or store-bought, but look for wholesome brands without added sugar or excess sodium), low-fat mozzarella cheese, and turkey sausage or pepperoni. Infuse your pizza sauce with chopped carrots, peas, and spinach to squeeze in extra veggies that will hardly be detected.
Do you have any creative lunch ideas to share?
SPARK is a research-based organization that provides award-winning, evidence-based programs for Physical Education (K-12), After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health and is a member of the Together Counts Program™. Since 1989, SPARK has provided curriculum, training, and consultation to over 100,000 teachers and youth leaders worldwide. Visit www.sparkpe.org to download sample lesson plans, find grant opportunities, and register for free educational webinars and monthly eNewsletters.
Get more smart meal ideas from these other Together Counts articles!