Back-To-School Lunches

A few more weeks and your kids will be back in school. Are you excited? Are you prepared? Packing school lunches can be a challenge when you have to please picky eaters. It's interesting how a packed lunch is considered "cool" at some schools. That was always the case with my children. What pressure! Still, I was excited to make their lunches because I could provide healthier options. Unfortunately, they weren't always as excited about my healthier options as I was!

Maybe you can relate? After school, have you ever opened the lunchbox to discover nothing in it was even touched? I would describe the experience as a combination of feeling deflated, like you've failed one of the simplest tasks of parenthood, and perplexity, wondering just what they DID eat today?

One reason my kids turned up their nose at my initial efforts was because I was in a lunch rut. One example of my lack of creativity (which my 22-year-old still teases me about today) was a peanut butter sandwich with grape jelly, grape juice, and grapes. I think that was the last time she ever ate anything purple.

Years of packing lunches has taught me that a little creativity goes a long way when you are trying to get your kids to eat healthy at school. I've learned that, just like plating a meal at a restaurant, presentation greatly increases the odds of success! It gets tricky because that beautiful sandwich you packed at breakfast might morph into a soggy mess by lunchtime. Another lesson I learned is to encourage your picky eater to help with lunch preparation. If a child with persnickety tastes decides what ingredients are added to the dish, they are much more likely to eat it later! Here are some creative ideas and tips to keep your kids happy and asking for seconds!

Sandwich Shish Kebobs – Prepare your child's favorite sandwich, trim off the crust and cut into squares. Using a wooden skewer, alternate sandwich squares with fruit or veggie slices between. For example, alternate strawberries or slices of banana between peanut butter and jelly or cucumber or other slices of veggies between sandwich squares filled with a cream cheese mixture like this Sweet Pepper Jalapeno Pinwheels recipe.

  • Sandwich tip: Avoid soggy bread by lightly toasting bread before assembling the sandwich or lightly coat the inside of each slice with olive oil or butter to form a moisture barrier.

Stromboli – Delicious, "sog-resistent" and easy to transport. Your kids can even help you prepare it ahead of time! Serve this Pizza Stromboli and your kids will give you an A+.

Burritos – Versatile and can often be prepared ahead and frozen, which makes lunch preparation a breeze! This recipe for a breakfast burrito is sure to please.

Soup in a jar – Let your little kiddo make their own lunch in a mason jar. Just add boiling water (if a microwave is available at school). Here is a chicken soup recipe to get you started.

Pinwheels – Easy to make, fun to eat and some recipes can be prepared ahead and frozen. Here is a tried-and-true Smoky BBQ Cheese Pinwheels recipe for your little pinwheel fan!

Pasta Salad – What kid doesn't like pasta? Add a little protein and veggies to this refrigerated dish and you have a complete meal. There are so many to choose from! This Chicken Pasta salad is kid-tested and mother-approved!

Truffle Fudge Brownie – Every lunch deserves a little treat! Yes, brownies can be healthier if you substitute black beans for the eggs and butter. Here is the How You Bean? Brownies recipe.

Fruit salads provide another healthy alternative to processed sweets. Try serving this Carrot Apple Salad instead of baby carrots and an apple.

Fruit tip: spray or rinse banana or apples slices in any kind of citrus juice to prevent browning

These are just a few ideas to help you mix up your lunches this school year. If you have ideas that could help other parents win the lunchtime award, please share them below. Hey, but no fair suggesting you drop off McDonalds at lunch. That is cheating!

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