It’s nearly that time of year again, when we round up the water bottles, inspect the thermoses, and sniff the lunch boxes to see if they are deadly or not. Yep, lazy summer lunching on the back patio is giving way to bagged lunches for school days.
Whether you pack a meal for your work day or the kids school lunch, you’re probably always looking for ways to change things up and when you’re facing picky eaters, allergies, or school policies, feeling inspired each time you face an empty lunchbox can become quite challenging.
Here are a few approaches I take to school lunches on those early mornings when I’m waiting for my coffee to kick in and time seems to move twice as fast as usual. All are simple, and as I parent a picky eater, you’ll find my menu choices are appealing to most children.
Love the Leftovers
As the saying goes, panning ahead saves you time in the end, and this is particularly true for leftovers. Preparing a slightly larger meal at dinner time yields 1-2 lunches for the next day.
Invest in a good thermos that little hands can easily open and send your child a ‘main meal’ once or twice a week. My son’s favorites are spaghetti & meatballs, lentil soup, fried rice, and – breakfast! – cold pancakes.
Wrap it Up
Is it just my boys that love nearly anything when it is served in a wrap? Bean & cheese burritos, chicken and rice, and good old sunflower butter with honey – all benefit from the ‘tortilla treatment’. Don’t forget about Pizza Rolls: a whole-wheat flour tortilla, a thin layer of tomato sauce or paste, deli-style pepperoni or shredded chicken, and thinly sliced cheddar. Olives optional.
If your child has a peanut allergy or you attend a school with a no-peanut policy, here are a few options to replace the beloved peanut butter sandwich.
- Soy Nut Butter
- Sunflower Butter
- Cream Cheese
- Homemade Cinnamon Walnut Butter
- Almond Butter
Wraps are a good opportunity to serve a salad. Pack them full of lettuce, sliced cucumber or spinach and watch them disappear.
Serve a Sandwich
One of the best tips for keeping sandwiches healthy is to choose the best possible bread you can. In our home, we have a no-white bread policy for school lunch, and my son knows to not even ask for it. I prefer him to have whole-wheat or whole grain bread with no sugar added, and organic or homemade is always best.
Shredded chicken, cold roast beef, tuna, and ham are all in rotation here, served up with a generous helping of homemade relish.
Tip: If I know lunch contains a hearty sandwich, I avoid serving French Toast or other carbs for breakfast, and instead make a smoothie or eggs.
Fruits & Vegetables– Keep them organic, seasonal, well-washed, and easy for little ones to eat. Once in a while, make their day by as serving multi-coloured fruits and vegetables and packing them all in a ‘rainbow row’.
Smoothies – Shaina had the brilliant idea to serve up Freezer Smoothies for school lunch. It’s a great way to give kids their daily serving of yogurt and fruit.
Cookies & Bars– As much as possible, keep the sugar to a minimum. For a slightly healthier cookie, I like to switch out chocolate chips (my kids favorite) for chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, like in these beloved Honey-Oat Cookies.
Protein – My 2nd graders loves hard boiled eggs and cut up cheese for a special lunch. I love that he’s getting extra protein.
How are you changing up lunches this school year?