About this time of the school year it becomes hard to find new creative foods to pack in your children's lunchbox. The same-old same-old foods will not keep them from trading with friends anymore and non-nutritious foods will start making their way into your children's hands. Try these ideas to help prevent a packed lunch burnout!
- Make a list of all the food options your child will eat by food group: grains, fruits, vegetables, meat/protein, dairy, and other foods such as dips, sauces, snacks and desserts. Get kids involved in making the list.
- Indicate which food items will need refrigeration or an insulated lunch box and a frozen gel pack. A frozen juice box or frozen water bottle can be used in place of a gel pack for keeping food cool and safe until lunchtime.
- Try "planned-overs" like hearty soups, chili or spaghetti from the night before. Use a container that can keep foods hot.
- Instead of two slices of bread sandwiches, pack all the ingredients with breadsticks or crackers so they can assemble their own sandwich.
- Create a breakfast-for-lunch menu with hardboiled egg, English muffin, slices of cheese and fruit.
- Kabobs are always a fun way to eat healthy foods. Layer raw veggies, cooked chicken breast and cheese chunks on small wooden skewers. Provide low-fat dip or crackers/bread chunks to eat with the kabob. You can also make fruit kabobs and serve with low-fat yogurt or peanut butter as dip.
- 1 can (16 ounce) fat free refried beans
- ½ cup mild salsa
- In a mixing bowl, combine refried beans and salsa.
- Divide bean dip into reusable plastic containers (1/2 - 2/3 cup per serving).
- Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Include ½ cup - 2/3 cup bean dip, 6-12 whole wheat crackers and 4-6 carrot sticks. Pack in an insulated lunch box with a frozen gel pack.
Don't worry if kids come home with food that was not eaten. Some days children will be hungry and other days they might not be as hungry - perhaps they were distracted or had a food treat in the classroom before lunch, etc. Occasionally ask children if they think they're packing enough, too much, or want some different food choices. This helps them make adjustments to how much and what they pack the next time.