Back-to-school: kid-loving lunch ideas

I don’t know about you but it’s finally, finally our turn to head back to school this week and as it turns out, we were ready in every department except the lack of ingredients to have a fantastic first day of school lunch. So immediately after I dropped my daughter off at the kindergarten classroom, snapped a few photos and had a few tears, I went to the grocery store to get prepared for the lunchtime battle. Last year I remember her coming home sometimes with her full lunch intact and not impressed by my attempts at PB&J sandwiches accompanied by dried-out carrot sticks.

Tapping into my creative side, I’ve come up with a whole new lunch menu this year that will hopefully get the kids as excited to eat as I am to make. Remember, you don’t have to be a gourmet chef to prepare a nice lunch for your kids, but what you can do is make it as healthy and tasty as you would want it to be. My golden rule: if I wouldn’t eat it, why would you expect them to?

Make it a wrap or a roll 

Get your kids excited for lunch again! Take something as simple as a turkey and cheese sandwich and creatively make it into a wrap on a whole wheat tortilla with a bit of hummus to keep the sandwich moist and fresh, and if your kids are really adventurous, a few leaves of spinach. 

Another option is to fill the ingredients of the sandwich horizontally so you can then roll it like a piece of sushi and then cut it into bite-size rolls. It’s a sushi sandwich! Add your child’s favorite ingredients to create only a wrap that they could love to eat so you know there won’t be any trading going on at the lunch table. Great combos are cream cheese and jelly, salami and cheese, turkey and cheese, peanut butter (or other nut butter) and jelly or honey, and ham and cheese. 

Shape it and stick it 

If something is in a cool shape, tell me they won’t be at least curious to try it. It seems to work with Play-Doh so I’m betting it works with fruits and vegetables too. My new favorite thing to do is take whatever fruits and vegetables are in season, for fall it’s apples, grapes, peaches, plums, nectarines and melon, and make them into fun shapes with the Kotobuki Vegetable Cutters, $10 for 6, at amazon.com

Another great trend in lunches is to take the ingredients and make a kabob on a stick for them to eat. You can add pineapple chunks, banana slices, grapes and cheese onto a stick to make a healthy snack that they’ll think is fun to eat. The same goes for sandwiches, cut it with their favorite cookie cutter shape and they’ll gobble it right up!

Have them mix their own trail mix snack

This is one of my favorite things to do as an adult and the kids have actually caught onto the idea this year. Every week, we make a new trail mix to have as a healthy lunch time snack by mixing a few of our favorite ingredients like raisins, almonds (or your favorite nut), chocolate chips, dry cereal (like Cheerios), pretzels, dried fruit pieces like apples, peaches, apricots, blueberries and cranberries. 

Build your own sandwich

Some kids prefer to have everything separate so when the time comes, they are able to make their own meal. In our house, we love making cracker sandwiches instead of using bread. By adding about 8-10 crackers, pieces of protein like lunch meats and cheese and perhaps their favorite dip or spread (like hummus or ranch), they can make their own lunch time meal. 

Serve up healthy versions of treats

My daughter was complaining that all the kids at school had special treats like chips and cookies in their lunch. Well, not to be outdone, I created a healthy version of chips and treats for her to bring to lunch. Instead of potato chips out of a bag, we made sweet potato chips. Having a treat in the lunch box is definitely okay too, it’s just hard to know if they actually eat that first. We love making healthier cookies like oatmeal raisin and pumpkin and zucchini bread to add as extra treats.

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