Every parent who makes school lunches for their kids have the same goals in mind: avoid a total dumping of the lunch into the trash; hope kids don't trade a healthy apple for a can of soda; and nudge the menu past the old standbys before complete boredom sets in on Day 123. Did you know that kids need lunches, on average, 180 times a year? Well, we're here to help!
Getting kids to eat their veggies, and other healthy foods, may be as simple as a good marketing strategy! A research study has shown that by changing the name of carrots to "x-ray vision carrots" in school lunch lines resulted in a whopping 66% of the orange vegetable being eaten -- far greater than the 32% eaten when labeled "food of the day." You can do this at home and tell kids about all the healthy treats going into their lunchboxes. Broccoli can become "tiny tasty tree tops." Peas can be presented as "power punch peas." Upgrade green beans to "silly dilly green beans." You might even think about telling your child their favorite sports idol or superhero is a big fan of the food you're trying to get them to eat!
Wrap + 1 cup berries + 1/2 cup raw broccoli or celery
Wrap Recipe: Mash an avocado with lemon juice, then spread on a whole wheat wrap. Top with crumbled bacon, chopped tomatoes, and thinly sliced romaine lettuce. Roll up and wrap in parchment or wax paper to secure.
They're kid favorites for a reason — and contrary to our adult biases, they don't need to be piping hot to be delicious.
Cheese and chicken quesadilla + avocado slices or guacamole +jicama sticks + pineapple chunks + tortilla chips
For adult taste buds, add onions and jalapeno peppers to the avocados.
California Rollwich + whole wheat pretzels + 10 baby carrots + 1/2 cup berries
Recipe for Avocado Spread: Scoop the flesh from the avocado and mash, mixing with a dash of lemon or lime juice. Mix in diced tomatoes and other optional vegetables.
Recipe for California Rollwich: Spread the tortilla or pita with the avocado spread, then add shredded lettuce. Place turkey or ham slices on top of topping (leaving room on the edge for rolling). Cut 1 slice of cheese (cheddar, provolone, or swiss) in half and place strips down the middle of wrap. Roll the tortilla into a wrap and cut into two pieces!
CHIPS AND DIPS
A fun and healthy way to have chips for lunch!
Flax seed tortilla chips + salsa + avocados mashed with lemon juice + Greek yogurt + 1 cup edamame
Salsa Recipe: Combine chopped fresh tomatoes, lime juice, finely chopped white onion and chopped fresh cilantro.
The Elvis Burrito
A fun twist on breakfast for lunch!
Elvis burrito + 1 cup low-fat yogurt + 1 hard boiled egg
Burrito Recipe: Spread peanut butter on a toasted whole-wheat wrap, then sprinkle with crumbled bacon and drizzle with honey. Place a whole banana at the edge of the wrap, then roll, pressing gently to break the banana and form a cylinder shape. Or, slice the banana, scatter, and roll.
Pesto Shrimp Skewers
Teach kids to embrace living on the Gulf of Mexico and enjoy all that it has to offer us - including fresh shrimp!
Grape tomatoes + cucumber chunk + cooked shrimp + toasted whole wheat bread cubes + pesto sauce for dipping
Just remember to choose a dull skewer safe for children.
For the Rabbits
Give salad greens some oomph with lots of lean protein!
Salad + 2 cups fat-free popcorn + 1 orange, peeled
Salad Recipe: Mixed greens, 2 oz. rotisserie chicken, 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes, 1 hard-cooked egg, and 2 tablespoons oil-and-vinegar dressing
Take-to-School Taco Bar
Fold 1 slice roast beef inside each of 2 soft tortillas and sprinkle with cheese. Pack in the biggest compartment of the lunch box. Pack other compartments with guacamole, salsa, sour cream and other favorite toppings. Seal and send off to school!
2 Soft tortillas + 2 slices roast beef + 1/3 cup shredded cheese + guacamole + salsa + 2 tablespoons sour cream
Pizzadilla + Carrot Crunch
½ Pizzadilla + 10 baby carrots + 1 tablespoon low-fat ranch + 1 (4-oz.) cup unsweetened applesauce
Low-fat ranch doubles as a dip for both pizza and veggies!
The Pita Pocketeer
Low-fat Greek yogurt is the base for this tangy chicken salad!
Creamy Chicken Salad (1/2 cup) with mixed greens in half a 6-inch whole-wheat pita + 1 medium apple + pretzels
BEEFY SAMMIE + FRUIT STICK
Sandwiches can pile up sodium. Balance it with no-salt sides!
Sandwich + 2 pineapple and strawberry fruit kebabs + 1/2 oz. unsalted peanuts
Sandwich Recipe: 2 oz. lower-sodium roast beef, lettuce, 2 slices tomato, 1/2-oz. slice white cheddar, 2 teaspoons light mayo on whole-grain bread
Let's Get Mediterranean
Make-ahead couscous can yield several lunches!
Couscous Salad (3/4 cup) + 2 tablespoons hummus + 8 whole-wheat pita chips + 1 cup fresh grapes
Easy Italian Hero
This delicious sandwich will be a hit!
Sandwich + 1 cup grapes + 12 almonds
Sandwich Recipe: Toss thinly sliced iceberg lettuce with a mixture of yellow mustard and mayonnaise. Assemble a sandwich on a split sub roll using sliced provolone, salami, turkey, tomatoes, and the iceberg lettuce mixture.
Deli Meat Roll-Ups
Think outside the bun! Rolling sliced deli turkey, ham, or roast beef around cheese sticks, cream cheese, and even greens can change the way your kiddos think about lunch meat.
Deli meat roll-ups + whole-wheat pretzels + celery + cinnamon-sprinkled apple slices + 1 coconut macaroon
The Cafeteria Club
Save the cheese for the skewers, and opt for tasty guacamole instead of mayo for the wrap. Slice the wrap into medallions and skewer on toothpicks for less mess at lunchtime.
Wrap + tomato mozzarella skewer + 8 vanilla wafers
Wrap Recipe: 1 oz. oven roasted turkey breast, 1/2 oz. low sodium ham, 1 slice crumbled center cut bacon, 1 tablespoon guacamole on half a whole wheat wrap
Tomato Mozzarella Skewer Recipe: Cut one low-sodium part-skim mozzarella stick into fourths and skewer with cherry tomatoes alternately
Egg Salad Bento Lunch Box
This egg salad bento box is a hearty lunch and snack all in one!
Egg salad + lettuce + 3 pieces whole grain cocktail bread or bagel chips + 1/2 cup raw veggies + 1/2 cups blueberries and bananas + Greek yogurt + 1/4 cup nuts
Spoon the egg salad into a lettuce “bowl” to keep it looking pretty and enjoy with cocktail bread and veggies. Toss banana and blueberries with Greek yogurt to keep the bananas from turning brown. Kids can even save the nuts for an afternoon pick-me-up!
Very Berry Sandwich
Kids are sure to love this quick and healthy lunchbox treat.
Berry sandwich + 1 cup edamame or snap peas + 1/2 cup celery with peanut butter
Sandwich Recipe: Spread reduced-fat cream cheese on two slices of whole wheat bread. Place sliced strawberries on one slice of the bread, then put together and enjoy how these flavors come together!
Hummus and Pita Plate
Nine out of 10 kids love a good smear of hummus. Why not make it the star of the show?
Pita + hummus + salami + olives + carrots + baby tomatoes + grapes.
Note that dipping is easier and less messy if you pack the hummus in a separate container!
When kids just want to snack away, let them!
Plain Greek Yogurt mixed with pomegranate seeds + 1 cup fruit + 1/2 cucumbers + whole wheat pretzels + 1/2 cup hummus + 1/4 cup frozen peas
Lunch Box Fun-due
You can literally make this a million ways and with anything you have in your kitchen. Provide kids with toothpicks to use to dip their food!
Food Options: Baby carrots + 1/2 cup turkey/roast beef/ham in bite-size chunks + red/green pepper slices + celery + 1/2 cup whole grain pretzels + strawberries + 1/2 cup tortilla chips + cantaloupe
Dipping Sauces: 1/4 cup low-fat ranch or 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or 1/2 cup hummus or 1/2 cup salsa
We gave you the ideas, now go make your own!