According to Chef Cristeta Comerford, Executive Chef at the White House, children typically eat up to half of their daily caloric value while they are in school (Let’s Move!, 2011). That being said, it is extremely important that we prepare healthy lunches for kids to nourish their bodies and help them sustain focus. Packing healthy food can be fun and creative. There are many ways to turn a ho-hum peanut butter and jelly sandwich into finger food fun. Try these 5 ideas to spice up lunch time:
- ) Bring out your cookie cutters! Sandwiches cut into neat shapes are always enticing for little hands.
2.) Depending on the age of your child, toothpicks are perfect for making teeny fruit-kabobs with grapes, bananas slices, and blueberries.
3.) Invest in a plastic bento box (Gladware or Rubbermaid are great low-cost brands!). Children are visual eaters and being able to see each food item in its own separate container allows them to recognize what is available much easier instead of having to open up individual plastic baggies. If your child is not into the regular ham and cheese sandwich, try offering all the items separately in a bento box. It’s all about presentation!
4.) Remember to always include utensils and napkins. Having the necessary accessories will help keep your child focused on lunch and feel independent. If you can, pack your child’s lunch with a thin, easy to fold cloth placemat. Setting out a placemat will help establish an “eating zone” for him/her to set her food on, which is a practical life skill (Table Setting–Montessori).
5.) Take a few extra minutes to write a quick note to your child and tuck it into his/her lunch box. If your child is still developing reading skills, you can draw a picture of a favorite animal or a heart for love. Stickers are also a neat way to decorate their lunch containers, letting them know that you are thinking of them.
Here are a few kid-approved lunch recipes to try this Fall with your child:
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.
The Elvis Burrito
Spread peanut butter on a toasted whole-wheat wrap, then sprinkle with crumbled turkey 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.
Chips and Dips
Combine chopped fresh tomatoes, lime juice, finely chopped white onion and chopped fresh cilantro. Pack flaxseed tortilla chips with small containers of the salsa, avocados mashed with lemon juice, and Greek yogurt. Instead of flaxseed tortilla chips, you can always use whole grain crackers, too.
Warm frozen meatballs in jarred tomato sauce and transfer to a wide-mouth thermos. Place a slice of provolone cheese in a whole wheat hamburger bun for assembly at lunch time.
The Parenting Hub would love to hear any tips you have for making back-to-school lunches healthy and fun. Please send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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