Back to School Lunch Ideas

Back-to-School Edibles Kids Will Love

by Kirsten Harrington

It’s that time again. As we head into a new school year, many parents let out a collective groan about the challenges of packing a lunch that their children will actually eat. We’ve compiled a few ideas that may help to make things a little easier at your house.

Windermere health-and-wellness coach Stephanie Lang reminds parents that lunchtime is not the time for new foods.

“Eating the same thing every day is OK,” she said. “If [your children] like PB&J, it’s one of the healthier options.

“Kids love to dip things. Hummus, guacamole or yogurt with fruit or veggie slices are great. Try to always include a fruit or vegetable.”

Some of Lang’s favorites are sugar snap peas, baby carrots and cucumber slices. She chooses Gala, Honeycrisp and Fuji apples because they don’t brown as easily.
For kids who don’t like sandwiches, snack lunches are the perfect answer. Mix and match dips with baked whole-grain chips or crackers, string cheese, nuts, fruit and veggie slices, berries, beef jerky, dried fruit, turkey slices — the list is endless.

Try pasta salad with peas or edamame, ham, a little Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Leftover pizza is a big hit, too. Last night’s roast chicken or meatballs stuffed into pita bread or served with toothpicks works well, also.

No-Bake Energy Bites are perfect for lunchboxes, snack time or a quick breakfast with a banana and glass of milk.

Breakfast for Lunch

Mini whole-wheat bagels with cream cheese, hard-boiled eggs and savory muffins are a nice break from PB&Js. Make a batch of pancakes or waffles during the weekend and send them in lunches with applesauce or yogurt for dipping. A wide-mouth thermos can hold a smoothie or low-sugar cereal with a carton of milk on the side.

Bento Boxes

Japanese bento boxes provide the inspiration to create perfectly proportioned, visually appealing lunches. Buy a bento-style lunchbox and fill the individual compartments with small sandwiches, edamame, cooked ravioli, sushi, salads, veggie patties, berries, cheese bites, healthy chicken nuggets or any other assortment of your child’s favorite foods. Remember, the fun is in the presentation.

Quick Meals

For older kids who are often short on eating time, Lang suggests making extra servings of casseroles, soups or stews and filling Mason jars with single servings for a nourishing, quick-to-eat lunch. Store them in the freezer and take them out the night before. You can also fill jars with yogurt parfaits or pasta salad with diced chicken.

Need More Inspiration?

• Visit Lang’s website at awholenewlife.net for healthy, kid-friendly recipes and a printable lunch-packing chart. She will teach healthy lunches workshops at the Windermere Library on Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. and at the Chickasaw Library on Sept. 29 at noon.

• Check out planetbox.com online for fun, compartmentalized lunchboxes and packing tips.

• Visit laptoplunches.com for a large selection of bento boxes, colorful ice packs, water bottles and thermoses.

• Lunchbots.com carries stainless-steel lunchboxes with a variety of dividers.

• Stop by Whole Foods for eco-friendly containers and goodies like freeze-dried pineapple, organic popcorn, kale chips, organic milk cartons or crunchy, roasted chickpeas.

• Also be sure to stock up on make-your-own-butters, including almond and dark-chocolate peanut butter.


No-Bake Energy Bites

courtesy of Stephanie Lang

Ingredients:
1 cup oats
1 cup coconut flakes
(unsweetened)
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup nut butter (creamy)
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix ingredients in medium size bowl. Refrigerate for one hour. Roll into bite-size balls and enjoy. (Variation: Mix in 1/2 cup dried fruit or chocolate chips or 1/4 cup seeds.)

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