7 Simple Steps to Back-to-School Lunches
Your children average 6.5-8.5 hours away from you each day, which makes it very hard to ensure that they are getting a balanced diet and are making the healthy food choices. As parents we set out with the best intentions of making nutritious lunches but often find ourselves bored with the daily task of finding or creating fresh ideas that are both safe for school (nut-free), and that your children will actually eat.
Children who eat nutritious, balanced snacks and lunches and who stay hydrated throughout the day experience less fatigue, have lower obesity rates, and have better focus, engagement, and fewer meltdowns.
Here are 7 simple steps to a healthier lunch and more nutritious day for your little ones:
1) Breakfast starts with a capital B for BEGIN here…
It may sound cliché, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The main reason being that it helps to regulate your blood sugar and sets the tone for sugar cravings and energy throughout the day.
Some quick and delicious breakfast ideas for a healthy start to the day:
- Chia Oat Jar Parfaits (See recipe below)
- Smoothies (See recipe below)
- Oatmeal Protein Pancake (See recipe below)
- Oatmeal with fresh berries and hemp seeds
- Sprouted English muffin with nut or seed butter and cinnamon
- Fruit salad topped with coconut yogurt
- Eggs and sprouted toast
2) Fully embrace your school’s no-waste lunch policy and invest in a great quality lunch container…
Did you know that it is estimated that the average school-aged child using disposable lunch containers and bags generates 67 pounds of waste per year? That adds up to 18,760 pounds of waste for the average-size elementary school! I have two lunch boxes that are my absolute favourite for my kids (and they love them too).
What makes these containers so incredible is that everything is portioned out in compartments just like a bento box and you know kids–if it looks like something fun and is organized in a cool way they are way more cooperative and likely to be on board for actually eating the food within the compartments.
3) Focus on adding in more fresh fruits and vegetables to their lunch…
… And sprouted grains (or those that are naturally gluten-free such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and millet). Choose breads and wraps that are sprouted and or have true food ingredients that you can understand. Add in more plant-based foods like beans and lentils and small portions of lean protein like organic eggs, lean chicken, turkey, and grass-fed beef. Opt for healthy fat sources such as seed butters and avocados, and when dressing for pasta and quinoa salads choose oils like olive oil or pumpkin seed oil. Work hard at limiting their intake of processed foods, deli meats, canned fish more than 1x weekly, white pasta or processed breads, sodium, added sugar, anything with artificial colours, flavouring or additives, and especially tartrazine.
4) Balanced morning and/or afternoon snacks…
Some of my favourite balanced snack ideas:
- Fresh fruit with sunbutter for dipping
- Fresh fruit with cinnamon
- Veggies and hummus
- ½ sandwich or wrap from their lunch
- Smoothie in a no-spill container
- Applesauce with hempseeds
- Edamame with sea salt
- Salsa with organic nachos or guacamole
- Homemade granola with coconut yogurt
- Homemade muffins or bars
- Lower-sugar store-bought granola bars
- Goat cheese and sprouted crackers
- For fun, occasionally offer one ‘air-snack’, like veggie stick chips or popcorn.
5) Pack lunches they will eat – and that will satisfy them…
Here are my top 5 go-to lunches that I know my kids will gobble up:
- Quinoa Salad (with or without beans)
- Chickpea Smash Wrap (see recipe)
- Vegetable Pasta Salad
- Grilled Chicken Greek Salad
- Goat Cheese, cucumber, tomato, hummus wrap
6) Make two meals at once…
Probably hands down the easiest way to take an extra job off of your hands and get lunches made quickly and easily is to make enough at dinner that you can automatically have enough for leftovers. I place the kids’ lunch boxes behind their dinner plates and as I serve up their meal, I also serve up their lunch!
7) Keep them hydrated…
Make sure your children are hydrated throughout their school day by sending them with a water bottle of at least 750 ml. I can’t stress enough how very important this is.
Good Start Breakfast Recipes:
Chia Oat Jar
- 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond, rice, cashew, or coconut milk
- 1/4 medium banana, sliced (freeze the rest for smoothies!)
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- pinch cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp chopped nuts for topping
Prep and Cook:
- Place all the ingredients in a jar, shake, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, add your favorite crunchy toppings such as nuts, granola, etc. and enjoy
Chocolate Monkey Smoothie
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 Tbsp almond butter
- 3 Tbsp hemp seeds
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1 tsp cacao or cocoa
Prep and Cook:
- Blend and enjoy
Oatmeal Protein Pancake
- ½ cup oats
- 3 egg whites + 1 whole egg
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ cup berries
Prep and Cook:
- Blend or mix oats, eggs, and cinnamon and cook as pancake.
- Top with berries and 1 Tbsp maple syrup
Chickpea Smash Green Wrap
- 1 cup organic chickpeas (Eden organic is the only company that states they use no BPA in the lining of their cans), rinsed and drained
- 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
- 1/2 1 small garlic clove
- 3 Tbsp goat cheese or feta
- 1-3 collard leafs
- sliced cucumbers, orange peppers and tomato slices
- 1/2 avocado, smashed
- whole-grain wrap
Prep and Cook:
- Add all ingredients together in a food processor and blend until combined. Adjust seasoning, adding some paprika, salt and pepper if desired.
- Layer a couple of collard leaves and spread the mixture down the centre, layering a few cucumbers, orange peppers, and tomato slices on top. Roll up the leavess into a wrap.
- Lay down a whole-grain wrap and smear the smashed avocado on top. Put the collard wrap in the center over top the avocado and roll the two together.