Lunchtime comes around every day, just like breakfast, and dinner, but many of us fall in the pack-the-same-thing everyday slump.
Without variety, school lunches can often lack some of the nutritional elements that are necessary for our kids’ development. Plus, lunch is important, after all, it’s a third of the food our children consume every day.
As a working mom of three, I’ve quickly learned that having a plan with fresh meal ideas is essential to add the variety my kids need. Of course, there are many nights I prep lunches on a whim, and here are five easy hacks that can help boost the nutritional content of the foods I’m packing.
1. Extra Protein
For days, my son insists on a PB&J for lunch, I simply add a little “cookie dough yogurt” in the lunch box. It’s Greek yogurt + almond butter + a small drizzle of maple syrup.
Other great options are: hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese, ham or turkey rolled up, bean soup inside a thermos, and trail mix (just make sure there are no nut allergies around), and these pizza mini quiches.
2. Extra Veggies
Dinner can be a little hectic many nights when kids are tired from a long day of school and activities, so, getting them to eat their veggies can be difficult. For this reason, I try to add veggies in any way I can like to lunches and snack time.
I like to send DIY type of lunches, like this Healthy “Pizza” Lunch. For an extra nutritional boost, I swapped out tomato sauce with hummus and my kids love to top the pita slices with their “toppings.” For a gluten-free version, you can substitute cucumber slices for pita wedges.
3. Extra Fruit
In the past, I’ve fallen into the trap of sending the same fruits day after day in the lunchbox. Apples came back uneaten, bananas came home smooshed because they looked “yucky”, and grape juices have leaked in backpacks and lunch bags.
Something I like to do is make fresh fruit cups. All I have to do is chop fruit into a big bowl, mix it, and fill small, lidded leak-proof containers. To prevent browning, I add a 50/50 mixture of water and lemonade.
4. Fiber Rich
My go-to high fiber add-ons don't require much cooking. Fruits like pears, plums, kiwis, and watermelon are great options, plus they add an extra serving of fruit!
A smoothie with a dried plum (to naturally sweeten) and added chia seeds is a terrific high-fiber option. Unlike juices, smoothies contain all the pulp making them a better nutritional option.
If you think you can’t pack smoothies inside a school lunch, think again! Here is how you can pack a smoothie in the morning and still be good to eat at lunch. Bonus: you can make a few ahead of time for an easy grab-and-go option!
It’s easy to pack whole grains into a lunch box in the form of sandwiches, whole-grain pita pizzas, pasta salads, quinoa, and ancient grain mixes. Sometimes, I like taking pasta salad for a spin and making this Pizza Pasta Salad with high protein pasta made of quinoa.