Healthy School Lunch Hacks for Your Littles, Middles and Teens
It’s September, and your back-to-school routine is probably well underway. For many busy parents, that routine includes making lunches every day.
And most parents realize that the best school lunch is a healthy one. After all, a vast amount of research now shows that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables promotes growth, strengthens the immune system and helps prevent chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Similarly, a diet that includes healthy proteins helps a child’s body repair and make cells and produce enzymes and hormones necessary for proper development.
But while the goal—packing healthy food your children will want to eat—sounds simple, the execution can be a little maddening. Think about it. Kids can be picky eaters, all parents are tired, and sometimes it’s just hard to get creative in the kitchen.
In general, growing children aren’t known for their ability to sit still, focus and stay on task for hours at a time, but that’s exactly what’s needed during the school day. To aid concentration, try out foods that boost brain power, such as berries, eggs, oats, beans and lentils. Another great rule of thumb is to eat the rainbow! Choose fruits and vegetables in rich colors, and you really can’t go wrong.
Whether you’re feeding Littles, Middles or Teens, coming up with healthy, tasty and convenient choices is a challenge. We know it can feel a little overwhelming, so we put together a few healthy School Lunch Hacks to help you out:
- Turkey and Cheese Pinwheels Bento – Turkey, lettuce and cheddar cheese rolls, ripe blueberries, crunchy celery with creamy ranch dill dressing, and popcorn sprinkled with chocolate chips make this lunch a winner.
- Breakfast for Lunch – Change things up with a toasted waffle apple sandwich with sunflower seed butter, hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese sprinkled with cinnamon, and juicy grapefruit segments.
- Pizza with a Twist – Deconstruct a timeless classic into bite-sized goodness for tiny hands. Just grab some mini bamboo skewers and alternate chunks of pepperoni and mozzarella, tomato sauce on the side, a few baby carrots, fresh strawberries and a homemade muffin.
- Rainbows and Butterflies Pasta Salad – Transform bowtie pasta with extra-virgin olive oil, shelled edamame, corn kernels, diced red pepper, shredded carrots and grated parmesan cheese. Add a Strawberry & Yogurt Parfait for your growing tween.
- DIY Taco Lunchbox – Every day is Taco Tuesday! Give your Middle everything they need to build the perfect soft or crunchy taco at the lunch table—soft tortillas or crunchy tortilla chips, a turkey or beef filling, shredded Mexican cheese, diced tomatoes, a bit of guacamole and a dollop of sour cream. Add watermelon or orange slices for a fresh and fruity treat.
- Turkey BLT Wraps – Loaded with protein, this fun, easy sandwich will give your kiddo all-day energy. Round it out with apple slices and an Almond Butter Yogurt Dip.
- Cream Cheese & Veggie Roll-Up – Easy to fix, easy to eat—just make sure to boost your flavor with garlic, chives and other herbs. And don’t forget to pair it with these Apple Muffins.
- Veggie and Chorizo Quesadillas – Give your kid’s lunch a zesty punch with these homemade quesadillas, a side of chunky salsa and this Quick Strawberry Cheesecake.
- Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad – This classic salad features a twist most kids are sure to love—grilled chicken and penne pasta. Serve with whole grain crackers and a fruit cup medley of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.
Many children are interested in preparing their own lunches and learning how to cook. It can even feel like a science project to many kids! So even if your children are years away from college, now is a good time to get your whole family involved in the meal planning and preparation. This can help teach them and help your school day routines as well!