What's an easy, healthy lunchbox menu for kids?
COLOR-coded lunches. Often a good rule of thumb for healthful eating is to add as many colors to your plate as possible. A good way to learn about colors? ONE color lunches. The kids love it: an orange lunch might have orange bell pepper or carrot slices, apricot yogurt or dried apricots, orange juice and orange slices, orange crackers with orange cheddar cheese, kumquats and BBQ Kettle chips (baked!). You would be surprised how many great, one-colored lunches/ideas you can come up with!!
Liz's 12-year old son loves to take our Fruity Chicken Kebabs in his lunch box. The kebabs are made with chunks of chicken (deli chicken or leftover grilled chicken), grapes, and strawberries. Liz rounds it out with a whole wheat mini bagel with cheese, sliced cucumbers, and a juice box or low-fat fruit smoothie. The recipe is featured in our new new cookbook, No Whine with Dinner. As for Janice's 11-year old daughter, she likes our Scoop-it-Up Salmon Salad (made with one can of boneless, skinless, salmon, a small shredded carrot, 2T light mayo, and 1 1/2 tsp honey mustard) along with tortilla chips for scooping. The also pack whatever fresh fruit is in season, a yogurt, homemade cookie, and maybe a pumpkin muffin for her morning snack.
My kids love "snack" lunches. I will pack cheese slices, turkey pepperoni, whole wheat crackers, grape tomatoes & carrot sticks, strawberry slices & a few raspberries. I always send a small treat as a dessert. For snack time I send a fruit leather and some pretzels.
A whole wheat tortilla can be spread with mashed and seasoned black beans, a bit of sour cream and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, then rolled up and cut in to slices for a different 'sandwich'. Send along a small container of finger-sized veggies and a favorite dip, or sliced fruit with yogurt that's been flavored with a shake of cinnamon and nutmeg. A handful of dried cherries is a perfect 'dessert'
Whole wheat bagel with sun butter (like peanut butter but made from sunflower seeds) with raisins sprinkled on top, organic string cheese, and pineapple chunks. It covers protein, whole grains, calcium, and fruit with a nice balance of sweet and savory. Plus the bagel adds a little variety from plain bread.
Peanut butter and jelly on whole grain bread, apple slices, and pretzel sticks. The perfect balance of nutrition and a great salty/sweet combination.
We love meat and cheese roll-ups, fresh fruit, peanut butter, raw vegetables (carrots, celery, etc.), raisins and other dried fruit, nuts, etc. My kids love when I make homemade "lunchables" with whole wheat crackers, lunch meat, cheese and fruit. I use cookie cutters to make cute shapes to make it fun.
Sometimes I will make my son a peanut butter banana wrap for lunch. I know- you are thinking "A What?!" But they are really good. I love them, too. And simple. Just take a whole wheat tortilla (there are other tortilla flavors you can use), spread some peanut butter on it (about a tablespoon depending on how big the tortilla is) and place a bananna in it and wrap it up. Then slice them in half. They make great little "snack sandwiches"and taste better than you would think! Add some yogurt and he's good to go!
I try to find ways to make that boring old sandwich more fun. Using a party roll to make a 'mini' sandwich, or using a hot dog bun to make a 'sub' keeps my kids interested and gives them a bit of variety as well. Add some raw veggies with dipping sauce, fresh fruit, and a chocolate square, and you've got all the bases covered.
We're traditionalists going for a smooth peanut butter and jam sandwich, though we make the jam low sugar and serve up cheese sticks and fresh fruit on the side. We find that building lunches from what we can get at the local farmer's market or food co-op allows the kids to try lots of different things, but always stuff that is fresh and tastes the way it should!
I try to stick with foods that can be eaten in 20 minutes since that is all she gets for lunch. I try to make things that will fill her up until she gets home: nut butter & jelly on whole grain bread, tomato soup, broccoli florets, and baby carrots. I also like to throw in a small treat, like one square of dark chocolate, or these lentil, nut, chocolate chip cookies that I make: http://resistanteater.blogspot.com/2011/02/lentil-cookies.html
I am always a fan of any bright colorful fruit, cheese, crackers & your child's favorite granola bar or nuts. You can make fun shapes out of the cheese using clay or cookie cutters. Kids will love everything about this lunch. It's all finger foods, full of color with the bonus of cute shaped cheese!
We love bento box lunches for my preschool daughter. Favorite fillings include: peanut butter or hummus with "dippers" (apples, carrots, celery, bell pepper, crackers, etc), boiled egg, fruit, cherry tomatoes, snap peas or any other favorite fruit and veggies.
Hummus wraps are also a favorite. Spread hummus on a tortilla or lavash bread, fill with lettuce, tomato, and avocado, and roll up. Perfect for little hands and delicious room temp.
Check out more of my ideas here on Yummy Mummy:
This is my favorite menu when you have leftovers on hand (and a lunch I grew up eating in Hawaii...minus the yogurt tubes!) Make rice balls (onigiri)--sprinkle your hands with a little sea salt and some toasted sesame seeds before forming the rice balls. Wrap each ball with seaweed (nori) if you like. Leftover grilled teriyaki chicken cut into cubes. Edamame (steamed soy beans). A tangerine or kiwi. A yogurt tube.