It’s back to school time and that means that you need to start thinking about your children’s lunches for this upcoming year. We are excited to share some back to school healthy lunches with you today!
Although school lunches get a bad rap by some, they are in fact very healthy as USDA guidelines ensure that school lunches have a variety of different colored vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy and sodium regulations for the meals served in schools. So, if you are one of the millions of parents whose children eat school lunch, you can feel good about knowing that your children receive nutritious lunches at school.
If you pack your child’s lunch, this is also a fantastic way to make sure that he or she eats a healthy and satisfying meal to facilitate classroom learning. Because research shows that children who have bellies full of nutritious foods do better in school, take the time to make sure that your child is properly fed while out of your care. Our favorite ways to enhance the typical “brown bag” lunch take a little bit of time an investment up front, but once you get the hang of it, you and your child will be grateful for the effort.
For those families who don’t know where to begin, the best way to tackle back to school healthy lunches is to decide on a schedule of meals. There are many ways to do this, but we recommend sticking with a seasonal schedule. Not only is this a way to introduce healthy, fresh produce to your child, but it is also budget friendly because foods that are in season can be purchased for less money than those that are not. Consider using our Foods of the Month Calendar to find out the seasonal produce during different times of the year. For example, in the fall, season produce includes tomatoes, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, apples, citrus fruits and carrots. Put these food on the school lunch menu for your child in the fall with items like cherry tomatoes and ranch dressing, butternut squash macaroni and cheese (leftovers make great lunches), sweet potato French fries (kids love them cold!) and carrots with hummus.
These seasonal vegetables can be purchased for school lunches at an even deeper discount if your family has the ability to participate in a farm share or CSA. With these programs, for about $40 a week you can receive a big box of fresh fruits and vegetables from a local farm. With a bit of prep work, you can make a nutritious and affordable school lunch for your child. Even better, look into farm shares or CSAs that will deliver to your house. It will save a stop to the grocery store for busy moms.
Now that you have a food schedule to create a variety of menu options in season and affordable, it’s time to make the presentation of these items fun for your child. Although there is nothing wrong with a brown paper bag, there are endless ways to be creative with school lunch presentation. We find that the more bite size the items are, the more kids enjoy them. Also, a fun tray that compartmentalizes each different part of the meal to create a “bento box” style lunch increases the fun factor. We see so many gorgeous school lunches on social media using this modern version of a lunch box. Check out Amazon for a “bento lunch box” for a variety of lunch boxes in different price ranges that will meet your family’s budget.
To summarize the best back to school healthy lunches lunches for your children, here is a sample week of homemade lunches that we’d recommend. They include not only nutritious items that meet the USDA Dietary Guidelines for American, but they are also seasonal for this fall, colorful and kid-friendly!
Monday: Butternut squash macaroni and cheese (leftover from the weekend), broccoli florets with ranch dressing, yogurt covered pretzels, grapes
Tuesday: Guacamole with baked tortilla chips or crackers, orange slices, hard boiled egg, apple slices
Wednesday: Whole grain bread with cream cheese, matchstick carrots and radishes, rolled-up deli chicken slices, sliced peppers, apple slices and yogurt covered pretzels
Thursday: Pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes (leftover dinner), broccoli florets and peppers with ranch dressing, grapes, whole grain cookie
Friday: Pumpkin bagel with cream cheese, hard boiled egg, cherry tomatoes and carrots with hummus. orange slices
And, check out the informative infographic from our friends at Fix.com for more smart tips on packing healthy school lunches!
Source: Fix.com Blog