Packing school lunches can start to become a “grab and dump” rather than an opportunity to encourage healthy eating habits and trying new foods. In order to help spark your creativity, the health experts at Envolve, an integrated healthcare solutions company, have put together five tips for packing healthy lunches your kids will love.
1. Repurposed Regulars. Forget cutting the crust off of sandwiches and try a new approach to sandwich making. Increase protein intake and cut down on sodium by subbing out deli meat for baked or grilled chicken or turkey breasts. You can make several tortilla rolled sandwiches ahead of time with shredded chicken from last night’s dinner, cheese, lettuce, and maybe even try and sneak in some hummus. Cut them into small slices to make them bite sized and fun to eat. Leftover chicken can be cut into cubes for a healthier version of chicken nuggets or try ground turkey taco roll-ups in whole grain tortillas.
2. Crunchy Creations. Apples, baked tortilla chips, celery, and nuts are all nutritious, crispy options. Try some creative combinations to encourage your kids to welcome these healthy foods into their lunch box. Apples are high in vitamin C and fiber. Pairing this sweet treat with cheese you can create a healthy, calcium-rich snack. Top celery with some chicken and grapes for a light mayo-free chicken salad like meal. Mix a variety of unsalted nuts to create a savory, high-protein, homemade trail mix.
3. Savory Substitutes. Try popcorn, veggie straws, or crackers in place of the standard bag of chips. Pre-popped popcorn can be found as low- to no-salt and is often gluten-free. Crackers come in a variety of baked and low-sodium options and can be a good source of whole-grain and fiber. Look for veggie straws and chips made from real vegetables that are low in trans-fat, letting you easily sneak in vegetables for those picky eaters. Be sure to check labels carefully and eliminate options that are high in sodium or added sugar.
4. Delightful Dips. A low-sugar, yogurt-based dip for fruit can help encourage fruit intake. Use Greek yogurt to up protein too. And when it comes to veggie dips, the possibilities are endless! Instead of pre-bottled ranch try a homemade Greek yogurt and dill dip. Smashed avocado or hummus are good options and provide heart-healthy fats and fiber. Try buying or slicing veggies into “chip form” to make dipping easier. If you have a more adventurous eater, a cucumber tomato salsa is a high-water, low-cholesterol option. Making dips in bulk and using for dinners and lunches will help with lunch prep and get kids accustomed to the taste of new combinations!
5. Fruity Favorites. The vitamins and antioxidants in fruits help kids fight illness by strengthening their immune system. A bright berry fruit salad or assembling a fruit kabob with a variety of colorful fruits is a surefire way to get your kids attention. Try packing yogurt, fruit, and some granola in separate containers so your kids can build their own parfait. Or try a combination of cottage cheese and peaches. Bananas and apple slices with peanut butter or almond butter is another fun way to eat fruit.