Back to the Basics with School Lunches!

Packing a healthy school lunch for your child can be tricky. It gets even trickier when food allergies or intolerances are involved! I still remember the thought and worry that went into packing the first school lunch for my eldest daughter’s first day of kindergarten. I panicked that I didn’t have enough the evening before the first day of school, and drove out to a local vegetable stand to buy just one more thing that I could add to complete that lunch! We’re in a great routine with school lunches now – we know how many snacks our girls will eat in a day, and we know what their individual preferences are.

Some Guidelines:

  1. Keep it simple. Apples and bananas are great snacks! Don’t fool yourself into thinking that snacks have to be fancy looking.
  2. Avoid any prepackaged or processed snacks. Not only are they often full of sugar, preservatives, and artificial colours, but they are also very expensive, and create more garbage waste.
  3. Include a rainbow of colours. This will ensure that they are getting a wide variety of nutrients and vitamins from their food.
  4. Introduce one new snack at a time. A complete overhaul all at once would be a shock to anyone’s system. Take it slow.
  5. If including a juice box, ensure that it is labelled 100% juice. Most juice boxes are laden with sugar, added flavour, and food colouring.
  6. Educate your kids about how healthy their lunch is, and why this is important for their growing bodies and learning minds. They do understand!

School Lunch Inspiration – what to include:

1 main item such as:

  • Hummus with corn chips or whole grain crackers to dip (they also love to dip their veggies in hummus).
  • Guacamole with corn chips or whole grain crackers to dip.
  • Leftovers kept warm in a thermos such as: stew, soup, pasta, casserole
  • A sandwich – egg salad, tuna salad, sunflower seed butter & jam etc.

As well as 3 snacks which can include:

  • 1 piece of fruit such as: An apple (sliced with an apple slicer, held together with a rubber band and put into a reusable plastic bag), a banana, a clementine orange (or slices of a navel orange), grapes, melons, or berries.
  • 1 veggie such as: Cucumber slices, carrot sticks or baby carrots, grape or cherry tomatoes, sweet pepper slices, or celery sticks.
  • 1 “fun” snack such as: Homemade granola bars (nut , dairy and gluten free), homemade muffins (sweetened with honey), trail mix (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, gluten free cereal, raisins), or homemade cookies (sweetened with honey). With the exception of the trail mix, I make these snacks ahead in large batches and freeze them so that when we’re packing lunches in the morning we just pull them out and they are ready to go!

school lunch

I hope these ideas inspire you as you strive to provide your kids with nutritious, simple lunches that they will enjoy! (Don’t forget to click on the links in the text above for the yummy recipes that I’ve shared in earlier posts.)

What are some healthy school lunch ideas that your kids love? Please share with us!

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25 4 & 5

 

AWESOME Granola Bars! School Lunch Ideas Installment #2

My kids LOVE to eat granola bars! I also love it – when else can I get them to eat so much nutrition packed into a little bar, with only a small amount of sugar to make it all stick? Oh yeah, and I make these gluten free, oat free, dairy free and of course nut free. Well, what do they have??? Here’s the recipe that is always a hit in my kid’s school lunches. I must admit that I found the base to this recipe online a few years ago and do not know the source.

Homemade Granola Bars

1 cup puffed rice (if you eat oats, you can use them instead)

1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut (sulphate free if possible)

3/4 cup ground flax

3/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup sesame seeds

2/3 cup brown sugar*

1/2 cup honey

4 Tbsp coconut oil

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

8 oz dried fruit

  1. Mix dry ingredients in 11 x 13 baking dish with sides, toast in oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Put brown sugar, honey, butter, vanilla and salt in saucepan. Bring to simmer, stirring constantly.
  3. Mix dry and wet ingredients in large bowl. Mix well.
  4. Prepare 11 x 13 dish by lining with waxed paper that is lightly greased.
  5. Dump mixture into baking dish, spread evenly, cover with waxed paper and press down HARD.
  6. Wait 2 – 3 hours until cool. Turn onto cutting board and cut with knife.
  7. Wrap individual bars in saran wrap, put them all into a large freezer bag, and store in the freezer. Go ahead and put these directly from the freezer into those lunch bags, they don’t take long to defrost.

*I should note that I always try to eliminate as much sugar as I can from a recipe, and I did try unsuccessfully to reduce the amount of brown sugar in this recipe (and increase the amount of honey) and my bars fell apart.

toasted dry ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

stirring liquids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stirring wet and dry together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pressing Down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the endless amount of variations that this recipe allows. Think dried apples and cinnamon or dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips. If you are making them for home and can eat nuts, go ahead and add almonds, or some peanut butter to the recipe.

Although this may seem like a lot of work, it takes only about a half an hour to make these (not including cooling time), and it makes about 24 bars when cut so they do last for quite a while if you are using only one a day in school lunches. Enjoy!

finished product!