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

 

School Lunch Ideas – Installment #1

Over the summer while spending time with friends and talking about the impending school year, I have realized that school lunches are quite a challenge for many families. I realized that they were hard for families with food allergies/intolerances like ours, but I had never really thought about the challenge for families with children who simply won’t eat what is considered the “typical” school lunch. I am a self professed health food nut. The joke remains that I made brownies with whole wheat flour for my roommates in university… it was absolutely out of the question in our family growing up to even have white flour in the house! That being said, I realize that not everyone eats the way I do – I’m okay with that. I do want to point out though that while on my daughter’s kindergarten field trip this past year, I was appalled at some of the lunches that I saw. Not a single fresh or unprocessed item to be seen, loads of sugar, food coloring, and preservatives. How is a child supposed to learn while their body is dealing with so many toxins???

My kids and I have collectively come up with some pretty stellar healthy lunches that are gluten, dairy, and of course nut free, and I thought I would spend a bit of time between now and when school starts in a week and a half sharing some of our favorites.

Our girls love dip. Who doesn’t? Even something tasteless slathered in some delicious creamy dip becomes a hit! That’s why we love hummus. I also love it because my girls will consume copious amounts of fresh veggies (carrot sticks, sweet peppers, celery, mushrooms, cucumber…) if they have hummus to dip into. Without the hummus there is some grumbling involved. Now, there are some seriously unhealthy dips out there that are loaded with bad fats, MSG, and preservatives – this easy-to-make dip is not one of those and is only filled with health-giving ingredients!!! Here is our recipe, which can be modified to your liking:

Hummus

1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas (from a BPA free can, or even better – soak dried beans overnight, and cook. Use approximately the equivalent amount that would be in a can)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp cumin

1 tsp olive oil

1-2 cloves garlic

juice of one lemon (1/4 cup) (or raw apple cider vinegar as a tangy alternative)

2-3 Tbsp tahini (this is sesame seed butter – found in the international section, or the natural section of the grocery store)

Puree in blender or food processor. Before serving drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil and paprika on top. Adjust amount of liquid (olive oil or water) as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

That’s it! Very easy and economical (way cheaper than the pre-made varieties) and SUPER healthy. Oh yeah, and sooooo yummy. We use this fairly often as a sandwich alternative. I’ll send it along with fresh veggies and some rice crackers to dip. For those that can have gluten, you could also send along some whole grain pita bread cut into triangles, or some yummy whole grain crackers. If your kids like bread, and you just want to add some pizazz to their lunches, try using hummus as a sandwich spread – put it on nice and thick with some sprouts or lettuce and some tomatoes.

I hope this school lunch idea finds a spot in your child’s lunch!