Back to school time means we’re all looking for easy and healthy homemade school lunches ideas. Check out this simple method to get more variety for healthy foods for your child's lunchbox.
I am excited to partner with Florida Milk again on this post. As always opinions are 100% my own.
We finally made the decision and selected to send B to school in person instead of virtual. There is no right answer and I know it is a personal decision that each family needs to make for themselves. Personally, I feel so much better just having the decision made. B is so excited for all things school. From shopping for school supplies to what I will be packing for her lunch it is all she can talk about.. It has been months and months since I last packed a school lunch. The thought of making them again made me a little nervous, so I decided it was a great time to write out some inspiration for healthy kids school lunches.
Even if you are doing distance learning again this year it is a great idea to prep lunches ahead of time so you have one less thing to do during the day as you juggle teaching, working and being a parent. As you know I am not a nutritionist, just a mommy who is trying to do the best to provide my daughter with healthy food options. When our daughter started preschool I made up this guideline for her lunches so we did not forget anything and it has worked really well for us. She loves the variety it provides.
Inspiration for Healthy Kids School Lunches
I love that it makes lunch really simple to make and fun to eat. All you need to remember is to pack: a protein, a fruit/veggie, a dairy, a carbohydrate and a drink. Below are some of my favorites in each category to help make it easy for you to stock up whenever you order groceries.
- Chicken breast (I love to use Rotisserie chicken)
- Deli meat - turkey and ham are our favorites
- Ground beef or turkey
- Burger - turkey, beef or vegetarian
- Pepperoni - we like the turkey ones the best
- Nuts - Cashews and pine nuts are our favorites
- Soy patties
- Dried fruit - like cranberries, apricots or raisins
- Cheese sticks or cubes - Colby jack, Mozzarella, Feta, and Gouda are some of our favorites
- Yogurt smoothie
- Yogurt - I generally freeze the squeeze sticks
- Cream cheese sandwich - this is B's all time favorite sandwich on a bagel
- Milk - white or flavored milk
- Cheddar bunnies
- Peanut butter pretzels
- Sweet potato
Why is a Healthy Lunch Important
According to the CDC the number of children who are obese in the US has tripled since the 1970s. Today, nearly 1 in 5 school age children and young people (6 to 19 years) in the United States has obesity. Since kids spend so much time at school is it important that they get good nutrition at school. Poor nutrition could lead to the next generation having a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and early onset dementia.
What you Can Do to Help Your Kids
Make sure to include dairy everyday
Consuming dairy foods provides health benefits — especially improved bone health according to The USDA. Dairy foods provide nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body and a healthy weight. Nutrients include calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein. This is important since these nutrients are lacking in the American diet based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- Calcium is important for building bones and teeth as well as for maintaining bone mass. The primary source of calcium in American diets is dairy foods. the USDA recommends 3 cups or the equivalent of dairy foods per day to improve bone mass.
- Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Dairy foods are a great way to get potassium. Especially eating yogurt and drinking milk.
- Vitamin D helps build and maintain bones. It helps to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorus.
Dairy foods provides many nutrients to the diet including protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12, niacin and pantothenic acid. Milk has calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.
Include Kids in Making Lunch
I have found that if our daughter is part of the process from buying the food to packing it she is more likely to try new foods. And she often makes better choices when I am not around. It is a great time to help foster your child's desire to eat healthier. One of the things our daughter loves is when I use new shapes or containers to make the presentation interesting. I often use mini cookie cutters to cut up cheese, fruits and vegetables. Then I place them into bento boxes. She loves the variety it provides and I know she is eating a balanced meal.
Eating Colorful Foods
I have shared before that I try to focus on eating the rainbow of foods. Red, orange, blue and green foods all have their own nutritional attributes including phytochemicals and are a great source of nutrients for both you and your little ones. Challenging your kids to eat the rainbow helps to get them accustomed to eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. It is all about creating healthy habits they can use for their entire life.
I also like to include a fun napkin or note as well. How cute are these emoji napkins?
Can Kids Still get Lunch at School?
Don't have time to pack lunch for your kids? Or it is not something you are interested in packing, don't worry the National School Lunch Program ensures that every Florida student has access to nutritious, fresh meals for breakfast and lunch. They do this through the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program and Farm to School initiative.
In case you missed some of my other collaborations with Florida Milk, be sure to check out these posts.
- How to Use up Milk
- When Can a Baby Have Cow Milk
- Baked Carrot Cake Donuts
- How Dairy Farms in Florida Stay Sustainable
- Dutch Baby
- Milk and Cookies Party
Do you have any tricks for back to school lunches? Would love to hear them.
Katie Bell says
What great ideas!! I am always on the look out for new ideas. I seem to get in a rut and pack the same thing most days. This will help a lot!
Glad it helped. It was fun to write it all down so I stay out of a rut as well. Thank you for reading and commenting.
my kids love cut up pickles or olives, which i will send with crackers and cheese. They also love noodles. So if I make spaghetti or something for dinner I will make lots of extra so I can pack it for lunches. Or just make noodles the morning of and add italian dressing to it. My suggestion for protein: EGGS. egg salad for crackers or sandwiches, boiled eggs - whole, or chopped up in salad, devilled eggs...
We also try to make sandwiches more exciting by using wraps, or pitas, or left over hot dog buns.
Love your additions to the list. I forgot about pasta, that is a favorite of ours as well. I love eggs, but Bailey is not into them yet. She keeps trying them, which makes me happy. And great ideas with the different types of bread, I need to try wraps and pitas this year. Thank you again for reading and commenting.
my daughter hates sandwiches. I use deli meat and wrap it around cheese sticks. She loves it.
That is one of my personal favorites. My parents just call them roll ups. Never tried it was a cheese stick. Look forward to trying it soon. Thank you for the recommendation.
I teach 1st and the kids love love love roll ups! One mama tucked a turkey dog in there and her little one was overjoyed! Another big hit is mini muffins, sweet but also savoury with cheese and broccoli, deli ham cut up etc! mmm, now I'm hungry!
Thank you for the recommendations. I am looking forward to trying roll up this year. And mini muffins is a great idea. I am off to look on Pinterest for recipes for mini muffins. Thank you for reading and commenting.