Whether your child is staying with your mother-in-law, at a daycare, or is in school, you want him to have the healthiest lunch possible. Often, the food that is available at schools, daycare, and summer camps are not nutritionally valuable and are nothing compared to the foods you serve at home. So why not pack lunches? Here are some helpful tips for packing lunches that are not only healthy, but good for the environment as well.
- Find a lunch bag that your child will love taking to school! We love this Skip Hop owl lunch box for the little girl in your life or this sports-themed Thermos lunch kit for your boys!
- Use containers with individual compartments. This will help you to determine portion size, and your little one to easily access his fruits and veggies. These 3 compartment, Bento lunchbox containers from Easy Lunchboxes come in a set of 4, in bright colors. The lids are easy-open and perfect for your child to use on her own! They contain no BPA, PVC, or phthalates.
- Many schools and daycare centers require that your child bring his or her own reusable water bottle or cup each day. We suggest Klean Kanteen for kids as they come in a variety of vibrant hues and are made of stainless steel. This means that your child's water bottle is free of BPA, phthalates and other toxins because it is plastic-free. Don't forget to mark it with your child's name label!
- Remember the food pyramid you learned in high school Health & Fitness class? You may want to print it out and keep it on your refrigerator for reference when planning family meals (and packing lunches!)
Gluten-Free, Peanut-Free, Sandwich-Free and Kid-Friendly
- Send hummus and bright colored veggies or veggie chips to dip in it! Kids love to dip their foods and you can rest assured that hummus is higher in nutritional value than the ketchup or cheese spreads they have available at school.
- Use Sunbutter in place of almond butter or peanut butter on gluten-free crackers or bread. Not only is it better for your little one it is also safer for the other students (most classrooms do not allow any tree nuts due to allergies.)
- Make a corn, black bean and quinoa salad. A salad like this can be served cold and won't spoil before lunch. Combine your corn, black beans and cooked quinoa, in the crockpot and add any of your little one's favorite additions such as diced tomatoes, broccoli or kale. Refrigerate. Once cooled, add lime juice, chickpeas, or diced cucumbers and refrigerate again. You may find that you've eaten it all before your little one can get it out the door!
- Do we even need to mention fruit kabobs, veggie salads or mixed fruit cups? We didn't think so!
- Grains mixed with a protein makes a hearty lunch for your child. Cut up salmon, grass-fed beef sirloin or a meat alternative and mix it with brown rice or quinoa, include steamed broccoli, carrots and snap-peas for a stir-fry inspired lunch.
- Who doesn't like brunch? Consider sending power-packed breakfast foods with your child. Foods such as oatmeal with dried cranberries or raisins, scrambled eggs with mushrooms and ham, or mini quiches. It will be such a surprise for your little one to see her favorite breakfast items in her lunchbox!
- Let your upper elementary kids be in charge of making their own healthy wraps. Include items such as large iceberg lettuce leaves for the "bread" as well as all of the filler ingredients like crunchy rice noodles, grilled chicken strips, organic shredded cheese, chickpeas, and halved cherry tomatoes. They will love having a choice as to what they are putting in each wrap while also developing healthy eating habits.
- Miniature gluten-free pizzas can be made using organic ingredients and offer a fun treat for your child once in while. Think outside of the normal cheese and pepperoni, though, with ideas like cheeseburger pizzas, macaroni and cheese pizza (using a homemade cheese sauce instead of red sauce), or even fruit pizza!
- Consider a gluten-free meatloaf, use the recipe in Hidden Veggie Meatloaf and simply substitute gluten-free breadcrumbs. You can even make this for dinner and send the leftovers with your child the next day!
- Baked fish is a great way to include protein and good Omegas in your child's diet. Pack some baked zucchini or kale chips flavored with seasonings such as garlic salt or even Cajun seasonings if your child likes his food spicy.
Photo Credit: Hinge Photography