In many states school has already begun, in others it is just a few days away. On top of buying new clothes, selecting school supplies and making decisions about transportation, field trips and more, parents also have to decide about whether or not their child will eat lunch and/or snack at school or bring their own.
Over the last few school years there has been much controversy about the healthiness of school cafeteria food, and as a result many parents now choose to send their child’s lunch with them to school. But is what you are sending any better than what they would get at school? Below are 10 healthy lunch and snack ideas so you know for sure your child is getting the proper amount of food and nutrition they need.
1. Fruit and Cheese
Cheese is chock full of protein, giving your child the energy they need to make it through the day. Add in some fruit for a sweet treat and extra vitamins, along with some pita strips or crackers. One fun suggestion: use cookie cutters to cut out the fruit, then place the pieces on a plastic kabob alternating with chunks of cheese.
2. Healthy Muffins
Children will have no idea you are serving them fruits and vegetables when you send them with some delicious baked goods such as banana bread, zucchini muffins and carrot bars! Here is one of my favorite recipes for Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins found on allrecipes.com.
You can pretty much mix anything with a calcium-rich cheese to make these fun alternatives to sandwiches! Chop up vegetables, chicken and even shrimp for a healthy, delicious lunch.
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and children love it when mixed with fruit and nuts! Consider making your own instead of buying the flavored yogurt in the store. Simply mix plain yogurt with your child’s favorite fruit cut into bite-sized pieces. You may want to add a pinch of sugar or some agave to add a touch of sweet.
5. Sweet Potato Chips
Forget buying those bags of unhealthy, greasy potato chips, and make your own using sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C and folate! Plus, their sweet taste is a hit with kids! Here is a simple recipe to make your own Sweet Potato Chips found on Taste of Home.
6. Peanut Butter
If your child likes peanut butter, then there are endless lunch and snack possibilities available to you! Instead of sending a boring peanut butter and jelly sandwich, consider a peanut butter and honey sandwich, or even peanut butter and banana! Send a container of peanut butter along with some crackers, or add in some veggies and fruits by making Ants on a Log (remember those? Peanut butter filled celery with raisins on top?). Or in place of raisins, add nuts or cranberries or any other small fruit your child enjoys.
7. Chicken with Fruit Salad
Fruit salad makes a sweet and healthy lunch, but make it even more filling by adding chunks of white meat chicken. Also consider adding in some of the less common fruits such as pineapple, cranberries, kiwi and others.
8. Pita Sandwiches
Forget those boring ham and cheese slices between two pieces of bread, stuff a pita shell instead! With pita sandwiches your options are endless. Fill them with tuna salad, chicken salad, a mix of cheeses, egg salad, chunks of chicken, slices of beef – pretty much anything goes!
9. Hearty Soups or Chili
Send your child off with a heavy-duty thermos full of warm, hearty soup such as chicken noodle, chicken and rice, beef and vegetables or any other favorite. If your child loves chili, that works great too. Make sure the thermos is insulated enough to keep it warm for several hours. These make an especially nice lunch on a cold winter day!
10. Hummus Dip and Fruit
Fill a partitioned container with hummus, veggie sticks, strips of pita bread and a variety of fruit. Not only is this a healthy lunch, but it easy to make and affordable!