Healthy Lunches Kids & Moms will Love from Pre-k Through Senior Year

It’s that time of year again. As children and teens everywhere worry about which outfit to choose for the first day of school, parents have another thing on their minds. How can you send your child back to school with a lunch that they will actually enjoy eating, but that you can feel good about giving them as well? The good news is that regardless of your child’s age, you can find great tasting foods they will love that are also loaded with nutrients to boost their energy and brain power throughout the entire school day! Here are some of my favorites:

Pre-K and Kindergarten
At this age, it’s all about making food fun! Finger food can go over great for younger children and can be an excellent way to get them to try new foods and increase their intake of fruits and vegetables. For an easy lunch almost no kindergartener can refuse, try making a healthy pizza “face”. Using a whole grain tortilla, sprinkle shredded cheese to cover the tortilla. Then, use fresh vegetables slices to create the mouth, nose, ears, and eyes. For instance, make a face using mushrooms for ears and a nose, shredded carrots for hair, olives for eyes, and sliced peppers for a mouth. Heat in the oven to melt the cheese and crisp the tortilla or serve cold- it’s up to you. You can even send baggies of cheese and sliced vegetables and let your child build his own pizza!

Elementary School
If you have a picky eater, getting them to take in enough fruits and vegetables can be a challenge. However, with a little creativity, you can get even the pickiest eater meet the goal of 5 servings per day. When it comes to increasing your child’s veggie intake, try mixing them into favorite foods. For instance, if your child loves to have a turkey sandwich for lunch, mix it up by making turkey pinwheels. You can make these by wrapping a tortilla with turkey breast, cheese, shredded carrots, spinach leaves, and tomato slices and cutting it into small pinwheel pieces. Not only will this add great flavor, it it’s fun to eat as well!

If you have a hard time getting your child to eat whole fruits, consider 100% fruit juice. As a complement to whole fruit, 100% fruit juice can make it easy to squeeze more fruit into a healthy diet. My favorite juice recommendation is Welch’s 100% Grape Juice because of the unique dark-purple Concord grapes. Welch’s uses the whole Concord grapes– including the seeds and dark purple skin –which are crushed to release natural plant nutrients, called polyphenols, straight from the grape. One 4-oz. cup counts as one serving (1/2 cup) of fruit with no added sugar, and has a taste all kids will love!


Middle School
At this age, your pre-teen may be more concerned with how their lunch looks than what is actually contains. Fitting in and not sticking out are vital qualities to the lunch of a pre-teen. Take the traditional lunch route, but with a twist, to boost the nutrient content. If you child wants to bring “junk food” with his lunch, offer healthier options such as freeze-dried fruit or seasoned nuts over regular chips. A traditional sandwich is fine to bring, but boost its health qualities by using 100% whole grain breads, and topping it with sliced avocado or hummus over mayonnaise.

High School
Your high-schooler has a long day and needs to keep her energy up. Pack her lunch full of foods that will boost brainpower. Whole grains, lean proteins, and omega-3 fatty acids are all essential for fueling the brain. A salad topped with tuna, avocado, and chopped walnuts with a side of whole grain crackers can be a great brain booster. For the teen on the run, consider making a smoothie he can sip on throughout the day. Toss together 1 cup frozen berries, ¾ cup low fat Greek yogurt, 1 Tbs chia seeds, and ¼ cup spinach along with ice for a delicious on-the-go meal or snack that will fuel your teen on even the busiest days!

Disclosure: This blog was sponsored by Welch’s. I was compensated for writing this blog. Words and opinion are my own.


Build a Better Lunchbox

representative_of_eating_healthy_foodsThe summer sun may still be hot but school is just around the corner! Providing your child with well-balanced, nutritious meals is essential to keeping them energized throughout the day, and performing at their best academically. Although many school lunch programs are taking steps to provide healthier options, research still shows that menus in most school lunch programs are too high in saturated fat and cholesterol and too low in fruits and veggies. For this reason, packing lunch for your child may be the best bet to ensuring they have a nutritious meal to fuel them for the rest of the day.

With busy schedules and hectic mornings, packing lunch every day may seem like a nuisance- but it doesn’t have to be! A great way to save time is to write down a little ‘lunch menu’ for the week; ask the kids to help you do this to get them excited about preparing their own meals. If you are able to plan ahead, you won’t have to worry about running out in the middle of your busy week for groceries.

When planning meals, focus on lean proteins, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and veggies. Remember that lots of colors= lots of nutrients so encourage the kids to make their meals as colorful as they can!

Here are some healthful lunch ideas to consider:

• Sandwich made with low sodium cold-cuts of turkey or ham on whole wheat bread or wrap. Substitute hummus for mayo and add lettuce and tomato. Serve with plain yogurt and strawberries.
• Tuna fish made with fresh salsa, avocado, and small handful of craisins for a touch of sweetness. Serve with whole grain crackers for scooping, baby carrots, and an apple.
• Chicken fingers made by breading with corn flakes and baking. Serve with side of broccoli and carrots with low-fat ranch for dipping.
• Chickpea salad made with chickpeas, tabouli, avocado, and tomatoes. Serve with whole grain crackers, grapes, and piece of low-fat string cheese.
• ‘Mini pizzas’ made with tomato sauce, low-fat mozzarella cheese, spinach, and served on a whole wheat pita. Serve with fresh pineapple.
• Whole grain pasta salad made with olive oil, roasted red peppers, broccoli, and topped with tofu. Drizzle with low-fat Italian dressing. Add herbs like cilantro and basil.
• Roasted bell peppers stuffed with quinoa, onion, chopped carrots, and drizzled with olive oil. Serve with fruit salad.

Get creative and remember to involve the kids in the cooking process! If you’re short on time in the AM, try preparing lunch the night before or making alongside with dinner. For beverages, skip the juice and soda- they’re way too high in sugar! Water, coconut water, and low fat dairy are better options.

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