It's that time of the year - school is here! If you’re a parent or caregiver, you may already feel overwhelmed just thinking about packing school lunches for your kiddos. Lunch planning and packing are actually great activities to involve your kids in. As the parent, your roles are to ensure nourishing food options are available to pack and to provide guidance/assistance to your child. Your child’s jobs are to communicate their food preferences, give feedback on how much food is satisfying for meals and snacks, and to assist or independently pack their own lunch, depending on their comfort or maturity level. This may be a work in progress, but with time, your child will learn how to pack healthful food to fuel them for a day of school.
As you ease into passing along lunch packing duty, assess your child’s readiness level. Children in grades 1 to 3 may not be ready to pack independently, but they can certainly help with making decisions about what they’d like you to pack. This would also be a good time to brainstorm and plan together with this handy chart! Have discussions with your child about what should be included in a healthful lunch. Aim to always have “growing food” (protein and whole grains), fruit, and veggies on hand.
By grade 4 to 6, your child may be ready to pack all or part of their lunch independently. Maybe they could assemble a wrap, sandwich, pasta salad, or leftovers, but they may need more assistance with slicing fresh fruits and veggies and packing food up properly to ensure food safety. And don’t forget to involve your child in grocery shopping so they can take pride in their selections for the week.
Last month, the Sound Dietitians team had a blast talking about planning healthy lunches and doing some hands-on prep with kids and families at Verdant Community Wellness Center. This was an excellent way to conclude Kids Eat Right Month and prepare for the start of school. Here are some tasty recipes from our class!
Leftover chicken breast or rotisserie chicken can easily be chopped or shredded to be used in lunches and additional dinner meals. Toss shredded chicken on salad or pasta, season for tacos or quesadillas, or make a batch of this delicious chicken salad. It is perfect for school lunches or snacks and can be enjoyed as a sandwich, wrap, or with whole grain crackers. Just remember to pack it with some cold packs so it stays chilled until lunch time.
Nutrition per 1/2 cup serving (with almonds and grapes): 240 Calories; 12g Fat; 27g Protein; 7g Carbohydrates; 1.5g Fiber; 300mg Sodium
Rainbow Power Bowl with Easy Red Wine Vinaigrette
This bowl was a HUGE hit with our class! The kids loved shaking up their own dressing and choosing a variety of colorful veggies for their bowls. One kiddo commented “the cucumbers are so crunchy and refreshing!” After assembling, these grain bowls are too pretty to pass up.
Makes 2 Cups
Recipe adapted from: https://www.superhealthykids.com/rainbow-buddha-bowls-kids/
Red Wine Vinaigrette:
Nutrition per one example bowl (½ cup quinoa; 1/3 cup each cucumber/peppers/tomatoes, ¼ cup roasted sweet potato, 2 Tablespoons roasted chickpeas; 2 Tablespoons vinaigrette dressing): 355 Calories; 19.5g Fat; 7g Protein; 38g Carbohydrates; 6.7g Fiber; 210mg Sodium
Chocolate Cherry Energy Balls
These energy balls are a great alternative to packaged, processed snacks because they are only lightly sweetened and also provide protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. You can have fun mixing them up on the weekend and enjoy throughout the week.
Makes 24 Energy Balls
Recipe adapted from: https://www.smartnutrition.ca/recipes/mix-n-match-energy-ball-recipe/
Nutrition per energy ball: 55 Calories; 2.5g Fat; 1.5g Protein; 7g Carbohydrates; 1.2g Fiber
Fun extra: Check out America's Test Kitchen's "Kid Friendly Recipe & Activity Testing" to encourage food, cooking, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics)!
Happy planning, prep, and packing ~ Wishing you all an excellent start to a new school year!
A place for our consultant Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) to share nutrition science, yummy and healthy recipes, tips on seasonal ingredients, and other nutritional musings. Enjoy!