Plate-Wise •  8/21/2020

Three Quick Ideas for Irresistible School Lunches

Written By Stephanie Burton  A Child’s Sandwich in the Shape of a Cat

It’s that time of year again, when parents are thinking, “What do I put in my kids’ lunches?” It’s a never-ending saga. While school might be different this year — some of our kids are learning at home, and others are starting school at different times — making their lunch is a task that never goes away.

When it comes to what makes it in my kids’ lunchboxes or onto the kitchen table, it comes down to a couple of things:

What they will eat? 

It’s all well and good to think they will eat the vegetables we put in their lunch, but I wonder what really happens to them all? To avoid food waste and hungry kids, I would ask the kids what they would like to eat and then add some variety when I can.

What’s convenient? 

In uncertain times, school lunch shouldn’t have to be another stressful to-do list item. As a busy, working mom, my time is precious. I don’t sweat adding convenience foods to my kids’ lunches. If it saves me time and fills their bellies, we’re good! Juice boxes (100% juice if you can), prepackaged veggies, hummus, peanut butter (or other alternative), cheese sticks, etc.

Looking for some fun ways to add variety to your kids’ lunchboxes? Here are some quick ideas.

1.  Consider the five food groups

According to the USDA MyPlate program, that’s protein, grains, veggies, fruit and dairy. I often think this way when I’m making a meal. It’s not perfect every time but you’re sure to get more variety when you take a minute to think about whether you can include one item in each group. Though five food groups seems like a lot, it’s easier than it looks! You can check all the boxes by including a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a fruit, carrot sticks and milk.

2. Consider international cuisine

Pick a country and plan a meal by region of the world.

  • Take a trip to Italy with pasta, sauce and cheese
  • Enjoy a taste of Mexico with easy quesadillas — try cheese, beef, chicken or black beans
  • Sample Indian food with hummus and veggies or with bean dishes

3.  Breakfast for lunch

What kid doesn’t like breakfast any time of the day?

  • Try a bagel with peanut butter, cream cheese, jelly or avocado spread
  • French toast sticks
  • Carrot muffins or zucchini bread
  • Hard boiled eggs

The ideas are endless. You can enjoy leftovers or make something new. Whatever is easiest to pull together and the kids will eat, that’s what you are aiming for!