Healthy Back to School Lunches
I can’t believe I’m posting this video. Summer definitely flew by! But it IS back to school season! My nephews in Florida already started! And my home state of NJ ins’t far behind! I knew I wanted to share some healthy lunch ideas, but I also wanted to make sure my ideas were things that kids ACTUALLY eat! So I check in with all my favorite mammas - both friends and family and got them to break down what they’re kids are eating to help my create my Top 5 Healthy Back To School Lunches! Check out the ideas below and ALL of the things the kids said they like!
Turkey and Cheese roll ups, hard-boiled egg, pasta salad, fresh berries.
Sunbutter & jam (or smashed fruit) sammie, with hummus and peppers & broccoli.
Make Your Own Pizzas, mini bread, fresh mozzarella, topping (optional), and crushed tomato “dipping sauce”, with tomato and cucumber salad.
Chicken salad lettuce wraps with apple slices and pretzel sticks
Quesadilla with smashed avocado (or guac), and fresh fruit salad
For the turkey roll ups, I used tortillas because they tend to have fewer ingredients than actual “wraps.” Nitrate, nitrite free turkey, all natural cheese, and if they’'ll eat it, through some lettuce, tomato, or onion on there. You can also add mayo or mustard for the older kids. Lay everything flat onto the tortilla, then roll and slice into pinwheel. Hard boiled eggs are a great option because you can meal prep these! Simply put as many eggs as needed into a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat and let sit in hot water for 12 minutes. Rinse under cold water and store in the fridge. If you pre-peel them, store in an airtight container in the fridge. Pasta salad is a fun way to sneak in fresh veggies and herbs. A tricolor pasta is a lot of fun, and a pesto dressing is an easy way to blend in veggies, just add things like spinach or broccoli to the food processor and toss altogether with the cooked pasta. Fresh berries are still in season in late Summer, and provide LOADS of antioxidant. Plus they’re pretty and again, let the kids pick which ones they want to try - they might surprise you!
Nut butter sandwiches are sometimes forbidden in schools these days, though it seems sunbutter is allowed because it’s made from a seed not a nut. Check your school’s lunch policy, and then check the ingredients on your butter. It should ONLY contain ground, roasted nut/seed. Avoid ones with added sugars. You can use a natural fruit spread, or even fresh fruit! If PB and banana was good enough for Elvis, the kids might like it too! You can also mash up fresh berries and spread it onto the bread. Honey is another good option for the sweet side, since it’s also loaded with antibacterial and antiviral elements, despite still being a sugar. Hummus was a really popular response from the kids as a favorite snack and they seem happy to eat it with fresh veggies! Slice up some peppers, broccoli, carrot sticks, celery - literally whatever they will eat! Again, this is a great place to let them decide for themselves.
My Make Your Own Pizza was inspired by those Lunchables that were really popular when I was growing up. But since my Mom cooked she really couldn’t wrap her head around them. So we got the same concept but with actual food. Mini breads are easy to find these days. Fresh mozzarella can be expensive, but happens to be one of the “better for you” cheese. Although the stuff that comes vacuum sealed in a square will work. And for the “sauce” I recommend grabbing a jar of simple crushed tomato. Jarred sauces also tend to have sugar added to them, where a crushed tomato product won’t. There might be some salt and basil, but otherwise it’s pretty plain (for our picky eaters). If your kids want a little more flavor, sprinkle in some red pepper flakes and oregano! And of course, give them a little side salad, tomato and cucumber works well here.
Chicken salad lettuce wraps were an actual response from my friend’s 3 year old son. I couldn’t believe it! But Mom said he liked scooping the chicken into his lettuce cups, and eating them like a taco! Chicken salad is another easy to prep thing. If you roasted a chicken for dinner once night, the leftovers can easily be pulled apart and mixed with celery (you can add in grapes or dried cranberries if you want a little sweet in there) and tossed with mayo. Or you can do an oil based dressing. We served that up with some good old fashioned apple slices and pretzel sticks! Most cut fruit can be kept from turning brown by adding a little sprinkle of lime or lemon juice.
Finally, quesadillas were a big hit at Cucina Camp this Summer. Especially because we let them pick their own filling! Bacon, black beans and basil - who knew? I swear it was really good. But again, let the kids get creative! Even if you think it sounds gross - they might just eat it to prove you wrong! I used some guacamole as a side for the quesadilla for dipping. It’s another great place to add in veggies. I usually make my guac with tomato and onion. But smashed avocado along will suffice here as well. And I put a fresh fruit salad with this. Again, a great place for the kids to make their own choice. What fruits would they like? Maybe you can try something new together? Don't discourage them from something even if you’re not familiar with it. We all have smart phones, look it up and come up with something to do with it together.
Those were my ideas, but here’s my inspiration. Thanks to all my friends and family who helped contribute to this piece! And don’t forget to check out my video on Back to School Snack ideas too! Plus, you can grab the containers I talked about here:
Dressing containers here
Sistema Lunch box here
Silicone seperators here
Amelia, Age 2: mac & cheese (See how quick & easy it is to make at home here!), chicken nuggets, muffin, yogurt, hummus with pita and veggies, berries, banana, veggie sticks, cheese sticks, fig bars
Derrick, Age “almost 4”: turkey sandwich on rye - toasted with mayo, oregano and black pepper, grapes, green pasta, strawberries, peppers with hummus, smashed avocado sandwich, quesadillas, fruit salad, chicken salad lettuce boats, pasta salad, raw nuts, cheese sticks.
Gavin, Age 3: eggs, avocado, popcorn, plantain chips, dried fruit, broccoli puffs, veggie tots, banana smoothie (ice, banana, yogurt).
Charly, Age 10: ham and cheese sandwich, mac and cheese, crackers with ham or salami and baby bell cheese, applesauce, yogurt, pretzels, apple slices, grapes, chicken nuggets, empanadas,