How To: Make School Lunch/Snacks
Easy, Fun, AND Healthy
August and September inevitably mean it’s ‘back to school’ time again, but does that mean your packed lunches have to be inevitably boring? I think not! Whether you pack a lunch or snacks for your children or yourself, I have a few tricks up my sleeve for ways to keep that ‘brought-from-home-sack-lunch’ enticing.
I don’t know where the notion started that lunch brought from home was boring, because when I was in school, that’s all I wanted to do. In fact, the only time I ever bought lunch in grade school was when the menu read, ‘Chef’s Salad’. Okay- so maybe I wasn’t entirely normal, but you get the picture. I wanted to bring my lunch everyday because I was allowed to get creative when I packed it. Allowing yourself (or your kids) to get creative in the kitchen with their lunch is one of the most beneficial things. When they help make it, there is a better chance of them eating it once the lunch bell rings.
- Tip #1: Set aside some time (15-20 mins) in the evenings before going to bed to pre-pack a lunch. Let your kids help out in this process, letting them choose what they want to eat and help prep it with them. This way, you won’t be so rushed in the morning, trying to get everybody to school on time.
When I brought my lunch to school, I always wanted to bring something new and different. Although I know some kids like the same thing day after day, others may embrace the idea of new foods and a bigger variety. Ultimately the goal is to help them stay interested and curious in branching out towards new food.
- Tip #2: Try offering different foods each day or switching off every other day. If you have a menu or pre-planned list of lunch ideas (see below) this lets your children choose a different option and possibility keeps them curious enough to try.
Convenience foods are always going to be popular because well, they are so convenient. Time always seem to run short and before we know it, we are running 15 minutes behind schedule in the mornings. The easiest thing to do is grab and go, but how do we make sure those items we ‘grab’ when we’re on the ‘go’ are healthy?
- Tip #3: If you have some time in the beginning of the week or during the weekends, take a few minutes (20-30 minutes) to pre-portion, pre-slice, and pre-cut some items you and your family typically eat. Having ready-made bags with veggie sticks, pre-portioned cups of hummus, guacamole, or ranch, and pre-sliced fruit make it easier to grab healthy snacks when time is running short.
Need more ideas?
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of my ‘Back To School’ cheat sheet!
These are a few of my favorite snacks..
Above are just a few of my favorite snacks to pack when I am on the go, traveling, or just don’t have time to make a lunch from scratch. Keeping a well stocked pantry full of healthy snacks make it much easier to choose right when you’re hungry. It’s okay to value convenience when choosing a snack food, and when the convenient snack food is also good for you, it makes a win-win situation in my book. Here is a look into my snack pantry, hopefully you collect a few ideas to share with your family and friends too!
- 1. Quick Oats: We all have those mornings when time is just not on our side. Grabbing a few of these ‘just add water’ oats is better than going out on an empty stomach.
- What to look for: Low sodium (<35mg sodium), low sugar (<20 grams sugar), high fiber (>5 grams).
- Price range: anywhere between $1.50-$3.50 per container cup
- 2. Go Macro bars: Now it doesn’t have to be the brand Go Macro, but making sure your convenient protein bar contains protein, carbs, and fat is important. Protein bars are great for on-the-go snacks and can hold your appetite until your next meal. Just make sure you don’t use these continually to replace your meals.
- What to look for: Protein content (~5 grams or more)
- Price range: anywhere between $1.00-$4.00 per bar (depending on brand)
- 3. Fresh Fruit: Grabbing fresh fruit is always a great choice for a snack. Some fruits are easier to travel with than others such as apples, bananas, grapes, clementines, etc
- What to look for: Fruit that does not bruise easily, doesn’t make a mess, or need to be refrigerated. Examples of easy to travel fruits include apples, grapes, oranges, clementines, or pre sliced fruit in shaped containers.
- Price range: $0.50-$2.00 per piece of fruit
- 4. Single Serve Nut Butter: This is one of my favorite recent finds. These little guys are so easy to travel with and are wonderful additions to any snack you already have. Throw them in your backpack, purse or travel bags- they take up no room and don’t need to be refrigerated. I’ve added them into ready made oatmeal packets, squeezed them onto fruit slices, or just eaten them plain.
- What to look for: Several brands have come out with their own versions of this type of product. Try to find a brand that contains just dry roasted nuts and or sea salt in the ingredients.
- Price range: $1.00-$2.50 per single serve packet
- 5. Dried Fruit: I love to carry dried fruit with me wherever I go. Whether it be combined in my own homemade trail mix or by itself- dried fruit is always convenient. Not only does it pack vitamins and nutrients in a smaller portion, but dried fruit counts as one of your daily servings of fruit. Now that’s what I call convenient! I keep raisins and other dried fruit (that do not need to be refrigerated) in my car so that I am always prepared for hunger emergencies. However, be cautious not to mindlessly snack on dried fruit, the natural sugars are more densely compact and can add up quickly if they are not portioned out.
- What to look for: Look at the ingredients, it should not have a long list of ingredients, just dried fruit and perhaps some type of preservative like ascorbic acid. Don’t buy a candied item, or one that contains extra sugar in the ingredients.
- Price range: Depends on the type and brand of fruit you are purchasing. Can range from $5.00-$10.00 per bag
- 6. Handful of Nuts: I personally love almonds and cashews, together they are unstoppable. Again, I always carry a bag of almonds/cashews with me when I am traveling or on-the-go. They are easy to carry and don’t need to be refrigerated. They are wonderful to snack on, giving you protein, good healthy fats, and plenty of energy.
- What to look for: Ingredient list should be simple, just 100% nuts or a small amount of sea salt/salt (<140 mg sodium)
- Price range: this snack is roughly more expensive, ranging from $5.00-$15.00 per bag (depending on type of nut and size of the bag)
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