It feels like summer barely started and here we are already looking to start another school year! It’s that time of year again where we make sure our kiddos have the necessary supplies, new clothes and even technology to start the school year off right. In addition to being so conscious about your student’s educational needs, let’s explore some creative and delicious options for their appetites!
After all, Food Adventures aren’t just for adults ! Dayton Most Metro’s resident foodie mom, Hungry Jax, is here for some tips on making the most of your children’s school lunches!
First, let’s talk about the lunch box hardware that is helpful for making health, fun and easy lunches. Obviously, a good lunch box that has a thermal lining will help keep foods fresh and flavorful while it hangs out in your kid’s locker or coatroom. Buy a mini ice pack to toss into the lunch box/bag to further ensure their food stays cold.
Depending on beverages that your child prefers at lunch, a good thermos to keep water, milk or juice cold is also important. Finally, there are so many lunch container options that help parents create their own “bento box” for kids on the market. You can find many options in the food storage aisle of your local grocery store.
While peanut butter and jelly has always been a fantastic “go to” for school lunches, these days many schools are not allowing nut butters due to allergy concerns for their students. A close alternative is using Sun-butter, which is made from sunflower seeds. Sun-butter has a very similar taste and consistency to peanut butter! Some kids might notice the difference right away, but keep offering it to them and they eventually will get used to it. You can find sun-butter in most grocery stores in the natural foods section.
Do your kids not like the crust on their sandwiches? Get creative! Use large cookie cutters to cut their sandwiches into fun shapes! You can also buy actually sandwich cutters that are made to cut the shapes out to as close as the edge as possible so as to not waste any food.
TORTILLAS TO THE RESCUE:
Hungry Jax will vouch that when in doubt, put food rolled up into a tortilla and a kid will eat it. Just about any sandwich filling can be rolled up and even sliced into pinwheels! One of her family favorites is taking 8oz of cream cheese and whipping it with a tsp of vanilla and tsp of lemon zest. Slather a wheat tortilla with this mixture and then add fresh fruit. Roll up and leave whole or slice it up! A refreshing lunch that’s not the same old lunch meat or pb&j! And it’s versatile! Instead of a sweet cream cheese, go savory with chopped herbs and veggies!
DO THE DIP:
Another thing that kids like to do: dip their food into stuff. Why not make some fresh humus and chop up some veggies or pitas to dip? Slice up a baguette, pepperoni and mozzarella and let them dip it in homemade marinara for a fun play on pizza.
HOMEMADE vs STORE MADE:
Are your kids a fan of those popular pre-made lunch containers found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store? You know the ones: they have slimy, pre-cut lunchmeat, cheeses and crackers? We aren’t. And here’s why: we can create our own version for cheaper and healthier. Buy a stack of the segmented lunch containers (one for each day of the week). Chop up your own meats and cheeses on Sunday night and divvy them up within the containers. The night before or morning of, add crackers, fruit/veggies and whatever else you want. Boom. You just saved yourself money and preservatives.
SMOOTH & HEALTHY MOVES:
Do your kids like smoothies? Make a batch of smoothies on Sunday. Freeze them in small containers and on the morning of school, toss one in their lunch bag (don’t forget the straw). By lunchtime, the smoothie will have thawed enough to drink! It also duos as an ice pack!
Yogurt is another great option. Let your kids build their own yogurt parfaits! Buy a tub of yogurt and divvy it up into small containers on Sunday night (yes, we are keeping you busy on your Sundays). Chop up fruit for them to add as well as granola! Even toss in some chocolate chips for a special treat! Your kids will have fun assembling their parfaits and you can feel good that they are getting a healthy meal!
Salads are another great option where you can include healthy and fun options. Also consider pasta salads!
With a little forethought and preparation, you can provide your kids (and yourself) with healthy and fun lunch options that are more affordable and creative!
INTERNET & INPUT:
There are so many ideas out there on the internet! Start a Pinterest board and let your creative juices flow! And don’t forget to let your kids help! Make it a part of their nightly routine to put a lunch together for the next day. Get their input on what’s easy to eat but still fills them up. It only takes an extra 10 minutes a day to prepare your kids for the ultimate Lunch Food Adventure!
Check out some of our favorite go to websites for great recipe ideas!
WEELICOUS – a fantastic website for family meals!
100 DAYS OF REAL FOOD – learn how to feed your family with out all the preservatives!
EATING FROM THE GROUND UP – copycat those popular store bought favorites!
We hope our tips gave you a few new ideas to get the most out of packing your kid’s school lunch. Think outside the lunch box and your children will be grateful.
Want more scoop on everything food and Dayton area restaurants? The join the thousands who follow Food Adventures on Facebook by clicking HERE! You can also follow the incredible food photos of Hungry Jax, Chef House and the Big Ragu on Instagram by clicking HERE.