Back-to-School Lunch Ideas That Will Please Everyone
If you are a parent, you have many things on your mind right now. What to put in your kids lunch box is one of them. Taste and fun are top of mind for your kids, while good nutrition is on your priority list. So, how do you please everyone?
Here is a list of nutrients most likely to be missing from childrens’ diets and fun lunch ideas for each. You’ll have piece of mind knowing you’re giving them good nutrition, and they’ll come home with an empty lunch box and two thumbs up!
Potassium and Fiber
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified four nutrients of concern for Americans, meaning these are the four nutrients Americans are most likely to be deficient in, children included. Potassium and fiber are two of the four (the other two are mentioned below). I mention them together, because they are both found in high amounts in fruits and vegetables.
It’s probably not a secret to you that children aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables. In fact, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation, just 2% of children meet the minimum requirement for daily produce intake. This is not a judgement. I know how difficult it is to get kids to eat their fruits and veggies, so here are some ideas to keep in mind when packing their lunches:
- If whole fruit and cut veggies go untouched, find ways to incorporate them into the foods you know they like. Mix blueberries and granola into yogurt. Veggies just might go down easier when they are in the the sandwich rather than next to it. Think lettuce, tomatoes avocado and grilled peppers (from last night’s dinner) for turkey, chicken and tuna sandwiches. Sliced bananas go well with a nut or seed butter sandwich.
- Take advantage of leftovers! Veggie stir-fry, lasagna or a frittata from last night’s dinner make for a tasty lunch and require no preparation.
- For stand-alone fruit, kids like options they can eat with their fingers. That’s one of the reasons I love Naturipe Washed and Ready-to-Eat Fresh Blueberries. They’re a sweet finger-food loaded with nutrients, including potassium, fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. They come in three connecting snack packs. So, you can pack one or all three in your kids’ lunch box. They’re sealed for freshness so one or two of the packs can last for an afternoon snack.
In June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a joint statement recommending that pregnant women, breastfeeding women and young children eat more fish low in mercury in order to get the nutrients important for brain health and development. Omega-3′s are one of the nutrients being referred to.
The statement said “Choices lower in mercury include some of the most commonly eaten fish, such as shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod.”
Well, canned light tuna is a tried and true option for the lunch box or brown bag. If your kids aren’t digging the tuna fish sandwich, try tuna-stuffed cherry tomatoes. They’re a cinch to make and your kids will love to pop them in their mouth. Cut off the top of the tomato, scoop out the seeds with a small spoon, and fill the hole with your favorite tuna salad. Canned salmon works, too! It’s fun finger food and they’ll get an extra serving of produce from the tomatoes.
For variety, avocados and peppers are great stuffing vessels as well!
Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are the other two nutrients of concern. And, their benefits go well beyond bone health. Calcium is important for cardiovascular and muscle function. Vitamin D is also essential for muscle function and we are learning plays a critical role in immunity. The important thing to know is that they go together. The body needs vitamin D in order to absorb calcium (they don’t have to be eaten together).
Most know that milk products are rich in calcium and fortified with vitamin D, but that’s just the beginning.
Calcium is found in many non-dairy foods, which is important for kids who don’t tolerate milk or young adults who may choose not to drink/eat it. Think leafy greens for a lettuce wrap, figs as a side finger food, almonds as part of trail mix, black bean dip as a sandwich spread or dip for 100% corn tortilla chips, edamame as a finger food (buy them frozen and they usually defrost by lunchtime), and fortified alternative “milks” as the base for a smoothie
Vitamin D, unfortunately, is found naturally in very few foods. Salmon is one, so the canned salmon ideas mentioned above are a double nutrition whammy. Eggs are another. It’s easy to find recipes online for an egg, cheese and veggie baked frittata. The eggs contain vitamin D, the cheese is loaded with calcium, and the veggies provide potassium and fiber. For a fun lunch idea, pour the frittata batter into muffin cups. One is a perfect serving size for younger children. As they get older, they may need two or three. This is a great idea if you have kids of varying ages. You won’t have to make a completely separate lunch for each kid!
(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received complimentary samples of the Naturipe Washed and Ready-to-Eat Fresh Blueberries and was paid by Naturipe to write this post. The opinions, lunch ideas and nutrition knowledge shared in this post are my own.)