How to prepare an appetizing school lunch
School lunches. Cringe. Most of us need a little inspiration by the end of September. Packing a healthy lunch does take some planning and should involve your child’s input. Take the time before school starts to walk the grocery aisles with your child much the way you would for his or her school supplies. They are more likely to eat a lunch if they’ve helped decide what to pack.
There are two components to all meals. The food and the presentation.
The Food Part
Pack a variety of fresh fruits that your child enjoys. Consider options like apple slices, bananas, grapes, strawberries, watermelon cubes, or orange segments. You can also mix different fruits together to create a colourful fruit salad. Why not thread fruits like strawberries, pineapple chunks, green grapes, blueberries, and purple grapes onto skewers? Pack the skewers in a container and include a small cup of yogurt or honey for dipping.
Cut up vegetables into easy-to-eat sticks or slices. Carrot sticks, cucumber slices, bell pepper strips, and cherry tomatoes are great options. You can pair them with a small container of hummus or a yogurt-based dip for added flavour.
Create a custom trail mix using a combination of nuts (check school policy first), seeds, dried fruits, and whole-grain cereal. Include almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, and a sprinkle of dark chocolate chips for sweetness.
Pack a low-sugar or Greek yogurt in a small container. Adding a drizzle of honey or fresh fruit slices enhances the flavour. Consider freezing a yogurt cup the night before as a cooling pack for other items in the lunch box.
Cheese and crackers
Provide a serving of cheese cubes, cheese sticks, and whole-grain crackers. This combination offers protein, calcium, and fibre.
Homemade energy balls
Make energy balls using ingredients like oats, nut butter (such as peanut butter or almond butter), honey, and mix-ins like dried fruits, shredded coconut, or mini chocolate chips. They are a nutritious and portable snack option.
Whole grain pretzels or popcorn
Look for whole-grain pretzels or air-popped popcorn as a crunchy and satisfying snack. Ensure they are minimally flavoured or lightly salted.
Hard-boiled eggs are a great source of protein. You can pack one or two eggs in your child’s lunch box, along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper or some sliced cherry tomatoes.
The Presentation Part
Remember, presentation is key when it comes to making lunch appealing. Use colourful containers, silicone cupcake liners for separation, and toothpicks to make the meal visually appealing. Involving kids in the preparation process can also make them more excited about their lunch.
Bento Box Fun
Use a divided bento box and fill each section with colourful, bite-sized options. Include cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, carrot sticks, and bell pepper strips in one section. Add small cubes of cheese, whole-grain crackers, and a handful of grapes in another section. Fill another section with mini sandwiches made with different fillings, such as ham and cheese or cream cheese and cucumber. Consider removing the crusts for more picky eaters.
Cookie Cutter Sandwiches
Use cookie cutters to shape sandwiches, cheese slices, and fruits into fun animal shapes like butterflies, dinosaurs, or teddy bears. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make an “I Love You” sandwich or a fruit cutout in the shape of a heart.
Smoothies in a Fun Container
Prepare a nutritious smoothie with a milk or yogurt base and blend in fruits like bananas, berries, or mangoes. Pour the smoothie into a spill-proof, colourful container and freeze it overnight. The smoothie will be partially frozen by lunchtime, creating a refreshing slushie-like treat.
Funny jokes or riddles
Include a joke or riddle your child can enjoy during lunchtime. It can bring a smile to his or her face and make lunchtime more enjoyable.
Occasionally, surprise your child with a small treat or their favourite snack in their lunch box. It can be a homemade cookie, a piece of dark chocolate, or a small pack of their favourite gummy bears. They are kids, after all.
Remember to consider your child’s preferences and any potential food allergies or dietary restrictions when selecting snacks. Offering various options can help keep their lunch box interesting and enjoyable.