Don’t let your kids’ lunches come home half-eaten. This back-to-school season pack fun, healthy snacks and lunches that your kids will clamor for. It’s easy with these helpful tips from some of our favorite food bloggers and authors.
“We all need inspiration here and there,” said Meredith Steele, who writes the popular food-focused blog In Sock Monkey Slippers
. “A PB&J sandwich gets pretty old fast. Variety and creativity is key.”
Allow your budding engineers and architects to build their own lunch. Beth Aldrich, author and writer of the blog Real Moms Love to Eat™
, packs her son large, stackable slices of turkey, cheese, green pepper, and bread or crackers with mayo so he can create his own sandwich. “Just making it is fun,” said Aldrich, who recommends shaping the slices into circles, squares, triangles or other shapes.
Play with shapes
“I use cookie cutters all the time,” said Steele, who makes fun shapes from cucumber slices, red pepper sections and cuts of cheese, and then uses the remnants to make a salad. Cookie cutters also come in handy for shaping sandwiches. If you’re pressed for time during the week, cut shapes over the weekend for a week’s worth of lunches.
To achieve the look in our photo, use two different types of bread (white and wheat, for example), cut your desired shapes, fit the shape into the other slice of bread and serve. Now you’ve got a fun sandwich without any waste.
PB&J a new way
As Steele said, PB&J can get old fast. But if that combination is a favorite for your kids, keep it fresh by rolling the mixture in a tortilla, spreading it in pita bread or baking PB&J muffins
, a sweet and hearty treat for breakfast, lunch or anytime.
It’s all about the presentation
Kids enjoy a well-presented meal just like adults, so consider packing a lunch using a divided lunch container or bento box. They help keep contents cute and fresh throughout the day, not to mention that they’re functional, economical and eco-friendly. Our favorites are the divided rectangular Ziploc® Brand Containers
Captivate with color
Steele advises using color to keep meals visually appealing: “Kids love color,” she said. “They’re more interested in trying things out.” Cindy Richards, editor of TravelingMom.com
, said she’ll occasionally do lunches all in one color, e.g. an all orange dinner with carrots, oranges and cheese and crackers, to get her kids to try new foods.
Kids love to dip. Make lunch fun by packing veggies with ranch dressing, chips and salsa, sliced apples with yogurt, or pita bread with hummus.
Sip a smoothie
Steele, for example, makes smoothies using Greek yogurt, honey and frozen blueberries or frozen peaches so there’s no need for ice when blending. Then she’ll freeze the mixture, pack it in the morning and it’s defrosted by lunchtime three or four hours later. Here’s a blueberry smoothie recipe
rated great by Right@Home™ members.
Do it their way
Give kids a choice. Present a selection of parent-approved snacks, sandwich options, fruits, veggies and other treats, and let kids pack their own lunch or devise a menu for the week.
Tell a story
Aldrich, the mother of three boys, has been known to add a drop of blue food coloring to vanilla yogurt or pudding, insert a toothpick with a triangular piece of paper (as a sail) and serve it with fish-shaped crackers as a snack. She’ll use the same theme with hollowed green or red peppers, filling them with egg or tuna salad and using a straw to hold the sail and serving fish-shaped crackers as well. “It’s a great visual,” she said. For more ideas to incorporate fruits and veggies at mealtime, see our Right@Home story 8 ways to get your kids to eat fruits & veggies
Brunch is served
Don’t let those leftovers from breakfast go to waste. Enjoy it again by packing pancakes, bacon, bagels with cream cheese, or yogurt, granola and fruit for lunch.
Make it notable
When you’re in the mood, toss in a little note, joke, question or game of hangman to play throughout the week. Your kids will love the surprise. For inspiration, check out this Ziploc app
Whatever tips work for you, packing a fun, healthy lunch is one way to show your kids you care, said Steele, explaining that “lunch is a little bit of home that they take with them.”Note: For more lunch-box recipes and inspirations, check out our kid-tested and delicious recipes and lunch-box specials.