7 tips for easy and healthy school lunches

7 tips for easy and healthy school lunches

July 7, 2020

Like many parents across the country, you’re likely awaiting the safe re-opening of schools. Class is almost in session!

Which means the lunch-packing routine is just around the corner.

Is your household chock full of healthy, quick and affordable lunch ideas? Or are you out of packing practice in a major way?

Worry not: We have seven tips for creating quick and healthy lunches for your kids. No fuss, no muss, no boredom, no guilt.

  1. Let’s talk tortillas
    Wraps, tortillas, soft shells: whatever you call them, they’re not just for burritos. No, ma’am, these are a staple of creative, lunch-packing mamas everywhere. Try layering deli meat like roasted turkey and low-sodium ham atop a whole-wheat wrap and get rollin’. Quesadillas cut into triangles filled with beans, veggies, or meat and a sprinkling of cheese are delicious hot, cold or room temp. Smear peanut butter (or sun butter) and honey on a tortilla, and spoon some granola on top. After you roll, slice into one-inch pieces to create pickable pinwheels. There are no rules for wraps, and there are options galore—bread shouldn’t have all the fun!
  2. Primed for pasta
    Did you know pasta has gotten healthier? There’s both whole-wheat and veggie-infused varieties that include carrots, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini and more. Plus, how could pasta get boring: There is nearly every shape under the sun, from shells to macaroni and penne to rotini—perfect bites for little mouths. This food favorite is totally not limited to dinner. Send it in a plastic container or if your child prefers warm food, dump it into a thermos right from the microwave. Mix in leftover veggies or meat, chickpeas, cheese cubes, traditional red sauce, pesto and broccoli, or even a small pat of butter. It’s a quick fix that will fill them up to face a long day.
  3. Yogurt is your friend
    If you’ve been to the refrigerator section of the grocery store lately, you’ll notice about half of the aisle is yogurt. For good reason—both kids and adults enjoy it, and it’s packed with important nutrients like calcium, protein, phosphorus and B vitamins.1 Yogurt also works to enhance healthy gut bacteria and helps with digestion, especially the kind with probiotics, or live bacteria. Pick a yogurt vehicle or style: squeeze out of tubes, check out the Greeks, or drink it in the form of kefir. But beware of one pitfall: some kinds are packed with added sugars and artificial sweeteners. The lower the better. Try a low-sugar variety and send with fresh fruit, jam, oats, nuts, honey or granola as a tasty topping. A healthy yogurt—maybe with an added snack or side dish—can serve as a simple, protein-packed lunch for even the pickiest eater.
  4. Bring in the bars
    Not all kids enjoy sandwiches, even though we parents enjoy knowing that they feel full from them! Worry not: Bars—whether homemade or packaged—have a wonderful way of meeting this need. On the weekend, make a big batch of some oat-filled, nut-rich, delicious creation that you can slice up and pack down for the week. Balls, bars or bites, many of them are no-bake and protein-rich—with recipes splattered across the web. Not a fan of making messes at home? Fig bars, superfood bars, energy chunks, cookie bites: There are many high-quality, convenient options (some organic, some gluten-free, some vegan) that can be found at your local store or online. Remember, there’s no shame in the “buy pre-made” game.
  5. Fun with finger foods
    It doesn’t have to be a picnic to pick. Some of the most filling and nutritious foods are finger-friendly. Straight from the grocery store, cheese sticks, cherry tomatoes, berries, grapes, clementines, almonds, cashews or baby carrots can be added right to the lunchbox. Hummus or spreadable cheese wedges are tasty dips for fruits, veggies, pita pieces or crackers. Hard-boiled eggs can be added as an extra protein, low-carb staple. Roasted garbanzo beans—known as chickpeas—are low on fat, full on fiber and huge on crunch. The right combination of smaller snacks can create a powerful lunch punch. One big warning: little hands should be washed or sanitized before feasting on finger foods!
  6. Fetch it from the freezer
    “Frozen” isn’t just the name of a Disney movie. And frozen foods aren’t just options when the cupboards are bare. There are many healthy options that you can pack from the freezer in the morning to be ready for lunch midday: Whole-wheat mini bagels, pancakes or waffles are yummy any time of day. Corn, lima beans or peas work as a side. Pizza or chicken nuggets—be it store-bought or cooked at home—are a savory delight to pair with a fruit or vegetable. Let yogurt tubes, soft pretzels or wheat muffins defrost during the day. And for the efficiency junkies out there, try this tip: Using a loaf (or two) of whole-wheat bread, make a slew of PB&J sandwiches one weekend, wrap them in foil and toss them in the freezer. Simply pop one in the lunchbox each morning.
  7. Buddy up
    It isn’t easy keeping up with three meals a day, every day, for a family. Don’t go at it alone: use blogs and social media sites for recipe ideas. Buddy up with a neighbor or schoolmate’s parent. Share ideas and provide support on packing healthy and simple lunches by swapping portions or snapping pics of food. Put on some tunes and enlist the help of your partner or a friend to pack with you at night. Teach your children how to chop fruits and vegetables carefully, or simply have them package out healthy snacks into reusable bags or containers. Living a healthy life is much easier with a community by your side!

Teladoc is proud to be part of your greater community for a healthy lifestyle. Eat well, live well—kids and adults alike. And don’t forget: Teladoc doctors can treat your eligible dependents for common back-to-school illnesses like fever, rash, cough, pink eye and allergies. Download our app or sign in now to request a visit whenever you need us.

References

1https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/yogurt/

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