It’s hard enough to get kids to eat healthy, especially at school when junk food or sugary snacks seem to magically sneak their way into the cafeteria. Try these easy, nutritious lunch box ideas that your kids will actually enjoy instead of toss in the trash.
1. Switch out the traditional unhealthy white bread sandwich for something a little more interesting. One of my favorites is a vegetarian bagel sandwich, which you can re-create each week with new toppings.
1 whole grain seeded bagel
¼ large ripe avocado, sliced
Pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon sprouted sunflower seeds
¼ cup sprouts
4 thin slices cucumber
- Slice the bagel in thirds horizontally and save the middle slice for another use — smear with nut butter for your own mid-day snack. Bagels have ballooned in size over the years so the top and bottom part are plenty for a sandwich.
- Mash avocado into the bottom part of the bagel and sprinkle with sea salt, sunflower seeds and sprouts. Arrange the cucumber over the sprouts and cap with the bagel top.
- Cut in half. Wrap well or store in a snug container.
- This is best made in the morning before school to keep the bagel fresh and soft, not soggy.
2. Innovate classics, like PB&J, with ingredients that are so yummy, your kids won’t know they’re good for them. My Nut-Butter Pinwheels, for example, get their sweetness from apples and honey, not sugar-laden jelly, and the nuttiness from natural nut butters. The roll-up lavash makes them a fun finger food.
1 whole wheat lavash
2 tablespoons unsweetened almond, peanut or pumpkin seed butter
¼ cup apple, chopped and unpeeled
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons unsweetened granola (optional)
- Cut the lavash in half crosswise and spread both halves with the nut butter. Drizzle with honey and top with apple and granola.
- With the shorter edge of the lavash toward you roll up into a wrap. Do the same with the second half and cut each roll into four pinwheels.
- Store in snug container or reassemble each half and wrap in parchment paper.
- This can be made a day ahead, but it’s really best made in morning before school.
3. Add a side of veggie sticks. Adding one cup of veggies to meals will help prevent the blood-sugar swings that may make them feel tired and cloud their thinking mid-day. By adding zucchini, celery, carrots and cucumbers to their snack bags, your child can benefit from more energy and better focus. If they can’t bear to eat “plain” veggie sticks, add a tablespoon of hummus for dipping.
4. Surprise them with blueberries for dessert. These berries soothe their sweet tooth while boosting their brain power at the same time. The bold color of this fruit comes from anthocyanins, antioxidants that studies have shown activate brain neurons. A recent report from Tufts University suggests that 1 cup of blueberries can increase brain energy by approximately 45 percent. Your kids can enjoy them fresh, dried or frozen all school year long.