Before I get into some lunch ideas for your little ones going to school, I want to emphasize one point:
Healthy ≠ Difficult
Sending your child off in the morning with a healthy lunch in their book bag does not have to be an arduous and demanding task. It is more convenient to grab prepackaged lunch foods (full of additives and preservatives) but all it takes is a few extra minutes and some pre-planning to ensure your child is eating foods that are wholesome and healthy.
The Importance of Healthy Food in Childhood
I’m sure you’re aware of the current obesity epidemic. If not, here are some facts:
- 18.5% of children between the ages of 2-19 in the United States are obese. (CDC)
- Most adolescents do not outgrow obesity and will continue to gain weight into adulthood. (Childhood Obesity Foundation)
- Children who are obese are at risk of heart disease, diabetes, breathing problems and social and psychological struggles such as low self-esteem and depression. (UCSanDiegoHealth)
Establishing good eating habits during childhood is paramount in avoiding obesity. Children who are exposed and encouraged to eat healthier foods are less at risk of becoming obese or experiencing symptoms associated with higher-than-healthy weights.
Prepping Healthy Lunches
Before you start stressing about the healthy foods you should be packing in your child’s lunches, take a moment to follow these steps to easy and stress-free healthy lunch preparation:
1. Choose your meals.
This article includes some quick and easy lunch ideas but you also want to consider the foods your child enjoys. Even if they are meals that are initially unhealthy, there are always ways to tweak them into healthier choices. Look at the ingredients and see if there’s anything you can swap out to make the meal healthier.
2. Get the gear.
You don’t have to go all out and buy catalogue-name-brand fancy containers for your child’s lunches. Dollar store or discount fair is good enough – just make sure it’s appropriately sized for your child’s meal. You can customize plain ol’ square containers by adding silicone muffin cups (or, as I do, washed out applesauce cups) to create dividers and add variety to the meal.
3. Go for groceries.
Make a list of everything you need for the week and venture forth to the grocery store! Be sure to pick up the freshest ingredients you can. Again, here is where you can choose healthier alternative. For example, white bread can be replaced with sprout bread for sandwiches.
4. Don’t ignore leftovers.
Just because you ate it the night before doesn’t mean your little one can’t take it to school! Pack up any of those fresh, home-cooked meals and send them along the next day.
15 Super Easy Healthy Lunch Ideas
Here they are – Super Easy Healthy Lunch Ideas!
1. Any type of fruit – grapes, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, apples, etc.
2. Same with veggies – baby carrots, cut up celery, cucumber slices, etc.
3. Low fat wraps – whole wheat wraps, lettuce, cheese and lean deli meat
5. Whole grain crackers
6. Ham slice, cheese and lettuce roll-ups
7. Unsweetened apple sauce
8. Hard boiled egg
9. Nacho chips and salsa
10. Low fat cheese
11. Mini whole grain muffins
12. Hummus and pita bread
13. Build-it-yourself salad with low fat dressing
15. Yogurt and granola
It’s All About Balance
The important takeaway when it comes to packing healthy lunch for your child is to maintain nutritional balance. It’s okay to add in some treats that your child enjoys, just be certain that the majority of the meal is a healthy option.
Oh, and by the way, don’t feel it necessary to cut sandwiches into stars or make apple slices into happy faces. Who has time for that?