Packing my kids’ school lunches used to be a drag; I’d chop and pack veggies that would come right back home uneaten. This is disheartening for any parent. Not only does it mean your kids aren’t eating their greens, but you feel as if you wasted time and produce on the effort to make them healthier.
I’ve never liked “sneaking” nutritious ingredients into meals. Besides, it’s important for kids to learn to enjoy produce on their own. So I started brainstorming healthy lunch ideas for kids they would actually enjoy, and I’m happy to report a complete turnaround after just a few changes to my approach. Now, my kids love the midday meal I pack, and they’re finally getting the nutrients I care most about. Here are three perfect compromises for creative, nutritious kids lunches.
Try the Pinavocada
Most mornings, I make smoothies to go along with breakfast. The ingredients vary, but one stands out among my favorite healthy lunch ideas for kids: my original “Pinavocada” smoothie.
Instead of making the traditional sandwiches during the busy morning routine, I whip up the Pinavocadas, toss them in my kids’ lunch packs, and rest assured they’ll be getting good fats and leafy greens in an amusing, drinkable fashion. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 whole avocado, peeled and pitted
- 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 handful fresh spinach
- 1 cup unsweetened culinary coconut milk
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 1 banana, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
Start by pooling these items into a blender and giving it a quick whirl. After about a minute, pour the mixture into watertight containers and pack them in your kids’ lunch bags. Because they’re dairy free, these thick smoothies can stay at room temperature without spoiling. Don’t worry about the consistency, either—the avocado’s creamy texture keeps the ingredients from separating throughout the day.
Up the fun factor by tossing in a wacky straw, providing a dish and spoon, and writing “monster ice cream” in sharpie on the side of the container.
Powers of Barkness
Put a culinary spin on your kids’ superhero aspirations with a homemade power bar. Involving your little one in the creation of this original energy raises the chances of him enjoying it come lunchtime. To get started, gather up:
- 3 Tbsp. yerba mate
- 1/2 cup crispy rice cereal
- 1/3 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1/3 cup organic coconut or almond flour
- 1 cup organic rolled oats
- 2/3 cup organic sunflower seed butter
- 1/4 cup unrefined organic coconut oil
- 3 Tbsp. dark honey
To make, melt the coconut oil over low heat. Have your child combine the coconut oil, honey, and sunflower seed butter, mixing well with a sturdy fork. Gradually add the oats, stirring to coat. Next, incrementally add the remaining ingredients. Spread the mixture into a 9×13-inch glass dish and place in the fridge to cool.
In about an hour, remove and cut into squares. Store individually in zip-top baggies to toss into your kiddie’s lunch pack each morning so they’re the most alert ones when their first bell rings.
You don’t need to throw all the traditional school lunch staples out the window to get your kids eating healthier foods midday. Some easy switches give your kids their favorites while adding nutrients and variety.
- Replace peanut butter with sunbutter. Peanut butter often lists “sugar” as the second ingredient and is prohibited in many schools. Switching to sunbutter even allows you to make it fun by sticking “did you know?” facts about the sun in your child’s lunchbox.
- Swap chickpea salad for the traditional ham sandwich. Rather than cutting the crusts off, use a cookie cutter to create an animal or seasonal shape your kids will look forward to unpacking.
- Salads can be tough to assemble every night for tomorrow’s lunch; try including just a few sprouts instead. Did you know some sprouts contain 100 times the enzymes of raw fruits and veggies? Enzymes make the nutrients in all food more easily absorbed, so just a bite or two of this nutritional powerhouse can give your child a chance to receive even more vitamins and minerals from other food sources (like that Pinavocada smoothie).
- Most kids would opt for packaged, snacky stuff if given the chance. Set them up for success with a bag of air-popped popcorn. Add good fats while piquing their interest by drizzling it with warm coconut oil and fine sea salt.
These ideas are easy enough that you can adopt one at a time gradually or tackle all of these ideas at once. Whichever you choose, you can feel good knowing you met your child halfway today for the nutrients you want him to grow from well into the school year.
How do you pack a fun, healthy lunch for kids or yourself? Let @TomsofMaine know!
Image source: Bethany Johnson
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.