While school lunches in the last few years have made big improvements, they’re still forced to follow the USDA pyramid, which has very little fat and does not distinguish between good and bad carbohydrates. But it’s hard to convince kids to bring a healthy lunch every day.
My son is still on his “special diet” and cannot eat anything at school so I make his lunch everyday anyway. We’ve come up with a way to get our daughter to eat a little healthier at lunch as well as save some money. We told her that when she is 16, whatever money she has saved for her car, we’ll double. We did this so she’ll be more likely to want to save her money instead of spending everything she gets.
This also works with school lunches, because we figured that if she bought her lunch everyday it’d cost us about $50 per month. So we told her we’d give her $25 per month if she packed her own lunch every day. She can use the food that we have in the house and it won’t cost her anything. The food that she takes in her lunch the whole month doesn’t cost $25 so we still save money. This started the last half of last year and we just picked it right back up at the beginning of the school year.
But that means that we have to have healthy and tasty options on hand for the kids to take to school and that can be a pain sometimes, since they’re picky eaters. So I’ve come up with a list of options that have healthy proteins and fats to ensure that the kids can stay full and focused until they get home.
Some of the options I’ve listed don’t really work for my kids because of their finickiness, but others have told me their kids like them. I’m also including some of these so that parents wanting to be able to brown bag their lunches can pick from a few of these.
Healthy Mayo– Many kids love mayo on their sandwiches, but that stuff has so many questionable ingredients. Here is a great alternative Homemade Coconut Oil Mayo that is full of healthy fats. By using half coconut oil and half olive oil, the olive oil flavor is a lot less strong so the mayo tastes closer to regular mayo, but you will still have to get used to the flavor. You can keep it in a glass jar in the fridge for a week or make a bigger batch and freeze it in smaller portions, just reconstitute it with some additional kefir or yogurt.
Healthy Meats– Chicken, turkey, or beef sandwiches made from last night’s dinner make much better lunches than the deli meats that are full of preservatives, fillers, and other unknown substances. You can also send these as salads for kids that will eat salads on their own. Also, I have recently begun using healthier lunch meats for my kids made by Applegate Naturals. The lunch meats are without nitrates, nitrites, and other unknown substances. They also use grass-fed meats raised without antibiotics and hormones we are trying avoid in meats.
Homemade Pizza– I make big batches of this Cauliflower Pizza Crust, cut it into squares and freeze it for Wyatt. Then I pull it out some evenings, throw some pizza sauce (without added sugar) and some Applegate Naturals Uncured Pepperoni, and natural shredded cheese on it and bake it quickly until the cheese melts. Then Wyatt has cold pizza for lunch the next day.
Do-It-Yourself “Lunchables”– Kids love Lunchables™ and they’re very easy. However, they contain foods with lots of sugar and very little nutritional value and you pay for the packaging. Plus, due to the packaging, you don’t have the option to add any fruit or veggies.
- Pizza: good crusts can be the cauliflower pizza crust I mention above, cut up pita bread, or whole wheat tortillas, just add a little cup of sauce, some natural shredded cheese, and your own toppings and you’ll have a healthier substitute for the highly processed Pizza Lunchables™ available today.
- Lunchmeats: Use cut up lunchmeats from Applegate Naturals, whole grain crackers, and natural cheese slices. You can put them in little containers in your kids lunch kit along with some water to drink and veggie slices for a much healthier lunch.
Fish– Salmon, shrimp, and tuna are great sources of protein and healthy fats. Most kinds won’t eat these on their own so this may not be a great option for many, but tuna salad sandwiches work for some.
This Curried Tuna and Apple Pita is one of my personal favorites if you have a kid that likes tuna. It has good fats and proteins from the tuna, Greek yogurt, and peanuts; filling fiber from the apples, greens and whole wheat pita; and, to top it off, the anti-inflammatory power of curry.
Nuts and Seeds– These healthy fats also have a little bit of protein and make great additions lunches, as long as they’re not coated in sugar. Just make your own trail mix with the nuts, seeds, and dried fruit of your choice.
Full Fat Greek Yogurt– This also makes a great addition to lunches. Again, the plain version is better, just send it with a cup of berries, nuts, seeds, and a touch of honey.
Well, those are just a few options that I hope make packing lunches a little easier in the future.
Questions? Comments? Please let me know.