Happy Healthy Lunches

It’s frustrating to pack your kids’ lunch only to have it come home uneaten. Or to have your kids only eat the treat part of their lunch leaving the vegetables and protein behind.

Here are a few recommendations to get your kids eating a healthy lunch:

Make sure the treats are healthy too! Look for treats that are low in sugar, but high in flavor. Try packing some unusual options like plantain chips, chickpea snacks or cauliflower crackers. There’s lots of options available now!

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Fruit is a healthy treat too! Bite-sized fruit is easier to eat. Chopped pineapple and watermelon are fun. Or try tossing apple slices in cinnamon to reduce browning.

Homemade treats are usually healthier than store-bought. Try making banana-sweetened muffins or cheese muffins.

Get your kids involved in packing their own lunch! Kids who pack their own lunch are way more likely to eat it. It’s the prefect way to start teaching them about the four food groups and healthy eating. Remember half their meal should be fruits and vegetables with protein and grains each making up 1/4 of their meal.

A Food Guide Lunch Box

Probably the easiest way to get your kids eating a healthy lunch is to let them pack it themselves! Even kids in kindergarten can choose what they want and put it in a lunch container. Older kids can even help with chopping vegetables and cheese.

It’s all about building the routine into their morning. Sure, it will be difficult the first week or two, but after that you no longer have to worry about packing lunches!

If you have a particularly hard to motivate sleepy head, then maybe try a reward right before they head out the door. We don’t allow any morning screen time until all the chores are done. When their teeth are brushed and their lunch is packed, then let them watch an episode of their favourite cartoon (little kids), or check their phone and email (older kids).

The only trick is to have LOTS of options for them to pick and choose their own lunches. I recommend keeping at least some lunch supplies stashed in the freezer so you always have food on hand. Here are some delicious examples.

Fruit and Vegetables (1/2 of your plate):

Fresh berries, chopped fruit, grapes

Cherry tomatoes

Carrot sticks, pepper slices, cucumber slices

Sweet peas, green beans

Frozen edamame

Mixed frozen vegetables

Protein (1/4 of your plate):

Seed and nuts (depending on classroom rules)

Cheese

Cubes of tofu

Deli meat, pepperoni sticks

Chickpea snacks

Hard-boiled egg

Hummus, nut butter

Carbohydrates (1/4 of your plate):

Crackers, pretzels, rice cakes

Wholegrain bread, pita, tortilla

Homemade baked good

Corn chips

These banana-sweetened muffins are simple, wholesome, and delicious. Get your kids to help you prepare the batter. I always make 18 smaller, lunchbox-sized muffins, then freeze the leftovers. That way we’ll have a freezer full of frozen muffins, ready when we need them!

4 very ripe bananas (approx. 11⁄3 cups mashed)

1⁄3 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1⁄2 cup of milk

1 tsp vanilla

13⁄4 cup of flour (wholegrain or GF)

1 tsp baking powder

1⁄2 tsp baking soda

1⁄4 tsp salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

2. Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl until they are relatively smooth.

3. Mix in the oil, then beat in the eggs, milk and vanilla.

4. Add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

5. Stir until everything is evenly mixed.

6. Prepare the muffin tin either with paper liners or grease each muffin cup. This recipe will make 12 large muffins or 18 smaller muffins.

7. Divide the batter between the muffin cups.

8. Bake for 20–25 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean).

9. This can also be baked in a loaf tin, just increase the baking time to 40–50 minutes.

Sometimes a savoury treat is best. Since these cheese muffins don’t contain any sugar, they are a more bread-like than muffin-like. Feel free to add in other flavours, like diced red pepper or cooked sweet corn kernels. It makes for a more flavourful snack!

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

11⁄2 cups flour

1⁄2 tsp salt

1⁄2 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp finely chopped green onion

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (210 C).

2. Prepare a muffin tin by lining it with paper liners or greasing and flouring each of the muffin cups. Otherwise, the cheese muffins will stick.

3. Mix the buttermilk and eggs in a large bowl. Then mix in the flour, salt and baking soda.

4. Stir in the grated cheese, green onion and any other additional flavours. Scoop into the muffin tin. This recipe will make 12 smaller muffins or 8 larger muffins.

5. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a muffin tester comes out clean.

Emillie Parrish
Emillie Parrishhttp://emillieparrish.com/
Emillie Parrish loves having adventures with her two busy children. She lives in Victoria and is the author of the fermentation-based blog fermentingforfoodies.com.