Aug 31, 2015

Healthy Back to School Lunch Box Ideas

Metro Detroit Mommy Blogger Theresa Walker - BeachBody Coach

Back to school time is upon us again. For us parents, there’s a lot to prepare for and think about. Besides stocking up on supplies and clothing, it’s time to start thinking about how we can help our children get ready to learn for the upcoming year. If you are anything like me, you may be upping the amount of free-time reading your child does each day and practicing times tables, because honestly, we were pretty busy this summer, but it wasn’t doing math. Along with these other things, something that is crucial for each child, is that they are coming to school well rested and ready to learn, as well as being provided with a healthy lunch to get them through the rest of the day.

What kinds of things should you be packing to make sure that what they are eating will help them finish the day with energy, and not hinder it with extra sugars? Brainstorming ideas for healthy lunch box ideas can be overwhelming, especially if you have a picky child like mine. Break it down like this, you want the main entreƩ to be protein-filled (to keep them full), and the two sides to be filled with fiber or healthy fats and definitely low in sugar. They can have a treat once in a while, but keep it something lower than 10g of sugar. Think about how your child acts after they eat certain sugar-filled foods, and then imagine their teacher trying to get them to sit in their seat and pay attention for another 3 hours to a lesson.

On days I pack a pudding or treat for my son, I send him with flavored water, not juice. Each week I also alternate days with juice and water, if Monday is juice, Tuesday is water etc. Juice boxes have as much as 20g of sugar, which is significant. I try not to be a sugar control freak, but I also want my son to be able to sit and focus in school. He can always get a treat once he comes home, where he is free to run around and burn it off!

Here is my list for healthy lunch box ideas. A few are tried and true, but hopefully a couple may be new for you:

Main dish:

  • Kabobs- so many options, my favorite is with tortellini, mozzarella, tomato and colored peppers.  Add cold chicken or turkey for a boost of protein.  
  • Fruit quesadilla wrap, spread a nut butter or sun butter on the wrap and fill with bananas and strawberries or mixed berries, dash of honey if you want.  Use high protein wrap for an extra boost of protein. 
  • Mac & Cheese muffins (recipe on Pinterest) 
  • Taco Salad, last nights left over taco's can turn into a delicious salad
  • Pigs in a blanket with turkey hot dogs 
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • Can of seasoned tuna or tuna pouch
  • BLT
  • High fiber wrap with any kind of meat (left over chicken or turkey is great) and cheese. 
  • Pasta salad filled with chicken and veggies 
  • Tuna salad sandwich or tuna pasta salad
  • Salad topped with tuna or chicken and lots of other goodies like sunflower seeds.
  • Veggie wrap, spread cream cheese on wrap, sprinkle some ranch seasoning and add lots of veggies- cucumber, broccoli, carrot, tomato, etc. and roll up. 
  • Yogurt if you are able to keep it decently cold  (but choose one with more protein than sugar).  Add granola or fruit to top.
  • Thermos to keep it warm?  Soup filled with some meat, noodles and veggies.
  • Don’t forget about left overs!  What did you have for dinner last night, will you child eat that chicken drumstick cold, turkey breast or even chicken and cheese quesadilla?
  • Whole grain blueberry pancake or waffles, they are just as yummy cold.  You can also make a “sandwich” with them, and fill with peanut butter or sun butter.
  • Pre-baked Pizza Crescent rolls or crescent rolls filled with ham & cheese
  • Nitrate free deli meat, cheese cubes and crackers (We enjoy Hormel Natural Choice, nitrate and hormone free meat)

Side options, these aren’t too elaborate, as I believe in keeping the food real and simple as much as possible.
  • Any fruit (cut into fun shapes or made into fruit salad)
  • Any veggie (add a dip)
  • Homemade Trail Mix
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt Tube- Chobani now makes some that have 5g of protein
  • High fiber or high protein granola bars (Kind Bars, Lara Bars and Kashi make some great ones.)
  • Sugar free jell-o
  • Cold bean salad- or any type of beans they will eat
  • Tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole
  • Pretzels and cream cheese to dip
  • Apple and nut butter sandwiches (you can also add granola and raisins)
  • Cottage cheese topped with cucumbers, tomatoes and avocado OR fruit
  • High fiber or protein cereal
  • Roasted chick peas
  • Popcorn
  • Pita bread or pita chips and hummus
  • Healthy homemade cookies like banana oatmeal-check out Pinterest for other fun, healthy version of cookies.  
  • Dried fruit or fruit leather
If your child is growing bored with lunches, take them to the store with you. In the last couple of years there has been a surge of new brands coming out with healthy snack treats. Things like Popcorners, Lentil Snaps, Food Should Taste Good and a store like Trader Joes, you can get lost in. Have them help you pick out low sugar juices and new snacks, they’ll be more likely to eat/drink them. And, if you are having a hard time transitioning them to lower sugar foods or lower fat, give it some time. Stay consistent, it takes some time for taste buds get used to the different taste that isn’t as sugary. It doesn’t take long for kids to realize though that the new menu options are here to stay. A great way to know if they will eat it in their lunch is to start serving it at home and once you find something they like most of the time, try it in a lunch!

Don’t forget to occasionally include a short note for your child telling them you love them, good luck on a test or to have a nice day. Every time I did this my son would save the note, I know it made his day. Here’s to a GREAT 2015/2016 school year!

Theresa Walker 
Theresa is a wife and stay at home mother of 2 energetic boys, DJ (8) and Aiden (5). She has a bachelors in Communications and prior to being a mother she worked at Better Investing magazine in advertising and as a Corporate Account Manager. These days she is fortunate enough to spend time with her boys checking out all of the local fun there is to be had. She and her family love to travel. She is also active in a large online mom's group through Facebook that she started called Planet Mom. She enjoys being active and one of her proudest accomplishments was running the Detroit Half Marathon as well as the Romeo to Richmond Half. In her free time you can find her running or biking through Stony Creek. Or curled up on a couch with a good book and her cat in her lap. She recently became a BeachBody Coach, so that she could share her love for health and fitness with others to help them reach their personal goals. You can find her Facebook page at Inspired Health & Fitness. She considers herself a "Fit Foodie" and loves trying new recipes, experimenting and new restaurants around town. She hopes she can share some of her tips for healthy eating and exercise for busy moms and Metro Detroit Mommy Fans

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