And so it starts, 190 days of school lunches ahead of us as the kids head back to school. That is a lot of days and it can quickly become more difficult to keep things unique, tasty and appetizing. We want to provide our kids with a nutritious lunch that they will enjoy and most importantly that they will eat.
Basic strategy for school lunches is to try to include something from each food group. A fruit, a vegetable, some bread or other grain choice, some source of dairy or dairy alternative, and a source of protein from meat or a meat alternative. Variety is the key to keep things interesting by varying within the food groups as much as we can.
Taking the kids shopping with you to choose fruits and veggies may help to encourage them to try new things. Packing lunches together can motivate them to choose things that they will eat and that they enjoy. If mornings are hectic and stressful, many lunches can be made the night before and stored in the fridge until it is time to leave for school in the morning.
One of our favourite variation on sandwiches is wraps. I like to use whole grain wraps as they provide a source of fibre as well. To add variety, the kids choose the wraps sometimes and giving them a choice makes them feel in charge. It also gives us a chance to talk about the different choices, how to read food labels, and why I like to choose the ones I do so that they start to understand principles of nutrition as well.
In this wrap, we spread it with delicious unsweetened apple butter , topped that with grated carrot, sprinkled with sunflower seeds and also added finely chopped lettuce. Roll this up and either simply cut it in half or cut it like sushi. For packed lunches if they move around at all the sushi style rolls can become unwrapped so we often just leave them in halves so they stay together.
A healthy wrap, some fruits and vegetables, and maybe some cheese cubes or cheese alternative would add something rich in calcium to make this a very balanced lunch. Once and a while adding a cookie or treat keeps kids on track and encourages a healthy approach to school meals.
There are endless variations on the wrap but the basics are to start with something sticky as kind of a binder that will hold the rest of the toppings. Some ideas are: hummus, other bean spreads, quark cheese or homemade yogurt cheese, light cream cheese, butter, sunflower seed butter or pumpkin seeds butter (peanut butter or other nut butters if not against school policy) etc. The next step is to add your toppings, depending what you started with it might be grated carrots, thinly sliced cucumbers (slicing with a peeler works well), thinly sliced roasted vegetables, grated cheese or cheese alternative, meat or meat alternatives, pumpkin, sesame or sunflower seeds.
I will be posting lots more lunch ideas because I know what a big issue this can be for families.
Veggie Wrap with Carrots, Apple Butter and Sunflower Seeds
1 whole grain wrap
1-2 tsp unsweetened apple butter
1 carrot, grated
2 leaf lettuce leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
Directions: Spread apple butter on wrap, top with carrot, lettuce and sunflower seeds and roll up. Slice like sushi or simply in 1/2. Depending on what type of lunch box you have you might want to wrap it in some parchment paper or plastic wrap.
This option is vegan and can be gluten free with a gluten free wrap.