"School lunch": two words that generate visions of bologna sandwiches, dried-out celery sticks, and crumbling potato chips. Of course, that was decades ago. Today, more parents value healthy school lunches as important to their children's well-being.
Here are a few ideas to add interest and variety to the usual brown-bagged school lunch while also engaging your little chef in the process:
- Carrot-and-hummus appetizer. This snack idea is simple but satisfying. Get a small container of hummus and let your child prepare the carrots or celery. If knives are an issue, they can simply count out precut vegetable sticks.
- Fun versatile salads. A salad of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, a drizzle of olive oil, and a hint of basil makes for a wonderful, refreshing lunch. Have your kids add small mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes. You can also consider seedless grapes as an alternative to the tomatoes. Because you don't want to send sharp objects to school, try using uncooked spaghetti as the skewer or putting your salad in a wrap or pita.
- Wraps of all sorts. And while we're on the subject of wraps, this is another lunch idea your youthful kitchen assistant can contribute to by adding their own creativity to the process. Wraps are great because they're easily portable. Have your child experiment with some favorite ingredients. For example, what about ham, melon, and cheese? Your kid can wrap sliced ham and cheese around chunks of melon before rolling it all into a whole-wheat tortilla.
- Neat pita recipes. This lunch option begins with a whole-wheat pita and moves to brainstorming. What would taste good in there? For the more traditional eater, tuna or chicken salad is a good starting point, along with some lettuce and a tomato slice. For the adventurous child, try guacamole, smoked salmon, and cream cheese.
- Apple sandwiches. This apple sandwich recipe isn't your mother's sandwich. It uses two half-inch slices of cored apples as bread substitutes. Get your kid involved by having them fill the sandwiches with peanut or almond butter, raisins, and granola.
- Chocolate zucchini cupcakes for dessert. Shredded zucchini can contribute to a variety of delicious dishes, including pizza dough! So why not chocolate cupcakes with grated zucchini, applesauce, a little flour, cinnamon, and cocoa?
- A tasty banana treat. Peel and slice a banana in half, then cut it lengthwise into quarters. Next, apply a thin layer of light mayonnaise on each banana quarter, grind some peanuts, and sprinkle them on the bananas. If your child has a peanut allergy, try raisins, cranberries, or granola.
Encourage your kids to try new ideas while sticking to healthy ingredients. By involving them in the crafting of healthy school lunches, you're enticing them to get involved in the kitchen and teaching them valuable cooking skills that they'll employ years into the future.