“Noooo! Peanut Butter and Jelly AGAIN?”: Back-to-School Healthy Lunch Ideas!
By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C
One of the many hats I wear is that of a certified holistic health coach. I work to support happy kids and healthy families, and this includes working with busy stressed out parents to streamline the process of feeding their family well.
With Fall here (when did that happen?), our thoughts invariably turn to back-to-school time, and the next 180 or so days of lunches that have to be produced.
It can be a challenge to pack balanced healthy lunches that your kids will actually eat. While there are pre-packaged options, many of these contain enough sodium and preservatives to be seriously concerning. However, with a little creativity and planning, lunches can become a cinch.
1) Plan ahead – for several weeks: Spend a Saturday afternoon cooking a few dozen whole grain muffins with a yummy veggie hidden inside, such as pumpkin or zucchini. You can even get your child involved and give them some ownership over the process. Toss the cooled muffins into a large zip lock bag and freeze. You can easily pull one each day and it will be defrosted by lunchtime.
Create your own trail mix of seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc.), some dried fruit, and maybe even a few pieces of chocolate. Portion out into single serving containers and you’re ready to go with a healthy snack on the go.
2) Prepare ahead – for a few days: In the fridge, store pre-cut carrot and celery sticks in water to maintain crispness, washed grapes or berries portioned out in containers, and other veggies, such as bell peppers, that hold up well for a couple of days after being cut.
3) Don’t forget the super easy stuff: Self-contained fruit such as apples, bananas, oranges, and peaches are naturally grab-n-go, delicious, and nutritious. In addition, a hard boiled egg or a cheese stick is an easy dose of protein that is very low-prep.
Consider a bento box to pack all these things in an organized, compact and environmentally friendly container!
As a side note: I always recommend that all school lunches be tree nut and peanut free. I know some schools have “nut free zones”, and while this is a good first step, it does not go far enough. One touch of a nut product can be enough to seriously endanger or even kill a child. It is a short distance for a child with a smear of peanut butter on their finger to touch a door handle, which is then touched by an allergic child, and tragedy can ensue. I could never live with myself if I was the parent who sent the sandwich to school that ultimately endangered my son’s classmate. Better safe than sorry.
Check out our products to learn signs to make the preparation and eating more fun: