Whether you're whipping up something to pack in their lunch box, or planning their midday meal for summer vacation, a hearty and nutritious lunch is important for keeping your kids happy and healthy. Often times, cafeteria foods served in school come at a cost, and aren't even considered healthy by some parents' standards. Preparing lunches for everyday of the week can be exhausting, and might tempt you to resort to fast food fixes. If you're starting to run out of ideas on what to prepare for your child's next lunch, here are 5 recipes that are quick, healthy and work for both school and at-home meals:
Nothing too groundbreaking here - preparing a sandwich for your child is one of the easiest and most common lunches a parent can whip up. Classic lunch staples like peanut-butter and jelly, turkey, tuna and roast beef sandwiches are what most kids are used to seeing. Try mixing things up a bit with some of these sandwich suggestions:
- Peanut-butter and banana
- Light cream cheese and strawberries
- Grilled cheese and tomato
- Turkey and avocado
- Cinnamon and apple sauce on toasted bread
- Greek yogurt and grilled salmon
For an added boost in nutritional value, make sure you use whole wheat for the bread, and low-fat or non-fat versions of sandwich spreads.
2. Chicken Salad
Getting your child to eat something green can be really tough, unless it's some type of candy or ice pop. However, chicken salad is one of those few dishes where you can squeeze in a few veggies, along with a couple of other fun ingredients that might entice your little one to try a bite. When making your own homemade chicken salad, include the following ingredients:
- Chopped celery
- Diced apples
- Crushed walnuts
- Greek Yogurt
- Romaine lettuce
- Grilled chicken breast
Hopefully, the interplay of sweet, salty and tanginess is enough to satiate your child's taste buds, without throwing them into a fit over eating something with a few vegetables. The best part about this recipe is you only have to grill the chicken, nothing else requires any cooking. If you have leftover chicken from the night before, there's no cooking required at all!
3. DIY Mini-Pizzas
Kids will love this recipe because most of them enjoy pizza, and parents will love this recipe because they don't have to do anything to make it. That's right, this is one lunch recipe that only requires the ingredients; the food preparation is your child's job. Head to the market and grab the following ingredients:
- Marinara sauce
- String cheese
- Pepperoni slices
- Whole wheat crackers or mini-bagels
If you're packing this meal for your child's school lunch, put the marinara in a small plastic container, and the crackers or bagels and pepperoni in small sandwich bags. When it's time to chow-down, your kids can make their own mini-pizzas any way they'd like.
4. Fun Finger Foods
A healthy lunch for your child doesn't always have to include a main dish. Kids love finger foods, so give them a wide selection to choose from for their next lunch. Whether you're packing these foods in their lunchbox, or serving it to them at home, make sure you include a few treats they'll enjoy, along with fruits and veggies they might not:
- Various nuts like almonds, peanuts and walnuts
- Cheese sticks
- Vegetable sticks like carrots, cucumbers and celery
- Fruit wedges like apples, oranges and apricots
5. Hard-Boiled Eggs
The hard-boiled egg - classic, simple and always a popular choice amongst kids. There's nothing fancy or complicated with this lunch dish. To let your kids have a little fun, buy some food coloring for them to decorate their eggs like they would for an egg hunt. Just remember, as simple as it may seem, there is a little prep time involved with cooking a hard-boiled egg:
- Fill a large pot with a single layer of eggs.
- Pour water into the pot until the eggs are completely covered.
- Place the pot on a stove and bring the water to a boil.
- Once the water begins to boil, set the heat on low and allow the eggs to simmer for a few minutes.
- After they've simmered, turn the heat off and cover the pot with a lid.
- Allow the eggs to sit in the pot of water for an additional 15 minutes.
- Remove the eggs from the pot and douse them with cold water.
- Peel the shells off of the eggs and store them in the refrigerator for the next day.