August is Kids Eat Right Month and it is also Back To School, also known as BTS, month. In the midst of the morning rush and getting everyone out the door in time for work and school, the packed lunch can be an afterthought. It is important to provide kids with balanced lunches to refuel their brains partway through the school day and keep them energized to prevent the afternoon energy slump. You can keep in mind the My Plate image when planning out a balanced lunch so that all food groups are included. Below are some lunch ideas based on different age groups to focus on key nutrients the USDA identified that kids need more of in their daily diet.
- Food Bins - Have bins with prepackaged food you prepared on the weekend with one bin for each food group (grains, protein, fruits, vegetables, and dairy or calcium-rich foods). Put a number on the front of each bin for how many bags of food your preschooler can select. There are some great examples of this idea on Pinterest. We have done some of the pinning for you so check out ShopWell's Pinterest board for Back-To-School meal ideas.
- Fun Sandwiches – meat and cheese with mustard or hummus on whole wheat bread that is cut into the shape of a star or diamond. Enjoy with a cup of grapes or berries and carrot sticks or bell pepper spears.
- Finger Foods – pita wedges, hummus, olives (perfect for decorating your fingers), chicken strips, carrot sticks and apple slices.
- The Spread – ants on a log made with celery sticks, sunflower or almond butter, and raisins. Pack a baggie of lower sodium popcorn, a hardboiled egg, and a banana or sliced fruit.
- Parfait – cup of yogurt with a small bag of granola or dry cereal and ¼ cup of dried fruit. Add carrot and celery sticks with nut or seed butter for dipping. Don’t forget to pack water or a healthy beverage.
- Stuffed Pita Pockets – filled with chicken salad or turkey, sliced cheese, hummus or pesto, cucumber slices and spinach. Enjoy with a fruit cup or fresh fruit skewers and a bottle of water.
- Club wrap – turkey, lettuce, and tomato with mustard or hummus wrapped in a multi-grain tortilla. Enjoy with carrot sticks and apple or pear slices plus the water bottle.
- SB & J on multigrain bread – since many schools are peanut-free areas use sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter (or almond butter if your child is allowed to bring other nut butters to school). Pack some veggie skewers of tomatoes and bell peppers, hummus for dip and 100% all natural fruit juice or sliced melon.
- Cheese Platter – Cheese and crackers with slices of turkey cut into squares. Add some bell peppers and hummus on the side as well as sliced fruit.
- Roll Ups – Spring rolls filled with avocado, spinach, carrots, and tofu or turkey spears. Enjoy with grapes and a string cheese. Don’t forget to pack the water bottle.
- Pasta Salad – make pasta and toss it with chicken or beans, vegetables like tomatoes, bell pepper chunks spinach, summer squash, crumbled feta cheese, and tossed in a simple olive oil, pesto, or balsamic dressing. Pack a piece of fruit and a bottle of water.
- Noodle Salad – soba noodle salad with chicken or edamame, vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, or zucchini, tossed with a teriyaki dressing or toasted sesame seed oil. Add a bag of grapes or banana and bottle of water.
- Pizza – Left over pizza slices from homemade pizzas the night before (don’t worry you don’t have to make your own dough, but select a whole wheat dough at the store to boost the whole grains). Don’t forget to toss in a piece of fruit and water.
- Wrap – Chicken or turkey salad wrap with a whole grain tortilla packed along with a vegetable salad, dressing, an apple or pear, and a bottle of water.
- Picnic Style – Vegetable or chicken pot stickers cooked the night before and cooled, a small container of low sodium teriyaki dipping sauce, edamame in shells, seaweed salad, fruit, and a bottle of water.