Healthy Lunch Challenge: Pack a Nutritious Meal that Kids Will Actually Eat!
|May 16, 2013||Posted by Stacy under Healthy lunch, Recipes|
As a mother of three, I know all too well the challenges of coming up with healthy school lunches that kids will actually eat—instead of ending up in the trash. So when Jennifer Tyler Lee, the mom behind Crunch a Color: The Healthy Eating Game, asked me to take part in her Healthy Lunch Challenge, I jumped at the chance.
What is the Healthy Lunch Challenge?
To coincide with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day on May 17, Lee challenged 15 bloggers to share their favorite fresh, healthy lunchbox ideas that are easy and quick to prepare. We were told our lunches must include three colors, a protein and a healthy grain—nothing super-processed. Since that’s how our family generally eats, I figured it wouldn’t be a big problem.
When packing school lunches, I do adhere to a few golden rules. One is that I never surprise my kids with new foods. That’s not to say that we always discuss exactly what will go in their lunchboxes. But I don’t hit them with something completely foreign (unless, of course, it is just a small bite of an unfamiliar fruit or veggie, or a yummy treat that I know that they will eat). In my opinion, school lunch isn’t the best place to experiment. Instead, I build on what my kids already like; I don’t pack the same foods every day; and I only occasionally include chips and other packaged snacks. (SEE: Lunchbox Lessons: Secrets to Packing a (Healthy Enough!) School Lunch Your Child Will Actually Eat for more tips).
Different Kids, Different Appetites
No two kids are totally alike when it comes to food. Some, like my 7-year-old son, are more choosy. Others, like my 5-year-old daughter, tend to be adventurous. Still others, like my 5-year-old son, are somewhere in between. So much depends on a child’s palate and open-mindedness. Because of this, I found it hard to choose just one lunch to feature–so I decided to include two! Since my kids go to nut-free schools, both lunches contain no tree nuts.
Healthy Lunch #1: The Choosy Eater
A homemade whole-wheat soft pretzel is the centerpiece of this healthy school lunch for the choosy eater (because, really, what kid doesn’t like a pretzel?!?). To make it, I followed this easy recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction but used whole-wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose. The pretzels can be baked in advance and stored for a day in an air-tight container. For protein, I included a hard-boiled egg (also cooked ahead of time). Parmesan kale chips and fruit kabobs offer a burst of color to round out the lunch. (Crunch a Color score: 45).
Healthy Lunch #2: The Adventurous Eater
If you ask me, burritos are unsung heroes of the lunchbox. They travel well and can be filled with just about anything (for lots of variety!). The one shown here contains brown rice, black beans, sliced avocado, tomato salsa and shredded cheddar cheese in a sprouted wheat tortilla. Sides include homemade hummus with red peppers, mangoes and a container of organic milk. (Crunch a Color score: 55).
Lunchbox Snacks & Sweets
Looking for nutritious snacky things to add to your child’s lunchbox? Here are some of my kids’ favorites:
No-bake brownie bites (these can be made with sunflower seeds instead of almonds if your school is nut-free)
Easy Peasy organic sweet potato muffins (I reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup when making these)
Greek yogurt with pumpkin granola
About Crunch a Color
Crunch a Color is an award-winning nutrition game in which kids earn points for eating colorful fruits and veggies, proteins and grains; trying new foods; and exhibiting good manners. As I wrote back in December, my kids like playing and it has inspired them to nibble everything from carrot chips to turnip fries. (Yes, I did just say “turnip fries”!!!). In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a free Crunch a Color game last year, but this isn’t a paid review. My enthusiasm for it comes straight from the heart.
Do you have a fun, healthy school lunch idea to share? We’d love to hear about it! Please leave a description and/or link in the comments section below.