No one wants to be stuck at 8 p.m. on a school night with nothing in the pantry for the next day’s lunch. Remember: School lunches should of course be nutritious, but they also have to be filling, appealing, and locker-friendly (no refrigeration or heating needed!). Saved by the menu planner!
5 STEPS TO AN A+ SCHOOL LUNCH
1. Use leftovers
Think hot leftovers are off the table? Think again. Heat up leftover soups or stews in the morning, and pack them into insulated stainless steel containers to keep them hot till lunchtime. Or, refrigerate leftover chicken, red meat, or fish overnight, and cut into kid-friendly cubes to pack solo or in a sandwich or wrap–and don’t forget an ice pack.
2. Plan ahead
Some fruits and veggies (like apples and cucumbers) can get slimy when prepared in advance. Others, though — grapes, cherry tomatoes, carrots — can be washed and bagged days ahead of time. Other prep-and-package mainstays like hard-boiled eggs, homemade trail mix, applesauce (up the ante with cinnamon, walnuts, or raisins), yogurts (with berries, nuts, honey, etc.), and dips (hummus, salsa, etc.) can all be prepared ahead of time and packed for days’ worth of lunches.
3. Make it easy and fun
Slice foods into easy-to-handle strips or cubes for little ones. Spice things up and get creative—younger kids love themed meals centered on a specific letter (“C Day” could be carrots, clementines, chicken, and cashews) or color (orange peppers, cantaloupe, cheddar cheese). Both kids and teens will appreciate a little eye appeal: multicolored fruits and veggies, or foods wrapped in tortillas.
4. Sneak health in
Picky eaters won’t even notice the ground flaxseed in their yogurt, applesauce, or dips. Finely chopped walnuts hide well in trail mix, and greens go unnoticed in most wraps. Try Udo’s Choice Green Blend (or Beyond Greens for our Canadian friends).
5. Involve the kids
Kids are much more enthusiastic about trying new things when they’re involved in the shopping. Similarly, they’re much more excited (and proud!) to eat foods they’ve prepared or helped to prepare.