We all want to arm our kid’s growing bodies with healthy food to keep them going during the day… and this year the “Fresh Box” lunch idea was born (that we sometimes shared on Instagram with the hashtag #freshmommyfreshbox). But summer is right around the corner and we can’t let all that we did during the school year sit on the sidelines, I’m definitely looking forward to some more relaxed days, but I know I’ll be packing up snacks as we head out on playdates and park visits and feeding my little ones a healthy lunch doesn’t end just because the school year did.
I know as moms we all go through times where we feel like feeding our kids the healthiest meals is a lot of work, which let’s be honest, sometimes it can be, but sometimes it’s as easy as thinking outside of the box… the normal lunch box that is, and letting a little creative juice flow. It doesn’t always need to be complicated to be healthy… and sometimes it’s as simple as using up the few items left in your fridge before your next grocery shopping trip.
￼￼So today, I’m going to share a few simple tips for making fun and healthy lunches, or snacks on the go for your kiddos. These lunch ideas are perfect for the school year and also for the couple months of summer where we all end up with the refrigerator door open and scratching our heads because we can’t figure out what to feed the munchkins this time.
1// Think outside of the “bread box.”
Take sandwiches to a whole new level by leaving out the bread altogether! What do I mean? Think of other ways to make sandwiches fun… slice up apples horizontally (with core removed) and use them to hold peanut butter and raisins as “sammies” or slide in a slice of cheddar. Use a whole wheat tortilla as a base and roll up cream cheese and long slices of cucumber, or a spread of peanut butter with a banana rolled up inside, or a classic turkey and cheese roll up. Or what about round sliced cucumbers as a “sammie”… again, think outside of the bread.
One of our favorite “sandwiches” is a PB&J made with waffles as the bread! So next time you’re inspired to make pancakes or waffles for breakfast, whip up a few extra to save for sandwiches later in the week.
2// Use prepackaged food as inspiration.
My kids have long loved Lunchables, especially the pizza kind, though they don’t actually get to have them very often (and I can’t even remember how they first found out about these things). For some reason, my son likes to ask for one every time he sees them in the cooler at the grocery store.
What to do? Make your own!
Because of their fondness for the Pizza Lunchable, I decided to make my own and bought a jar of pizza sauce, wherein I could read and understand all of the ingredients (tomato, onion, garlic, sea salt), opened it up at home and spooned it into an ice cube tray to freeze individual servings. When it came time to pack a lunch, I’d pluck out two cubes and put in small container, then pack some shredded mozzarella cheese, a pita bread sliced into triangles and sometimes some turkey pepperoni. My daughter came home after the first time of having her own pizza “lunchable” and raved about it, and my son asked to make pizza every day for lunch for a week straight!
Sometimes, it just takes a little inspiration, and a little bit of effort upfront, to make a healthy alternative to something kids already love.
3// ￼￼Make it DIY fun!
Since kids already love to DIY their lunches, pack things they can use as mix-ins or dips. Give them a small bowl of yogurt and the toppings for their own parfait, think classic granola and raisins, or some frozen berries to make a “fruit on the top”, or one of their favorite cereals and some chopped nuts for added protein. For a dip, protein packed hummus is a GREAT option… and can be used as a dip for just about anything; sliced vegetables, pita bread or chips.
Have a kid that doesn’t like to eat their veggies? Let them play with their food first by serving all their food ingredient style on a white plate and let them “build” a city, or house, etc. Give them instructions and or let their imaginations run wild. Make your own plate of fun as an example… use broccoli for trees and dressing as a pond, just get creative with it and they will join in and maybe even find they like something they never thought they would.
Since our kids get plenty of sugar naturally or without us even having to think about it, adding a juice or other sugared drink to their meal isn’t something we like to do. So instead, I like to make sure they’ve always got a reusable water bottle handy, filled with water of course. To make it a little more fun, when I fill their bottles in the morning, I’ll also add a handful of frozen berries to it… to flavor the water, to keep it cool (instead of using ice) and there’s always a treat waiting when they finishes their water! Every once in awhile, instead of frozen berries, I’ll give them a packet of EmergenC to mix in… again, it’s a mix-in that kids love, gives a boost of Vitamin C and flavors the water.
There are so many options for infusing water with great flavors, and sometimes we like to play with the recipe, like adding a sprig of mint and some strawberries, or sliced oranges and cucumber. Lemon and lime slices are a classic and my kids like those as well. Or when we’re slicing up a delicious watermelon this summer we’ll add a few cubes and some mint to our water bottles. Mix it up, and have fun.
For meals at home, change things up a bit by serving kids their meal in a mini muffin tin. Use mason jars when possible or serve soup in coffee mugs. Our children love the unexpected…. so remembering that when we prepare meals and packs snacks just makes things all the more exciting. And if you get the chance to buy something new, special or “just for them” well, they love that too.
Recently, we upgraded our kids lunch boxes with the personalized and adorable option from Stuck on You and both of my kids were so excited to use their new customized lunch boxes, they were looking for every opportunity they could… and made up a few as well, like a “picnic in their room.” We packed up snacks for a trip to the park, refreshments for an afternoon at the beach, and of course, lunches for school. Their customized stainless steel water bottles have been a daily staple and as long as I keep filling it with water, I know they’re getting the hydration they need. Fun containers work.
You don’t have to rely on the classic sandwich, side and piece of fruit combo… switch things up! The goal is to get everyone having fun and enjoying the foods we all should be eating. And when we feel tired, overwhelmed or stressed by the thought of another lunch or another meal to pack, just think back to those first moments where that six pound little bundle relied and trusted solely on you as their life source… and realize that they still do! But also… don’t be too hard on yourself, we all still get caught running at high speed and have to pull through McDonalds for a quick meal here and there.
Want to win your own personalized Lunch Pack? The awesome people of Stuck on You want to help you get ready for fun and on-the-go days of summer by giving a FMB reader a customized set! Just enter below, and good luck!
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