Statistics show that kids who eat nutritious breakfasts and healthy lunches perform better in school. But coming up with healthy meals and snacks can be a challenge, especially if you have picky eaters. Here are some ideas for quick weekday morning breakfasts, packing a creative lunchbox and for healthy after school-snacks!
Toast two wholegrain waffles, and spread with peanut or almond butter. Add fresh fruit, and stack to form a sandwich. This is perfect to grab and eat in the car on the way to school.
Spread a banana with yogurt, and then roll in crushed granola or nuts for another meal you can eat on-the-go.
Make a breakfast burrito. Scramble two eggs, and then arrange down the center of a warmed whole grain tortilla. Sprinkle with low-fat cheese, and add a few tablespoons of fresh salsa, if desired.
Make overnight oatmeal in the crockpot so it is ready to serve in the morning. To serve, spoon into a serving bowl, and top with chopped apples, peaches or berries and some chopped nuts. Drizzle with pure maple syrup, and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Make egg muffins. Fill muffin tins with a variety of fresh vegetables and chopped lean protein. Beat 12 eggs with 1/4 cup 2% milk and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the vegetables in the muffin pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through. You can grab two on the way out the door. These are easy to reheat. So make a few batches, and store in the refrigerator.
Creative Lunchbox Ideas
Think outside the sandwich and chips lunchbox. Try to fill lunchboxes with variety, and incorporate as many food groups as possible. Plan lunches with your kids so they have input in the content. This will make them more likely to eat what you pack. If they are young, make lunch fun. Kids like colors, shapes and small items. Remember to keep everything cold. Food that sits more than two hours starts to grow bacteria. You can freeze a water bottle and place it in the lunchbox. By lunchtime, the water bottle should be melted and the lunch and water still cold. Another idea is to use two new sponges. Saturate them with water, and place each in a separate Ziplock bag. Place one on the bottom of the box before filling with lunch items, then place the other on top before closing the box. They work just like the more expensive reusable cooler packs.
If packing a sandwich, use a cookie cutter to cut the sandwich into a fun shape.
Instead of a sandwich, make a wrap or spirals. Spread a whole grain tortilla or wrap with hummus or low-fat cream cheese. Arrange thinly sliced and/or chopped vegetables on top, and then roll for a wrap, or slice into 1-inch spirals. You can also spread with peanut butter and add sliced bananas or other fruit, or spread with mustard and layer on thinly sliced roasted turkey and low-fat cheese.
Pack wholegrain crackers with packets of spreadable nut butter, tuna or chicken salad, or slices of cheese.
Pack pasta salad filled with fresh vegetables and low-fat turkey or chicken as the entrée.
Serve veggies with ranch dip made with Greek yogurt or with hummus.
String cheese, yogurt, fresh fruit or berries, pretzels, hard-boiled egg, baked chips, dried fruits, trail mix, whole grain cereal, popcorn, sandwiches (made as a lettuce wrap, on a bagel or in a pita pocket), wholegrain chips with salsa, cubed cheese, sliced low-fat meats, whole grain muffins, and nuts all work great in a lunchbox.
Purchase a bento box, and place different items in each little box. Make the items colorful and nutritious. Kids love snacking and munching, and this will seem like both instead of like lunch.
Tuck an encouraging note inside the lunchbox.
Many of the same lunch ideas would work as after-school snacks—just in smaller portion sizes. Kids like variety, and they like to have some kind of control over their choices. Create a shelf in the refrigerator and a shelf in the pantry or cabinet filled with healthy choices. Let them know they can choose anything from those shelves as their snacks. Some items to have available are:
- Hummus and pita chips
- Raw veggies and ranch dip made with Greek yogurt
- Fresh fruit
- Frozen grapes
- Homemade popsicles
- Greek yogurt
- Whole grain and baked chips
- Trail mix
- 100-calorie snack packets
- String cheese
- Leftover grilled chicken tenders
- Wholegrain cereal
- Air-popped popcorn