I’ve made my kids’ lunches from the beginning. As tempting as it is to just send them with a few bucks every day, I know that lunch is a huge meal for them, as they’re in school from 8-4 everyday. I can’t justify the junk they sell at school being their sole sustenance every day. So, as much as it pains me, I use every evening to pack three boxes full of enough food to last through a very long day. There’s always a sandwich (not very exciting) and at least three snacks. Yes, three. Try as I might, I just can’t be the mom who makes those adorable lunches you see in all the other “Back to School Lunch” articles. You know, the sandwich roll-ups that look like sushi or the fruit kebabs. I have three kids who eat, a lot. I also have a business to run. My time does not support sushi-sandwiches.
As you can imagine, I’m always on the lookout for easy foods for snack, which can be tricky since easy doesn’t always equal healthy. It can be done though. Here are five things we use that prove it.
Fruit: I know it seems a given, but I’m shocked at how few people I talk to add fruit to their kids’ bagged lunches. Every kid, even the pickiest of eaters, likes at least one fruit. The key is figuring out which kind and how they like it. I chop apples but not pears. I use whole bananas and freeze fresh strawberries (This is not hard. I swear) in July for my middle kid’s lunch in December. Fruit is quick, easy and a guaranteed eat.
Yogurt Tubes: Usually something in a tube is processed beyond belief so you can be sure I’m not recommending those brands. But there are better styles of yogurt sold at Trader Joe’s or the Stonyfield brand is now at most stores. These are as close to “natural” as one can get in a tube. The reason I recommend tubes over regular yogurt is because you can freeze them so kids either think they’re eating popsicles or in my kids’ case, the tubes stay frozen long enough to still be cold even for a late lunch.
Apple Sauce: The frugal part of me would like to tell you I use one large jar and reusable containers. That’s true only some of the time. It’s hard for me to fight the prepackaged ease of individual applesauce. You can even use the new squeeze varieties for novelty if you think your kids are more likely to eat them. Just make sure the only ingredients are apples and ascorbic acid (vitamin c). Check the label to ensure that because the word natural on the front doesn’t mean a thing. GoGo Squeeze and Trader Joe’s versions are both This Mom approved.
Veggies and Ranch- I cut up peppers and carrots early in the week then toss some in a container with ranch. You could use cucumbers, mushrooms, raw broccoli or tomatoes. (If these options works for you, three cheers for your kid’s healthy palate!) If you’re really ambitious make your own ranch. If you’re just looking for healthy and easy, try T. Marzetti’s Simply Dressed ranch. It’s the least daunting list of ingredients and it’s lighter than most but the kids still eat it.
Bars: We have used many different kinds-all found at Trader Joe’s or the Organic aisles of grocery stores. Still, these are not my favorite because you’d be hard-pressed to find one that isn’t full of sugar. If you aren’t worried about allergies, Kind are a great brand because they are mostly nuts and honey or maple sugar. So yes, there is sugar but it’s not as much as some of the others and all the ingredients are recognizable. The other caveat with these bars is to watch for fat, calories and sugar on the labels. Some that are made as “protein” bars are meant to replace a meal so their ingredients will reflect that. I don’t think we should be counting calories for our kids, but we should be aware if we are giving them the equivalent of full meal in their snack bar.
Packing lunches for kids can be daunting. Finding healthy and quick ways to do it can be worse. But there are more and more options out there and if we start out teaching kids to expect an apple over Fritos, we can chalk up one win as parents.