Healthy Back-to-School Lunches

Can you believe that school is starting back in five short weeks? My baby is going to Kindergarten and my special little boy is going to be in 4th grade! Where does time go? If you need tips for packing healthy back-to-school lunches, check out my guest blog post on Color Wheel Meals. Check out Color Wheel Meals for awesome vegan and raw food recipes, tips and e-books. You definitely don’t want to miss Samantha’s Raw Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches. Yum-o!

I’d love to hear what you think! Do you have any healthy school lunch ideas? Do your kids prefer cafeteria food or a home-packed lunch?

Top Five Tips for a Nutritious Make-Ahead Lunch

Do you need healthy make-ahead meal ideas? Look no further than Eastside Make-Ahead Mamas! Their site is filled with delicious, easy and nutritious make-ahead recipes.

While you’re there, check out my guest blog post Top Five Tips for a Nutritious Make-Ahead Lunch! The post is part of my series on healthy lunch ideas. In case you missed it, I broke down and bought Lunchables for my kids for camp and then found out how shockingly unhealthy they are. I researched lunch ideas and found that food on a stick, cookie cutters and edible art are three ways to transform a boring lunch into a fun lunch your kids will actually eat. Look for my other tips later this week.

Do you have any make-ahead ideas you can share? What are your go-to make-ahead meals for your family? I would love to hear from  you!

Healthfully,

Stacy

Healthy Lunch Series Tip #3: Make Edible Art

I hope you are enjoying this series of blog posts on making healthy lunches for your kids. If you missed the first two posts in the series, make sure to check out Everything Tastes Better on a Stick and Cookie Cutters Are Your Friend.

Today’s tip revolves around something I definitely struggle with: creativity. Making edible art may seem like something from Cupcake Wars, but you don’t have to be a professional chef or an artist to play with your food.

Take for example these cute little pepper sailboats (picture above) that I made from a sliced orange pepper, hummus and baked pita chips. These took minutes to make and required no more effort than serving them separately, but this creative design got my son to actually try hummus. He discovered that he likes hummus, but under normal circumstances, he would have never tried it.

My daughter and I made these butterfly apples together and this was a fun way to include fruits and veggies in a simple snack. I showed her how to put it together at home and she had fun showing her friends how to assemble her creation during lunch.

 

 

 

 

Another fun project your kids can assemble during lunch are food faces. Pack a variety of fruits and veggies to make the face and your kids will have fun using their creativity to put it all together.

 

 

 

 

 

I came up with this little trick one snowy day in January and have been using it ever since: Brussels Sprouts Snowmen. My kids love these and it is so easy! Just saute brussels sprouts with a little olive oil and sea salt and place three on a tooth pick. These stay together even in a lunch box and tastes good hot or cold.

There are tons of other fun designs you can make with your food. Visit Craft Gossip, Incredible Edible Crafts or Family Fun for more creative food ideas.

Do you have any creative ideas for making food fun for your kids? Feel free to post a link to your site, blog or picture on the blog! I’d love to hear from you!

 

Healthy Lunch Series: Tip #2: Cookie Cutters Are Your Friend

Welcome to day two of the healthy lunch series! As I posted yesterday in Healthy Lunch Series Tip #1: Everything Tastes Better On a Stick, I’m going to write a series of blog posts on packing a healthy lunch for your child for camp, school or picnic.

Today’s tip, Cookie cutters are your friend, makes healthy eating fun with edible art. You don’t have to be an artist to make these cute creations. You simply need a set of  cookie cutters and a little creativity.

 

 

 

My daughter usually eats the meat out of her sandwich and throws the bread away. This frustratses me not only because she is not consuming the whole grains she needs, but it is a waste of time and money!

 

Today I made her a teddy bear sandwich and she ate the entire thing (sssssh, don’t tell her that the bread was whole-wheat with flaxseed and carrots.)

 

 

 

I also married my two favorite techniques, food on a stick and cookie cutters, and created cute pineapple lollipops. I made a flower, heart and butterfly for my daughter and a train, bear and dinosaur for my son.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invest in mini-cookie cutters, which are great for cutting veggies and smaller fruits. I used my Christmas mini-cookie cutters to transform bell peppers into gingerbread men, candy canes, Christmas trees and angels.

 

 

 

Just like adults, kids eat with their eyes first. If their food is visually appealing, they will be more likely to eat it. So far it has worked well with my two picky eaters. My daughter discovered that she likes red, orange and yellow bell peppers and my son asked me for a pineapple lollipop for his dessert last night!

 

Do you use cookie cutters to add dazzle to boring foods? Any photos or stories you would like to share? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Healthfully,

Stacy

 

Healthy Lunch Series: Tip #1: Everything tastes better on a stick

As I mentioned last week in my post about the Lunchables, my kids are in summer camp which means that I have to pack a healthy lunch every day that is:

  • Nutritious
  • Peanut-free
  • Affordable
  • Quick
  • Something my kids will actually eat and enjoy

and

  • Provides my kids with the energy they need for an action-packed camp
  • Can sustain long periods without refrigeration
  • Doesn’t require a microwave

 

You know what a challenge this can be.

My kids quite enjoyed their Lunchable filled week, but I set out to improve the nutrition and quality of their lunches.

I talked with other moms and conducted some research on how to make a nutritious lunch that meets all of my above critieria. I have so many great tips to share that I’m going to make this topic a series, so look for daily tips and recipes over the ten days as I countdown my top ten healthy lunch tips. In the meantime, today’s post is focused on tip #1: Everything tastes better on a stick.

I love kabob’s. Place boring ham, cheese, fruit and veggies on a stick and instantly you transform a ho-hum lunch into something kids will actually eat.

Today I made fruit kabobs with watermelon, cantaloupe and grapes. I simply used a melon baller to scoop out watermelon and cantaloupe balls, then I alternated them on a wooden skewer. This simple technique makes eating fruit fun!

Skewer possibilities are endless. Try sandwich kabobs, which have bread chunks, cheese, cubes of turkey and cherry tomatoes. Another family favorite is chicken kabobs. I use leftover homemade chicken breast nuggets, cut into cubes, with mozzarella cheese, grapes and zucchini. For additional healthy lunch and snack ideas visit Fixmeasnack.com. What is your favorite kabob recipe? Please share!

Convenience vs. Healthy Choice

I’ve been counting down the days for summer, because for the first time ever, my kids will be in day camp. I love spending time with my kids more than anything in the world, but after the past three summers of having them hang around the house, saying “I’m bored” approximately 3,000 times a day while I try to work,  it was time to make a change.

We went out last night to buy all of the supplies for camp: sunscreen, bug spray and lunch items. Sounds straightforward, right?

Not so much. My husband and I had a debate about convenience vs. healthy lunch in the meat aisle.

He grabbed ten packs of Lunchables, threw them in the cart and said, “Done.”

I said, “We cannot give them a Lunchable everyday.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because it is not healthy.”

He said, “It’s cheese, turkey and crackers. How bad can that be?”

“They are full of fat, sugar and salt. I research and write about how bad this crap is on my blog. If we buy these, I will not practice what I preach.”

If you don’t know how bad lunchables are, read Out to Lunch, which grades nine pre-packaged lunches. You may ask, “how can cheese, turkey and crackers be that bad for you.” Consider that Kraft adds starch to the cheese slices, hydrogenated oil and high-fructose corn syrup to the crackers and sodium nitrate to the turkey. This small meal, which would only fill up the tiniest of tummies, has 19 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat and 900 grams of sodium.

After I stood on my soap box and recited all of this to my husband, he came back at me with something that resonated louder than the shocking ingredients on the label, “You always say you are busy and don’t have time. Why are you making this hard on yourself?”

He had a point.

So in my moment of weakness under the glow of fluorescent lights in the grocery store aisle, I bought Lunchables, a bag of apples, yogurt and gasp….fruit roll-ups.

I caved.

When given the choice between convenience and the healthy option, I chose convenience. I don’t feel great about it, but it sure feels good having that extra thirty minutes in the morning to spend time with them instead of stressing myself out in the kitchen prepping lunches.

What would you do?

I’m going to find some easy, fast, healthy convenient lunches to pack for camp and I’ll share them with you on the blog. Please share ideas that you have! I’d love to hear your suggestions. In the meantime, my kids will enjoy their sugar and fat filled lunch.