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5 Delicious and Healthy Lunch Ideas to Keep your Kids Nourished This School Year (Recipes included)


The school year is officially here and while most parents are trying to navigate this years “new normal,” many are simultaneously trying to figure out what meals they should send their kids to school with. I often speak with parents about healthy lunch ideas that are both satisfying and nutritious that their kids will actually eat – there is nothing worse than making the effort to prepare lunches only to find out their kids didn’t actually eat them!

TRUTH: When I was a kid, my mom would prepare lunches for me and instead of eating them, I would hide them in my backpack and then in my closet for weeks until my parents found moldy, uneaten sandwiches (EWWWW – SO GROSS!!). This memory always remains in my mind and that’s why I really stress the importance of making sure the lunches you send your kids to school with are lunches you know they are going to enjoy.

TIP: Get your kids involved. Work out a meal plan with your kids, making them active participants in their weekly lunch menu. If they say they won’t eat it, believe them. Most kids are visual so getting on Pinterest may be a great idea. Giving them a chance to see some options will help them decide what meals they want to eat and know which ones they won’t. Show them options you know they like and consider including 1 meal a week that is new to them. I personally have a rule in my home: We always try new things but no one will force you to eat something you don’t like. BUT: you might surprise yourself and the only way to know if you like it is to take 3 bites. Whenever I offer something new I always make sure other parts of the meal include foods I know they will eat for sure. I don’t want my kids to feel punished if they decide they don’t like the new food they’ve tried. That’s just not fair.

In my situation, my kids are young. They are still in daycare and technically, meals are provided for them. My kids have dietary restrictions and due to Covid19, our daycare’s kitchen is under renovation, making accommodating their restrictions extremely challenging. This week the daycare director offered me the option to provide my own lunches, which of course prompted this blog!

So what am I planning on feeding my kids? Isn’t that the million dollar question! Below is my first 5-day lunch plan, based on meals my older daughter (3.5 years old) and I agreed on. A lot of ideas also double as dinner ideas because leftovers work wonders when it comes to menu planning! I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the mental capacity to think about 10 separate meals ideas between Monday-Friday. My menu plan includes a combo of warm and cold meals. You can replicate this meal plan or make modifications to suite your family’s needs.

Day 1:

Vegan Lentil Chili:

I love this meal because it’s protein and nutrient packed. It’s also vegan, which is great for my girls since they are both gluten and dairy free. Chili can be made in a large pot or an instant/croc pot and can be easily frozen and defrosted another week when you’re looking for a quick and easy lunch idea but don’t have the time to cook it. You can serve this on it’s own or add a variety of toppings like avocado, jalapeno, green onions, shredded cheese or sour cream.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

· 2 tbsp. cooking oil

· 2 stalks celery (finely diced)

· 1 onion (finely diced)

· 1 green pepper (finely diced)

· 2 28 fl oz. cans diced tomatoes

· 1 19oz red kidney beans (drained)

· 1 19 oz can or soaked pinto beans (drained)

· 1 19 fl oz. lentils (drained)

· 2 tbsp. chili powder

· 1 tsp smoked paprika

· 1 tsp. garlic powder

· ½ tbsp.. ground cumin

· salt and pepper

Instructions:

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil has heated, add celery, onion and green pepper to the pot and season with salt and pepper

2. Sautee the vegetables while stirring for 2-3 minutes or until they start to release their liquids and become translucent.

3. Add the chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder and ground cumin to the pot and stir to cover the vegetables.

4. Cook for another 2 minutes

5. Add the diced tomatoes, kidney beans, pinto beans and lentils to the pot and season well with salt and pepper

6. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

**This isn’t the only thing I plan on sending my kids to school with. I like the idea of including some fresh cut veggie sticks with guacamole and a small side of berries for dessert.

Day 2:

Bell Peppers, cream cheese and everything bagel spice