Send the Kids Back to School with Lunches They’ll Actually Eat
The new school year is nearly upon us, and while many parents are rejoicing at the notion of their kids getting back in the classrooms, others are dreading the thought of another year of time-consuming school lunch prep & half-eaten foods coming home at the end of the day.
This year, we think it’s time you turn things around and make school lunches easier and more fun for everyone. That’s why we’ve gathered up this helpful collection of tips and tricks that you and your kids can use to plan healthy lunches that are still fun and delicious. We’ve also provided a bunch of advice on how to save time and get the kids more involved in their healthy eating habits.
However, before we get in to the fun stuff, it’s important to note that when you send your kid to school with a full lunch box, there are rules to follow that help keep everyone at school safe from allergies.
Foods to Avoid
While it’s pretty much common knowledge that any and all nut products are off-limits for school lunches, you’d be amazed at all the different places that nuts can hide in many of the popular foods we eat. It can be easy to miss some of them if you’re not diligent on checking labels.
It’s obvious that anything made with peanut butter should be avoided, but it’s important to be aware that nuts can often be found hiding in other foods like cookies, crackers, and granola bars. Other places nuts can be found are in sauces, such as many of those found in different types of Asian cuisine and noodle dishes, and anything cooked in a nut oil like peanut oil.
Aside from the dangers of allergens, there are other things that just don’t need to be in your kids’ lunch box. Many sodas, gummies, and pastries are loaded with added sugar and carbs, so either avoid them entirely or swap for sugar-free versions. There are plenty of healthier versions of these products to choose from so you won’t have to worry about kids missing out on the sweet treats they love.
Choose a Nutritious Drink
When you’re deciding on what to include for a school lunch, it’s easy to start things off with a healthy and nutritious beverage. Milk is always a popular choice for many kids, and it’s got plenty of health benefits like calcium and protein. Fruit juice is another popular option, but also one that has a higher risk of being high in sugar. Check for sugar-free and low-sugar juice options instead.
Pop and sodas can be okay for an occasional treat, but you’ll want to select a sugar-free version like the tasty beverages from Zevia. These sugar-free sodas are available in all kinds of flavours, including classics like cola, root beer and cream soda, as well as fruity flavours like grape and orange.
For the most nutritious option, why not send your kid to school with a home-made smoothie made with some of their favourite fruits? Smoothies are a great way to get more nutrients in to a lunch kit and still deliver a delicious & sweet taste. Using ingredients like Greek yogurt help to boost the protein content and mixing in a dose of Chia seeds will ramp up the dietary fibre. Making a batch of smoothies in the morning can become a fun ritual you share with your kids, and then you get to take some with you for your own lunch. It’s a win-win!
Healthy Main Ideas
When selecting the main component of your lunch, you want to choose something that is filling, healthy, easy to prepare, and easy to eat at lunchtime. Sandwiches are always a popular option, and with the wonderful variety of low carb breads, bagels and wraps, you can offer your kids plenty of different ways to put them together. Any types of deli meat, sliced cheese, and fresh toppings like lettuce and tomatoes are all fair game when it comes to sandwich-building.
Soups are another option that are easy to take for lunch, and with a good quality insulated container they will stay hot all morning and in to lunchtime. In our opinion, there’s not too many lunches out there that will beat hot homemade chicken soup on a chilly day. Find out what your kids’ favourite soups are and have some on hand to heat up in the morning and fill their thermos. Just don’t forget to include a spoon!
Fun & Healthy Snacks
Focus on fruits, vegetables, proteins, and fibre in snacks, but figure out ways to accompany them with stuff that makes them a bit more fun from a kids’ point of view. For example, apple slices on their own might seem a bit boring, but if you include a small container of sugar-free caramel sauce for dipping, they get a lot more fun!
Cheese is definitely another favourite lunch item for kids, which is probably why the stringable-cheese snacks are so popular. These are a simple addition to any lunch that adds protein and calcium, and lets the kids have fun while they peel it apart.
Carrot sticks and hummus is great lunch combo that kids and adults both love to munch on. Celery sticks and cream cheese is another option, too. Other healthy snack options include things like yogurts, grapes, dried fruits, and low carb crackers.
Finally, there are all kinds of low carb snack chips that come in a wide range of flavours and seasonings that are an excellent addition to lunch kits for kids who like crunchy salty snacks. We recommend products like Beanitos Bean Chips or Quest Protein Chips, which are some of our most popular snack chips.
Save Time & Involve the Kids
One trick to saving time in preparing lunches is to get the kids involved in a way that makes them feel like they are in control of their lunch. This also has the added benefit of them being more likely to eat a lunch that’s made entirely of stuff that they chose on their own.
Of course, you need to give them the guidance and tools to make healthy choices and put together a complete lunch with all the necessary items. Working with your kids, pull together a list of acceptable choices for the different components in a lunch, like drinks, mains, fruit, vegetables, and fun treats. In general, you’ll want to have about four or five different items for each category to select from so that there’s a good amount of variety but not so much that you have too much food stocked up that it will spoil before it gets eaten.
Post the lunch-building list on your fridge and include a guideline of how many items from each category are needed for a lunch. For example; one drink, one main, two fruits or vegetables, and one fun treat. As long as they meet the criteria and quantity for what you’ve agreed is a complete lunch, they can choose their own items from those categories to build their lunches.
Another way to save time is to have a lunch prep session on Sunday before the week begins and work together to gather up supplies for the week. Put on some fun music, and spend some time as a family chopping vegetables, organizing snacks, and planning around any special considerations like school field trips that may have special lunch requirements.
Fun Low Carb School Lunch Recipes
While you won’t have any difficulty finding helpful and interesting lunch ideas on the web, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more complete set of low carb lunch ideas for kids than in the Low Carb Kids series of resources at DitchTheCarbs.com. The author of the site, Libby, has gathered together several helpful guides for parents to use to plan kids’ lunches for school, and dozens of great recipes to draw from.
Here are three of our favourites that Libby recommends as great options for healthy school lunches for kids:
Grain-Free KFC Fried Chicken – How jealous will your kids’ friends be when they show up with this delicious fried chicken? We’re guessing VERY.
Keto Egg Wraps – Eggs, cheese, and bacon all wrapped up in an easy-to-eat package. Kids will love having breakfast for lunch!
Grain-Free Granola Bars – Regular store-bought granola bars are often loaded with extra sugar, but not these tasty home-made versions!
Healthy Lunches and Happy Kids
At the end of the day, your kids will be glad that you’ve let them take some control over their lunches with these kinds of tips. Plus, you’ll have more time in the mornings and be sure that they’ve got a healthy lunch packed up that will keep them happy and energized throughout the day. Packing up healthy lunches that also include some fun in them is easy, and we’re sure that these tips will help make the coming year of school lunches be better than ever.