School Lunch Treats

By Megan McClain

School lunches...

Packing that oh-so-important daily meal for your little (or big) students requires strategy and planning, or else you’re stuck making a peanut butter and jelly again and shoving in the tail end of a bag of chips.

This year, we want your kids to be the envy of the other kids at lunch, and giving THEM the most sought-after meals in their class.

Here’s some tips we’ve picked up over the years.

  • Make sure your little ones know how to put their straws in and open their packages before sending them off to avoid waiting for a lunch monitor to help.
  • Peanut-free lunches? Our favorite mix is almond butter and strawberry jelly. Spread on some cream cheese instead of peanut butter for a protein boost, then top with jelly or sliced fruit for a sweet sandwich spread.

  • Even if they do want the same ham and cheese every day, you can liven it up with some different options. Use cookie or sandwich cutters to make shapes before tossing it in the sandwich baggie. Or use a big one to make a circle shape, crimp the edges using a knife and you have an “uncrustable” type sandwich.

  • What if your kids don’t like sandwiches? Try lunch meat rolled around a stick of cheese or make a sandwich roll-up using a tortilla.
  • Make lunches the night before. This is a serious time saver, as long as you don’t have a lot of spread on a sandwich. If you get everything but that PB and J made in advance, you'll still have time to help hunt for shoes.

  • See those bento box lunches all over Pinterest? Use a small shaped cutter for cookies or fondant (they have bento-specific cutters at shops like Daiso) to make shapes out of cheese, cucumbers or bread, and mix in with grapes or tomatoes for a cute side. While you're on Pinterest, make a board and pin some ideas for when you're looking for new inspiration in November.
  • Skip utensils and get yogurt in a tube or applesauce in a pouch.
  • Nuts offer good protein, fat and fiber, which will help kids get through the school day without their stomachs growling.  Get packages of almonds, snack bars or trail mix for a snack to keep them full, but avoid peanuts if your school requires you do so.

  • Make children pack their own lunches. Have a basket in the pantry they can use to choose from for a side or two. Kids can make their own sandwiches with a little teaching.
  • Core and slice a whole apple, then use a rubber band or wrap to put it back together to avoid it browning before lunch.

Are you hot lunch? We’ve got a tip for that, too.

  • Even if you’re not there, most schools today provide multiple fruit and veggie choices. Encourage your kids to take advantage of the opportunity to try them.  Talk to your kids about the options for the day and ask which fruits and veggies they will be picking out to eat. Follow up after school by asking what they chose for lunch, and make meal conversation a conversation about their meals.