For the media

6 easy and healthy lunch ideas for kids

By The Health News Team | October 18, 2022
Storage container of fruits and vegetables

Kids are back at school and that means parents are back to packing lunches. Often, it can be challenging to pack a healthy lunch that kids will want to eat, especially when the kids are picky eaters.

“A nourishing lunch can help growing bodies and minds sustain energy,” says Lauren DeWolf, a Sharp Rees-Stealy Center for Health Management registered dietitian and wellness education specialist. “Fueling children with healthy food boosts brain function for a day of play and learning.”

DeWolf explains a balanced lunch also supports physical development and cognition and can boost a child’s mood. She shares six ideas on how to sneak nutritious food into your child’s lunch box:

  1. Egg and veggie muffins
    Homemade muffins are a great way to add a few more veggies to a meal in a portable, packable format. Egg muffins are essentially a crustless quiche and are simple to prepare and store in the fridge for up to a week.

  2. Dips
    Dips can serve as a fun, interactive meal addition to bring extra flavor to vegetables and make getting in your child’s daily servings of veggies a snap. Celery, baby carrots, jicama sticks, sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes go well with dips, such as hummus, black bean dip or yogurt-based tzatziki. Many farmers markets offer sampling of various dips. Use this as a chance to discover which flavors your child enjoys.

  3. Pasta dishes
    Vegetables, such as tomato and butternut squash, can be cooked right into sauces. You can also add peas or carrots and serve them with whole grain pasta noodles for a simple lunch option.

  4. Soups
    From a simple tomato soup to a chunky minestrone, adding an extra helping of veggies to a bowl can help increase overall intake. Soups can be enjoyed cold or packed in a thermos for an easy and warm on-the-go meal.

  5. Wraps
    Try a tortilla roll-up tailored to what food your child enjoys. For kids who are wary of vegetables, add more of their favorite ingredients, such as cheese, avocado or a favorite meat. Then add in vegetables that don’t overpower the tastes they already love.

  6. Smoothies
    Smoothies can serve as an effortless way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables. Use fruits, including berries, mango, pineapple and banana, and consider blending in some veggies for extra fiber and nutrition. Start gradually with a small amount of a vegetables, such as spinach, zucchini, shredded carrots or cauliflower. Then gradually increase the vegetables as your child’s taste buds adjust.

Try keeping mealtime fun to create positive experiences, says DeWolf. And remember, it’s OK if every meal isn’t nutritionally perfect.

“A colorful, creative meal can spark your child’s intrigue and cultivate curiosity about new, nourishing foods,” she adds. “Helping our children appreciate a wide array of wholesome foods from a young age can set them up for a lifetime of supportive and healthful habits.”

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