Back to School - Lunch Ideas

Well, it's September, and fall is definitely in the air.  I love fall, after summer, it is my favorite season.  I love apples, pumpkin foods, boots, sweaters, soups, the colors, and the list goes on.  Another aspect of fall is the start of school.  With school starting, comes in a change in structure, as well as eating habits.  Whether your child takes lunch from home or buys school lunch, I have a few tips and ideas for you.  Also, even if you don't have kids read up, these lunch ideas are perfect for taking to work or on the run for a busy day!
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If your kids are buying school lunch, there are a couple ways to make sure they are getting the best nutrition possible.  Get a menu to see the hot meal of the day, and also find out what other options are offered each day.  Find out if the school offers a salad bar, and what is on there.  Discuss with your kids what will be offered the next day, and make a game plan for what they will choose.  If they don't like the hot meal, discuss which of the sides would be the best alternative.  

Discuss the options with the main meal, and make sure they are taking fruit and/or vegetables.  Are they getting milk?  Encourage them too!  Find out what sweets are offered, and come up with a plan for how often they can include one.  I have seen schools that offer ice cream, cookies, cake, and other sweets DAILY!  I have met with kids who have drained their monthly account for school lunch in 2 weeks, because of the extras they were allowed to purchase.  Talk with your kids and help them make healthy choices at school!

Taking home lunch?  This year, get out of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich rut!  Many of the lunches I hear about are almost all carbs or grain choices. (Sandwich, pretzels, cookie, apple)  If your little one loves sandwiches, trying making them on deli flats or sandwich thins, to save on carbs, while upping fiber and protein in the bread.  If PB&J is a favorite, plan to include that maybe 2x a week, and try something else on the other days.  Include your child on the lunch preparation, this helps ensure they will eat what is packed.
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Part of opening up lunch options is having the right equipment :)  A while back, I was meeting with this 8 yr old and her mom.  I was asking about lunches, and her mom was telling me how the applesauce she packed always came home unopened.  I asked the girl if she didn't like applesauce, to which she responded "I love applesauce, but Mom, you never pack me a spoon so I can eat the applesauce!".  Oops!  I don't think her mom will ever forget a spoon again!  So, have the right equipment on hand!  Stock up on plastic spoons or forks, or make sure they have an easy way to bring home real ones.  Also, you need a bag that will keep cold food cold, or a thermos to keep hot food hot!  

Here are some ideas to mix up lunch:
-Soup or chili (in the thermos) with crackers
-Bagel thin with light cream cheese and Ham
-Bagel thins made into mini pizzas (either in advance and kept warm, or if they like it cold, send some sauce, cheese, and toppings for at school.
-Turkey hot dog with bun (keep the turkey dog warm in the thermos)
-Wraps (try with turkey, ham, chicken, or tuna, with a little cheese and any veggies)
-Quesadillas, kept warm
-Grilled cheese Sandwich with tomato soup
-Pita bread with Hummus
-boiled egg with precooked bacon or turkey bacon (breakfast for lunch!)
-String cheese
-Applesauce (with a SPOON!), grapes, clementines
-Cut up veggies (carrots, celery, cucumbers, cauliflower, peppers, cherry tomatoes, with a little light ranch dressing to dip)
-Pudding Cup
-Pretzels, baked chips, vegetable straws (portioned amounts)
-Water or Low Fat Milk (avoid juice)

The easiest way to do home lunch is to have most everything prepped and ready to put in the lunch bag in advance.  Have veggies chopped, snacks such as pretzels pre-portioned in their bags, whatever you can do in advance, will make the morning much smoother!

What do you send or take for lunch?  Share in the comments section below!

Hope you got your daily dose of nutrition today, and thanks for reading! If you enjoy the blog, please share using the buttons below, or in the box to the right. Also, we would love to have you join us! Join this site in the "followers" box to the right. "Like" the blog on facebook, and follow me on twitter (@jennasteprd), tumblr, and pinterest using the the boxes on the right. Thanks, and have a great day! ~jenna

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