Call it the after school meal merry-go-round: you worry about your child’s diet and your budget all day, but when she's home from school and hungry for her day, suddenly it's a scramble. Don't reach for that bag of chips! Here are ten kid-friendly lunchbox ideas that are perfect for back to school meal-planning and guaranteed to sneak nutrients into your child’s diet without breaking the bank or requiring more than a few minutes in the kitchen.
- The BFL (Breakfast for Later): A toasted whole-grain waffle sandwich spread with almond butter and low-sugar jam. A variation: cream cheese and maple sugar. Throw in a piece of fresh fruit on the side.
- The DIY Yogurt Parfait: A single-serving container of yogurt, a baggie full of granola or other high-fiber cereal, a package of raisins or freshly rinsed blueberries and a spoon.
- The Californian: Spread a spinach or whole-wheat wrap with low-fat cream cheese, shredded carrots, and your choice of raisins, shredded raw spinach, chopped black olives, diced turkey, and/or cooked black beans.
- The Chef: Salad, that is. While salty lunchmeat is no one’s idea of health food, a chef salad packs a nutritional wallop with lots of fiber and vitamin-rich veggies. Layer bite-size pieces of romaine lettuce with sliced ham and low-fat cheese and as many veggies as possible: diced or shredded carrots, sliced celery or mushrooms, halved cherry tomatoes, and leftover cooked beets or green beans. Clean baby food jars make ideal containers for salad dressing if you want to make this salad portable.
- The New Yorker: prepare some falafel mix according to package directions. One box will provide lunch for the week and one that's high in fiber! Complete the snack with a whole-wheat pita cut in half to make a pocket, some sliced cucumbers and romaine lettuce, and an individual container of Greek-style yogurt.
- The Tea Party: Spread whole-wheat bread with sweet butter and some sliced hard-boiled egg. Other fillings fit for a tea party queen: thinly sliced radishes, watercress, or cream cheese and cucumber.
- The Fixed-Up Leftover Un-Salad: Toss leftover cooked pasta (preferably whole-wheat) with leftover cooked veggies and chicken or frozen peas, carrots and corn. Add diced hard-boiled egg, sunflower seeds, tofu or other proteins as desired. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan and toss with a few tablespoons of Italian dressing.
- The (New and Improved) Elvis Sandwich: Toasted whole wheat bread with a layer of peanut butter and a layer of sliced banana. A snack fit for a king.
- The Hiker: A a plate full of low-sodium almonds, a washed apple, and a cheese stick.
- The Mediterranean: A small container of store-bought hummus, some baby carrots or some carrots sliced into sticks, celery, and red pepper strips, and a package of whole-wheat pita cut into triangles. Opa!
With these ten tasty after school snacks in your bag of tricks, your child won't have to reach for those chips when she gets home from school, and you won't have to worry about spending tons of time in the kitchen just to get a snack on the table. These delicious and nutritious after school snacks are sure to be a crowd pleaser all around!