Packing Lunch 101: Hooray for Entrees!

When it comes to school lunches, you can probably guess what the most frequent complaint I hear is:

"They won't eat what I pack."

Today we're going to change that! I've got OODLES of entree ideas that are tasty AND satisfying (did I mention easy to prepare?).

You might just end up making an additional serving for yourself...

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Today's Takeaway: Options can Overwhelm

I talk with a lot of parents who feel that they have to prepare 5 distinctly different lunches each week for their child. However, this might actually be a reason why some kids end up bringing home an uneaten lunch. While some kids really do thrive on variety, many like the routine of eating similar foods day after day.

Ideally, if you can find just 2 or 3 go-to entrees to rotate through, you can provide your kids with the power of choice without overwhelming them....

...and you won't feel like a short order cook.

BTW, don't worry if the only thing your kid wants everyday is a PB&J- this is actually an excellent choice for a satisfying lunch entree! It fits the bill when it comes to a desirable protein/fiber/fat balance, something every lunch entree should have to keep kids full.

If you're worried about variety, remember that the entree is only one part of your child's school meal. Between the snacks and sides that go along with the entree, you can make sure your child is getting a wide variety of nutrients. More on sides in the weeks to come...

Lunch Options

As we talked about in the last post on healthy school snacks, keeping your child full means finding a good balance of protein/fiber/fat. The entrees below all follow those guidelines- plus they can be eaten cold. Additionally, in the last post I mentioned I would not be focusing on meals containing meat and dairy as American kids often don't get enough servings of fruits and veggies.

Here's to thinking outside the (lunch) box!

  • Bagel with nut/seed butter and granola
  • Pita pocket with hummus and veggies (spinach/tomato/cucumber)
  • Avocado toast sandwich (with spinach/tomato)
  • Chickpea salad sandwich (similar to egg/tuna salad, see also the Guide to Nutritious Noshing)
  • Banana sushi
  • Nut/seed butter, jelly, and banana sandwiches
  • Quinoa salad (many varieties- Asian and Greek versions in the Guide to Nutritious Noshing)
  • Bean salads (such as jarred 4 bean varieties or Cowboy Caviar found in the Guide to Nutritious Noshing)
  • Taco salad (instead of ground beef/turkey, we use lentils seasoned with Taco Seasoning or a cut- up black bean burger patty)
  • Brown rice and edamame with soy sauce (or other Asian-inspired sauce)
  • Black beans and brown rice with salsa (with or without a whole grain tortilla)
  • Brown rice with chickpeas and tzatziki sauce, with or without a wrap (dairy-free Cool Cucumber Dip in the Guide to Nutritious Noshing)
  • Cucumber and hummus sandwich (or wrap)
  • Apple stacks with nut/seed butter
  • Tortilla pinwheels (refried beans, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, taco sauce rolled up and cut into slices)
  • Baked felafel (either in a wheat wrap with veggies or atop a salad)
  • Cucumber and avocado rolls
  • Pasta salad (cooked pasta, olives, chopped red bell peppers/tomatoes, chickpeas, Italian dressing)

For these and more options, check out our Pinterest Boards

Pictured: Asian Quinoa Salad, Cowboy Caviar, and Chickpea Salad with Apples and Dried Cranberries. All from the Guide to Nutritious Noshing

Try it Out: Take Shape

Bite sizes and unique shapes can help fidgety kids finish eating more quickly. Let me give you an example- my busy kindergartener suddenly stopped eating her sandwiches because she thought they were just too large to finish during her lunch break (in her mind, if she couldn't finish it all, it didn't make sense to even start).

However, I noticed she had no problem polishing off her bite- sized grapes and pretzels. So we made a deal- I would cut her sammies into 4 squares (or use a shape cutter on special occasions) if she promised to eat them before starting on anything else in her lunch. Problem solved!

As you try some of the new entree options, talk to your child about presentation. Do they prefer food cut up? In a wrap? With a dip? If taste isn't an issue, try new ways of presenting the food to see if that makes things more interesting!

What kind of eaters do you have? Do you pack for a "Same Old" Stanley or a "No Repeats" Nancy?