I'll never forget the email from my daughter's kindergarten teacher telling me, as politely as possible, that I was failing lunch. For most moms that would be pretty upsetting, but for me, literally a trained chef, it was crushing. I'll admit that packing lunches for her had gotten pretty frustrating, and maybe I had let that wear me down. This adorable tiny person had become quite stubborn in refusing all the things I lovingly packed each morning and uneaten sandwiches, snacks and yogurts were coming home half-rotted in her lunchbox everyday. She had even taken to unloading food on her brother during the ride to school, which is why her teacher thought I wasn't sending her with enough to eat. It became my mission to find creative and enticing lunch items that would satisfy and nourish my dear daughter, and just as importantly, clear my name. Here are some things that worked for us-if you have a picky eater at home, give these ideas a try!
Skewers- My kids like fruit, but they are much more likely to eat it on a skewer because 1- they like the variety and 2- everything on a stick is more fun. Presentation really is compelling, even to a 5 year old. These will last a few days, so I make a batch on Sunday night and grab one each morning. Great for breakfast, too! Speaking of food on a stick, pretzels and cheese are more fun when you make "barbells" with them, and I can even get my daughter to eat Caprese salad skewers. The same child that begs me for lunchables likes fresh basil, go figure. I add ham, salami or turkey to up the protein as well.
Homemade Bars- I hate to give my kids processed foods, and these homemade bars are surprisingly easy to make! Infinitely customizable, you can add what your kids like and make it impossible for them to object. I love using this recipe as a base because they don't even require baking! Protein balls are also great snacks for kids, recipes abound on the internet with all kinds of different flavors, or you can buy a box from us!
Muffins- My kids love having muffins in their lunch, especially the mini sized ones. I use whole wheat flour in mine, and we can even turn baking them into a family friendly activity. Here is a recipe I love, you can swap out the banana for pumpkin or zucchini as well.
Pasta Salad- My kids love pasta, and they'll eat all the vegetables almost as collateral damage. Tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and cheese are just a few of the vitamin and protein goodies I'll add to mine. Drizzle with oil and vinegar and you're good to go! Using different shapes (cheese tortellini is great) and combinations of add-ins keeps the kids from getting bored, too.
I hope these ideas help you give your school lunch routine a little extra pizzaz and keep the little people around you happy and full this school year. Drop me a line and let me know if you have any other creative ideas that work in your house!
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