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Healthy school lunches

Just because school is returning to normal doesn't mean lunches have to be boring. If there’s anything we’ve learned from 2020, it’s that we can’t take even the little things for granted, including daily experiences like meals.

This fall, to keep your children’s school lunches healthy — and interesting — involve your kids in the process. Children are more likely to eat things that they pick out themselves, and the local growers in Oregon put out a great spread. The most healthful eating is when foods are close to the ground, meaning fresh, not processed and when available, local. Make the farmers market in your area a weekly destination, and set aside some of the regular grocery budget to spend there or with a CSA box (community supported agriculture).

Think outside the traditional sandwich expectations for lunches.

Consider tapas-style tiny bites with a do-it-yourself component such as deconstructed caprese salad. Add crackers to mozzarella and tomato slices, topped with a basil leaf.

Go international.

If you have a child with an interest in another culture (or you want to explore your own) older kids can research ingredients and recipes for lunch ideas outside the usual repertoire. California rolls are relatively easy to make, and with ingredients you can find in any grocery store.

Pick a theme.

Little ones love a theme, from backpacks to birthday parties. Think of clever ways to incorporate healthy snacks and lunch items into their favorite character or video game. It could be as simple as using a cookie cutter to shape their sandwiches.

Make it yourself.

Whenever possible, involve children in the preparation of their meals. There are many great recipes online that are perfect for tiny hands. If they are participants, children will have a new appreciation for their meals and are more likely to eat the good stuff.

If you forget to make lunches the night before, have a small stock of healthy components to grab and go such as fruit, cheese sticks, or prepared tuna fish in packets that can be spread on crackers.

Everyone is looking forward to the promise of school as normal in the fall. Making meals together, or just being thoughtful about the meals prepared for your family, connects us in a way that we are now re-discovering. Here’s to the simple joys of a new school year!


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