Ask A Connecticut Expert: School Lunches Kids Can Make Themselves

August 10, 2016 8:00 AM

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Photo Credit Thinkstock

A new school year will be upon us shortly, and many parents will again try to ensure their children get a nutritious lunch each day. The best way to do that is to send them off to school with a homemade lunch, and there is no reason kids cannot prepare it themselves. For some healthy school lunch ideas that are easy for kids to make we turned to Stamford nutritionist Jessica Moon.

Jessica Moon
Nutrition Rescue
66 Glenbrook Road
Suite 300
Stamford, CT 06902
(
203) 979-6181
www.nutritionrescue.net

Clinical Nutritionist Jessica Moon, founder of Nutrition Rescue in Stamford, counsels individuals and families looking for guidance on the best dietary choices for staying fit and healthy, or that are specialized for those who have specific food allergies or sensitivities. When it comes to school lunches, she stresses that the key is that ingredients should be interchangeable. That is so “the child can get a variety of different nutrients. Eating the same thing every day, even if it’s healthy, could still leave the child short of some vitamins and minerals.” She adds that the lunches should be simple enough to consume in the often rushed and chaotic atmosphere of the typical school cafeteria. With that in mind, here are Moon’s suggestions for school lunches kids will enjoy making and eating.


Smoothies

Moon says that smoothies are a great lunch idea for kids because it is an easy way for them to get their daily allotment of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and proteins in a form that tastes great. “They’re easy to modify as well. Not only can they be made in five minutes before school, but they take very little effort to consume.” She recommends some combination of the following ingredients:

  • frozen strawberries, bananas or blueberries
  • frozen kale or spinach (she says kids will barely notice the taste)
  • milk, milk alternatives, fruit juice or water
  • peanut or almond butter (to provide both protein and a creamier texture)
  • avocado
  • protein powder (optional)

Once they have blending their desired ingredients your kids can just pour the mixture into a thermos and they are set to go. Moon also suggests complementing their smoothie with a crunchy snack like chips or nuts to make it a more satisfying meal.

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Sandwiches

Children of all ages can put together a classic sandwich. Older kids may prefer to use an alternative to bread such as a pita or a wrap. And as Moon puts it, “the beauty of sandwiches is that there is no limit to the combination of ingredients that will make kids and parents happy.” Here are some she says to consider:

  • luncheon meat or bacon (choose a more “natural” brand like Applegate Farms)
  • leftover chicken from dinner
  • tuna or chicken salad
  • spreads such as nut butters, tahini, hummus, or avocado
  • baby spinach or baby greens (instead of lettuce)

“Kids can get excited about new ways to make a sandwich and take a bigger role in the shopping and selection of food,” she explains. “This will give them a sense of empowerment and hopefully promote a lifelong interest in good food.”

“Yummy Bowls”

Moon says these are a great idea for utilizing any of the previous days’ leftovers you have in your fridge. The idea is to create a dish that combines grains with meat protein. Some examples:

– Rice with Sliced Hot Dogs
– Pasta with Meatballs
– Quinoa with Chopped Hamburger

She adds that these should be supplemented with leftover veggies, but if none are available raw ones like baby carrots will work just as well. “Kids love to eat familiar flavors from home and it often sparks curiosity from classmates,” she says about these lunches, which can be heated on a stove or in a microwave (depending on the age of the child), and if necessary kept warm in a thermos.

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Joshua Palmes is a freelance writer covering all things Connecticut. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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