Healthy Lunch Ideas During COVID-19On September 16, 2020 by Calgary's Child
by Andrea Holwegner, Health Stand Nutritional Consulting Inc.
Finding healthy lunch ideas for kids isn’t always easy. As many parents and childcare providers are back to packing lunches for kids, this year during COVID-19 we have some additional challenges to contend with.
Most schools have banned the use of microwaves to reduce the number of touch points which further reduced some of the kid-friendly options for simple healthy lunch ideas. With cold and flu season just around the corner you might also be trying to figure out the best options for optimizing immune function. Since nutrition is also a key factor in helping kids learn, grow and stay healthy for life, here are some ideas:
Bento Box Lunch Theme
Bento boxes are fun for kids of all ages since it is fun to open a visually pleasing lunch box full of different colors, textures, shapes and sizes. Many kids also love foods in different compartments instead of mixed together as they can sometimes taste fresher or be more appealing eg. a deconstructed sandwich or noodle bowl with separate ingredients just might be more appealing than one that is assembled.
When assembling a healthy bento box, aim for the 3 components of a balanced meal:
- Grains/starches: such as bread, pita, wraps, crackers, homemade muffins, popcorn, pasta shapes or tortellini (plain or with salad dressing), cold potato wedges, cold rice, quinoa salad or other grains.
- Veggies and fruit: such as fresh fruit, frozen berries, canned unsweetened fruit, dried fruit, raw veggies, leftover cooked/grilled veggies, or Greek/caprese salad.
- Source of protein: such as leftover meat/poultry/seafood, legumes (such as chick peas, lentils, black beans, refried beans and more), cheese (sliced, cubes, grated), yogurt, cottage cheese, canned tuna/salmon, hard cooked eggs, tofu, seeds.
Breakfast for Lunch Theme
Most kids rank breakfast themed lunches as some of their favorite. These can be served cold or warm in a thermos (preheat the thermos with boiling water before adding the theme to help it retain warmth).
Ideas to try are:
- Cold toasted English muffin with back bacon, cheese and egg (optional as some kids will eat this cold while others maybe not). Serve with a container of cherry tomatoes and snap peas as well as a piece of fruit.
- Cold pancake sandwich with cream cheese, nut-free wow butter or sunflower seed butter and jam. Serve with sliced kiwi, melon or watermelon.
- Thermos with sliced breakfast sausage (or side container of Greek yogurt) and leftover weekend waffles (try this pumpkin waffle recipe or berry barley waffle recipe) with maple syrup. Serve with a container of fresh or frozen berries, sliced apples or pears or mango cubes with a splash of juice to make a “homemade fruit cocktail.”
- Overnight oats with milk, yogurt, hemp hearts, chia seeds and fruit. Try this recipe but replace the almonds with sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds: Overnight oats with prunes and pears or this dairy-free overnight oats recipe.
Bite-Sized Balls Lunch Theme
Kids are big on finger foods so why not try a lunch with bite-sized energy balls, meatballs, bean croquettes, zucchini cheese bites, falafels and more!
Here are some tasty ideas to try:
- Bean croquettes: these are some of our families favorite vegetarian meals. Serve warm or cold with ranch dressing or sour cream mixed with lime and cilantro. Round out the meal with crackers, raw carrot sticks and grapes.
- Meatballs. If you have a favorite family recipe use this and serve warm in a thermos or cold. Need a recipe? Try the plain recipe found here on our blog and skip the sauce: Meatball recipe. Make a giant batch and toss these into the freezer in lunch sized portions for busy days.
- Nut-free energy balls. Serve with one of the above bento box themes!
Simple falafals served with pita bread and hummus (or a side of cold couscous or cracker) as well as cucumber sticks and fresh fruit.
For more great COVID-19 lunch ideas and dozens more healthy and delicious meal ideas, visit healthstandnutrition.com!
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