Back-to-School Lunches and Snacks
Back-to-school lunches and high-protein snacks for kids are a snap when you keep meat and cheese on hand, along with fresh veggies and fruits.
Back to school is an exciting time for parents and kids. Along with the excitement can come a bit of nerves, so help to ease the transition by stocking up on a variety of tasty foods to make back-to-school lunches and after-school snacks that kids will love.
To keep kids interested in eating well, foods offered should be enjoyable and fun! While there are plenty of over-the-top ways to cut foods into shapes like animals and other designs, kids will mostly appreciate a wide range of food and snack choices found in their lunch box or after-school snack plate. Serve snacks in colorful plates and cups to help brighten the mood.
Be sure to stock up on high-protein snacks for kids to feel full longer. That’s important during the school day, when kids need to stay focused on learning and not on growling stomachs.
After school, a few bites of high-protein meats and cheeses keep kids from constantly heading to the pantry for sugary snacks that spoil dinner appetites.
Here’s a quick list of foods that contain protein and are simple for snacks and school lunches:
- Meat (jerky and meat sticks, any fully cooked meat cut into small chunks with a side of dipping sauce, summer sausage)
- Fish (like tuna, either plain or mixed into tuna salad and served with crackers or celery sticks)
- Dairy products (various types of Wisconsin cheese, milk and yogurt)
- Nuts and peanut butter
- Hard-boiled eggs
Other foods that are wholesome additions to a snack or school lunch are:
- Oatmeal and granola
- Veggies like steamed edamame, broccoli, baked potatoes, and veggie dips like hummus
- Whole grains, like mixed brown rice medleys or whole wheat toast
While brown paper bags still grace the lunchroom, there’s more lunch box variety than ever before. Let kids help pick out lunch containers that they’ll enjoy opening every school day. Containers that have different sections, like the Japanese-style “bento boxes,” are popular. Colors and patterns can coordinate with backpacks or showcase a child’s creative side. Using a lunch box with either multiple containers or compartments helps you see how much variety you can pack into school lunches. Check out a huge variety of school lunch ideas and snacks on Pinterest.
Craving Crunchy Snacks
Everyone craves salty or sweet snacks on a regular basis. Keep that in mind when composing a list of snacks and fill-ins for school lunches. In fact, it’s a natural instinct to eat crunchy foods. Our early ancestors knew by trial and error that crunchy foods were fresh.
- Pretzels, potato chips, veggie chips, tortilla chips
- Celery and carrot sticks, bell pepper sticks
- Mixed nuts
- Dried banana chips
- Snack or trail mix
- Toasted crisps with cheese spreads
Kids go crazy for sweet treats. The good news is that, eaten in moderation, sweet snacks can be added to a well-rounded diet. According to an article on WebMD.com, experts say that denying sweets will backfire. Instead, allow sweets a few times a week in limited amounts.
Portion-controlled sweet snacks are becoming more prevalent and are easy to pop into a school lunch or after-school snack. Super-small desserts like Petits Fours (mini layer cakes) offer lots of flavor combinations that will appeal to many taste preferences. Petits Fours are fun for special occasions or to perk up kids who may be having a tough day.
Sweet snack options:
- Dried fruit
- A piece of chocolate
- Fresh fruit dipped in chocolate
- Chocolate-covered snacks like pretzels and nuts
- Licorice or fruit snacks
A good habit to get into is reading food labels to find exact serving sizes and stick to them. Encourage kids to read labels too; involving them in the process of selecting their snacks for back-to-school lunches and snacks will educate them about making good food choices for the long term.