Back-to-School Lunch and Snack Ideas
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. Here is what to load up in lunchboxes and pantries.
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 boxes or after-school snack plate.
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 with 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.
Back-to-school season is a great time to prioritize healthy eating habits for your children, as it sets them up for success both academically and physically. Here are some healthy back-to-school lunch ideas:
- Sandwiches or Wraps: Sandwiches or wraps can be a great way to incorporate healthy proteins and veggies into your child’s diet. Use whole-grain bread or wraps, add a lean protein like turkey or grilled chicken, and plenty of veggies like lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and avocado.
- Salads: Salads are a fantastic way to incorporate a wide range of nutrients into your child’s diet. Use a mix of greens, like spinach or kale, and add a variety of colorful veggies, like carrots, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Top with a protein source like grilled chicken or chickpeas and a healthy fat like avocado or nuts.
- Pasta salads: Pasta salads can be a great way to incorporate whole grains into your child’s diet. Use whole-grain pasta and add veggies like cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and bell peppers. Top with a lean protein like grilled chicken or tofu and a simple vinaigrette dressing.
- Bento boxes: Bento boxes are a fun and creative way to incorporate a variety of healthy foods into your child’s lunch. Include a mix of whole grains, like brown rice or quinoa, lean protein sources like grilled chicken or hard-boiled eggs, and plenty of veggies like carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, and edamame.
- Hummus and veggie wraps: Use whole-grain wraps or pitas and spread them with hummus. Add a mix of veggies like cucumber, bell peppers, and lettuce, and roll them up into a tasty and healthy wrap.
- Fruit and yogurt parfaits: Layer Greek yogurt with fresh fruit like berries or sliced bananas. Top with a sprinkle of granola for a healthy and satisfying snack.
Remember to incorporate plenty of water and limit sugary drinks to keep your child hydrated and healthy throughout the school day.
High-Protein Lunchbox Snacks
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 in the classroom and not on growling stomachs.
High-protein snacks are a great way to keep your child feeling full and energized throughout the day. Here are some good protein-rich snacks that will fit in lunchboxes:
- Turkey or chicken slices: Turkey or chicken slices are a lean source of protein and can be rolled up with cheese or veggies for a satisfying snack.
- Hard-boiled eggs: Hard-boiled eggs are a convenient and healthy source of protein that can be easily packed in a lunchbox.
- Veggies like steamed edamame, broccoli, and roasted chickpeas. Roasted chickpeas are a crunchy and high-protein snack that can be seasoned with spices like paprika or cumin for added flavor.
- Cheese sticks or cubes: Cheese is a good source of protein and calcium and can be packed in a lunchbox as cheese sticks or cubes.
- Nut butter and celery or apple slices: Nut butter, such as peanut or almond butter, is a good source of protein and healthy fats and can be paired with celery or apple slices for a tasty snack.
- Beef sticks & jerky: Beef treats are a convenient and high-protein snack that can be packed in a lunchbox for a quick and easy snack on the go.
Remember to choose high-quality protein sources that are appropriate for your child’s age and dietary restrictions, and pack them in appropriate containers to keep them fresh and prevent spills.
After School Snacks
For after school, fill your refrigerator with healthy snacks that either can’t go or fit in a lunch box. This will keep kids from constantly heading to the pantry for sugary snacks that spoil dinner appetites. Here are some high-protein refrigerated snacks:
- Wisconsin Cheese: Cheese is a good source of protein and calcium and can be stored in the refrigerator for easy access. Cheese sticks & cubes provide convenient finger food for snacking.
- Hard-boiled eggs: Hard-boiled eggs are a great source of protein and can be stored in the refrigerator for easy access.
- Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt is a good source of protein and can be topped with fresh fruit or granola for added flavor and texture.
- Hummus: Hummus is a dip made from chickpeas and is a good source of protein and fiber. It can be paired with cut-up veggies or whole-grain crackers for a tasty snack.
- Deli meat: Deli meat, such as turkey or ham, is a good source of protein and can be rolled up with cheese or veggies for a satisfying snack. Also, summer sausage, paired with sliced cheese and wholegrain crackers is always a favorite.
- Fish (like tuna, either plain or mixed into tuna salad, and served with crackers or celery sticks)
- Cottage cheese: Cottage cheese is a high-protein snack that can be topped with fresh fruit or nuts for added flavor and texture.
- Tuna or chicken salad: Tuna or chicken salad made with Greek yogurt or mayonnaise can be a high-protein snack that can be paired with whole-grain crackers or cut-up veggies.
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
- Granola bars
- 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.