We all want to offer our kids wholesome and yummy food, but coming up with new and healthy lunch ideas can be a little tricky sometimes.
I know the struggle all too well – we have the best of intentions, we whip up lunch only to have half-eaten food and kids that complain that they’re still hungry!
Well after a few years of trial and error, I’ve had my fair share of hits and misses – hopefully this FREE Printable cheat sheet (scroll down) will provide you with some great inspiration and ideas, and a starting point for creating some really cool meals that kids will enjoy. This cheat sheet offers great lunchtime inspiration for kids of any age, whether it be for at home, a school lunchbox or even an after school snack.
While its easy to fall into a rut, I find my kids gravitate to new and interesting food ideas and choices. Its important to mix it up a bit and to get enough of the right yummy ingredients to keep those tummies full.
I’ve broken it up into 5 main categories:
This is self explanatory but try to offer a variety of colours and whatever is in season to maximise the nutritional content.
I recommend cutting fruit into smaller more manageable portions. In my experience, kids are far more likely to eat fruit if it’s in bite-sized portions or even cut into fun shapes or served on skewers. A whole apple can seem intimidating, but a quarter apple is very inviting.
Remember to cut fruit such as grapes and strawberries length ways and in quarters in order to reduces the risk of choking.
Many kids can be a little fussy with veggies so by making these more exciting, they are far more likely to give them a try. Cut veggies into smaller portions and offer dips such as hummus for a fun mealtime activity.
Adding veggies into fritters, quiche or a savoury muffin is a great way to increase their vegetable intake.
Children need roughly 4-6 portions of carbohydrates daily in order to provide them with adequate energy and fuel for their developing brains and bodies. There are many sources of carbohydrates including fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans.
Carbohydrates can be healthy or unhealthy depending on it’s source.
Healthy sources include unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. These promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.
Unhealthy sources include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease.
When choosing grains for a healthy diet, it is important to choose unprocessed whole grains whenever possible. Aim to have a minimum of 50% of your grains come from a wholegrain source. Examples include:
- Gluten containing whole grains: Barley, Bulgar, Oats, Rye and Spelt
- Gluten-free whole grains: Amaranth, Brown Rice, Buckwheat, Corn, Millet, Quinoa, Sorghum, Teff and Wild Rice
Experts all agree that the amount of protein we consume is far less important than the quality of protein. Harvard School of Public Health has looked at all the science and recommend the following when it comes to protein consumption.
- Get your protein from plants when possible:
Legumes: lentils, beans, peas, edamame/soybeans, peanuts.
Nuts and Seeds: almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, hemp seeds, squash and pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds.
Whole Grains: teff, wheat, quinoa, rice, wild rice, millet, oats, buckwheat.
Other: some vegetables and fruits contain higher quantities of protein including corn, broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts, and artichokes.
- Upgrade your sources of animal protein.
Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck) and a variety of seafood (fish, crustaceans, mollusks) are your best bet.
Eggs can be a good choice, too.
Dairy foods are best in moderation (think closer to 1-2 servings a day; and incorporating yoghurt is probably a better choice than getting all your servings from milk or cheese).
Red meat—including beef, pork, lamb, veal, mutton, and goat meat should be consumed on a more limited basis.
Processed meats, such as bacon, hot dogs, sausages, and cold cuts should be avoided.
Seeds and Nuts
Seeds and nuts are a great protein source but I have decided to keep these separate, primarily due to allergies. Allergies are becoming more prevalent and many daycare centres and schools are avoiding nuts. There are still seed alternatives that can be used such as tahini, sunflower seed butter, or bliss balls and muesli bars made from seeds rather than nuts.
I hope this helps and feel free to print and pin it up on your fridge for quick and easy access 🙂
Happy lunch prep!