Originally written for Produce for Better Health Foundation and can be seen here: Fruits & Veggies More Matters : No-Cook Ideas for Kid-Friendly Lunches & Snacks : Health Benefits of Fruits & Vegetables.
No-Cook Ideas for Kid-Friendly Lunches & Snacks
School’s back in full swing! Don’t make snacks and lunches feel like homework – instead, let your kids help out and focus on the fun of creating meals. Studies have shown that kids perform better mentally and physically with proper nutrition. So to help support their learning and sports, try these simple ideas …
- Plan Ahead. There are five (5) food groups to choose from at every meal (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy). Aim for at least two (2) of them at snacks and three (3) for meals. This will help ensure interest for the taste buds, nutrients for the body, and ease of meal planning. Stock the kitchen with all forms of fruits and vegetables because dried, canned, fresh, frozen and 100% juice all provide nutrients and help keep meals interesting.
- Get the Kids Involved. Even the smallest hands can help! Have the youngest do things like set the table, put on napkins, and mix/toss a salad. Assign older kids to a side dish or have them help with grocery shopping. Lay the store ads out each week and have everyone in the house choose a new fruit or vegetable.
- Serve Up Salads. Salads are one of my favorite dishes because there isn’t a wrong way to do it – and you can use up whatever you have on hand. Here are some tasty combos to try (just dress with extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic or plain white vinegar and flat leaf parsley or Italian seasoning) …
- Mixed greens with blueberries or raspberries, reduced-fat feta, and walnuts
- Spinach with nectarine slices or strawberries, parmesan shreds, and grilled chicken
- Romaine with reduced-fat blue cheese, dried apricots, and pecans or almonds
- Don’t Be Afraid to Dunk. Fat-free Greek yogurt is a creamy way to make both fruits and veggies fun – and it counts towards a dairy serving so it’s a choice to feel good about. Try plain yogurt mixed with some Italian seasoning or ranch dressing for veggies, or vanilla with cinnamon for fruit. Chunks of melon, grapes, and slices of peaches, nectarines, apples, and pears are delicious dippers. This is easy for after school but works for party appetizers, too.
- Snazzy Sandwiches. For a tasty treat that won’t get traded, choose a whole-grain bread or tortilla wrap (read the ingredients and look for fiber), then top with a combination of one of these …
- Peanut butter and banana slices (pack the banana and a plastic knife for slicing later to avoid browning)
- Turkey with lettuce, mustard and slices of apples, or pears, or sprinkled with dried cranberries
- Ham rolled up with pineapple slices
- Your favorite lunchmeat piled high with cold roasted veggies (try bell pepper strips, zucchini, summer squash) or layered with cucumber, lettuce, and avocado