Many parents prefer to pack a lunch from home instead of purchasing a school lunch for their child.  Even though school just started a few weeks ago, you may have already run out of ideas for your child’s packed lunch.  The traditional sack lunch consisting of a sandwich, chips and cola is not only boring but is probably not the healthiest choice for your child.

Your child’s packed lunch should be nutritious providing protein, vitamins, minerals and energy which helps to keep a child’s brain fueled and alert for the classroom. What you pack for your child’s lunch is going to affect their learning and behavior.

Creating quick, healthy school lunch meals at home can be fun and rewarding but also a challenge.  Below are a few tips to help ease the challenge of packing your child’s school lunch.

Tips for packing healthy school lunches:

  • Plan ahead. Over the weekend plan a sack school lunch menu for the upcoming week.  Shop for and have available all food items on the menu.
  • Prep & pack day before. Mornings before school are very hectic so pack school lunches the night before. Have your child help you prepare and pack their school lunch. They will be more likely to eat it if they are involved in preparing their own meal.
  • Include protein. Protein is critical to support brain function. Parents must include a source of protein in their child’s packed school lunch every day. Sources of protein include deli meats, chicken, tuna fish, peanut butter, almond butter, boiled eggs, cheese, yogurt, nuts and peanuts.
  • NO canned soda! The average 12 ounce can of soda contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar!  In place of soda pack a bottle of water, 100% fruit juice or a can of vegetable juice.
  • Make it interesting. Try different types of breads for sandwiches such as pita pockets and tortilla wraps. In place of the typical sandwich try cheese and whole wheat crackers, pasta salad, fruit salad, vegetable salad or dinner leftovers.
  • Quick foods. Always have healthy food items on hand that you can easily throw into a sack lunch such as string cheese, fresh fruit, dried fruit, veggie sticks, granola bars, trail mix, nuts, sweet potato chips, popcorn, beef or turkey jerky and peanut butter cookies.

Take home message: With a little planning, packing your child’s school lunch can be quick, easy and nutritious. Remember it is your responsibility as the parent to select nutritious foods that will fuel your child’s brain for learning in the classroom.

Elizabeth’s Reading Pick“Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love” by Katie Morford .  This book is full of recipes, ideas and strategies for packing creative and healthy lunches for kids.  

Gluten Free Casein Free Recipe:

Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 36 cookies

(These cookies are not real sweet.  Add a little extra honey or 1 teaspoon of stevia if you prefer a sweeter-tasting cookie.)

¼ cup canola oil

½ cup peanut butter

½ cup honey

1 egg (Eggland’s Best)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

¾ cup brown rice flour

½ cup sorghum flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon Rumford baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

2 ¼ teaspoons xanthan gum

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

In a mixing bowl, combine oil, peanut butter, honey and egg. Mix well, until light and thick.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Beat until a shiny-looking dough forms.  Do not overbeat (beyond when dough forms); otherwise the shape of the cookies will not be as pretty.

Shape teaspoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls.  Place onto the prepared pan.  Press with tines of fork twice to form a crisscross pattern on top of cookie.  Cookie should be no more than ¼-inch thick.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until lightly browned at the bottom edges.  Transfer from the cookie sheet to a rack and let cool completely.

Enjoy!

This home-made peanut butter cookie recipe is a great alternative to pre-packaged store bought cookies loaded with sugar, Trans fat, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and other additives.  The ingredients canola oil and Eggland’s Best egg are a source of omega-3 fatty acids; and peanut butter is an excellent source of protein.  This recipe is Gluten and Casein Free.  These peanut butter cookies are a healthy dessert to pack in your child’s school lunch!