9 Suggestions for School Lunches
It’s back-to-school time, which means new supplies, books, sneakers… and lunch kits! One way to keep kids excited about school is by packing lunches that are real fresh and real delicious. Even better, packed lunches are an affordable and fun opportunity to expose them to a variety of foods.  Introducing a new food alongside familiar favorites can be a great way to ease them towards eating something different.
 
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it can take 15-20 exposures before a child—or an adult!—develops a taste for the new food. Even if they don’t eat the new food the first time they see it, repeated contact can lead a child to accepting the unfamiliar item.  So, while radishes might not be a hit the first time your kid sees them, keep at it and maybe someday your kid will be a veggie-eating super-star. To that end, here are some fresh ideas and tips for school lunches:
 
 
Try to follow a general template to make sure your child get a well-balanced and nutritious meal. Aim to include a good source of protein and fat alongside the carbohydrate at each meal.  For protein and fat, think cold cuts, cheese, eggs, yogurt, jerky, nuts, nut butters, hummus, beans, peas, and lentils.  For carbs, think outside the cracker box and try to include fresh fruits and veggies with every lunch.  And for dessert, one healthy option is a mix of dark chocolate chips and dried fruit.
 
Read more: LeAnne Anderson, RDN, also has some guidelines when it comes to fuel for the mind and body during school.
  
Invest in a lunch kit that has a plate with dividers to make it easier to provide a variety of foods in an attractive way.  Add a long-lasting cold pack to lunches with items that need to be kept cold.  If a microwave isn’t available for warming foods, there are insulated double wall stainless steel containers that can keep food hot for up to 12 hours.
 
Read more: Three DIY ideas to turn a lunch kit from a yawn to a “yeah!”
 
A fun dip can make fresh veggies more exciting and tasty.  You might try good quality hummus or ranch dressing (my favorites are made with avocado oil); plus, there’s always a variety of options in the refrigerated section at your local Brookshire Brothers store.  Alternatively, you can make your own zesty dips from bases like cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, or mayonnaise.  For these, experiment with a variety of fresh herbs, green onions, garlic, and spices for endless variations. One of my go-to favorites is a Creamy Garlic Herb Yogurt Dip.
 
Read more: Cottage cheese can make for great pairings with different fruits and veggies!
 
One easy-to-make entrée is a burrito bowl! All it takes is a combination of ingredients like rice, beans, corn, tomatoes, sour cream, shredded cheese, and salsa. Don’t forget to add half an avocado or guacamole for a scrumptious dose of healthy fats!
 
Read more: Choosing healthy fats is the first step to heart healthy nutrition.          
 
If your school has restrictions on products made from peanuts (to protect children with peanut allergies), try mixing up the peanut butter and jelly sandwich with new combinations. You can choose from different types of nut butters like almond butter (a super source of vitamin E!) or cashew butter.  Cream cheese and jelly is another delicious option since cream cheese is a good source of protein, fat, and calories to fill up little tummies. You might also try swapping bread for a banana or apple for even more possibilities.  And while chips are the other half of a classic sandwich lunch, you can still get creative! Consider these other great alternatives available at your local Brookshire Brothers: nuts, seeds, popcorn, dried veggie snacks, and more—all available in a variety of flavor options.
 
Read more: Whether you’re learning about peanut allergies or parent responsibility, the food culture of our society is a great thing to learn more about.
 
Breakfast for lunch is another a fun idea! Try oatmeal, yogurt, or pancakes cut into fun bite-sized shapes. For a delicious flavor of oatmeal, I recommend using diced apples, raisins, cinnamon, and/or maple syrup. As for yogurt, you’ll find that it’s a great source of healthy proteins, fats, and carbs—aka a balanced meal in and of itself! Consider buying a tub of plain full fat or whole milk yogurt, and then giving it some flavor with dried fruit, shredded coconut, slivered almonds, pecans, walnuts, unsalted sunflower seeds, granola, and/or honey.  Lastly, you might add a teaspoon of ground flax seed or chia seeds to the yogurt (or oatmeal!) to boost those nutritious omega-3 fats.
 
Read more: Nothing says breakfast like avocado toast.
 
Leftovers are your best friend when it comes to easy, ready-to-go lunches. So, when you make your delicious family dinners, pull double-duty by making a little extra and packing it up for lunch during the week. 
 
Read more: Did you know there are strategies for storing leftovers in the fridge to help them last longer? 
 
For more options with fruits and veggies, consider these:
    • One of my favorite new products is fermented sauerkraut, which is full of healthy probiotics and has a fresh salty and tangy crunch.  It can be eaten alone as a side dish or on sandwiches and hot dogs (like pickles). While it’s usually located in the refrigerated section of your Brookshire Brothers, you can also just ask your store manager, or make a product request!
    • If you don’t have time for fresh fruit, there are other good options (with minimal added sugars) to choose from: dried fruit, cut fruit packed in juice, or individually wrapped packages of unsweetened apple sauce.
    • Some great vegetable options include fresh baby carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, celery, and bell pepper strips.
 
Read more: For a refresher on what produce is currently in season, check out this summer guide!
 
For delicious and satisfying entrée options, try these: 
    • boiled eggs
    • cold cuts and cheese roll-ups
    • tortilla and cream cheese roll-ups
    • tuna salad, chicken salad, pasta salad, or egg salad on a bed of lettuce or with a side of wholesome crackers
    • cream cheese and turkey bagel-sandwiches
    • sandwiches of all varieties
You can find even more tips on the blog, as well as a recipe for Rainbow Fruit Mini-Pizza!
 
And who says adults can’t eat all this yummy stuff too?  Instead of eating out, save yourself a little time and money by packing an extra lunch for the break room.  And as always, you can visit your local Brookshire Brothers store for even more lunch inspiration.  There are real fresh real delicious options around every corner!
 

 
Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.