Ideas to Beat the School Lunch/Snack Rut


{Disclaimer: BurlingtonVT Moms Blog has partnered with Healthy Living for this sponsored post as part of an ongoing relationship. While we received a form of compensation for this post, the opinions expressed are entirely the writer’s own!}

My daughter is 4 and has been going to preschool three days a week for the last year. Our plan was to keep her on this schedule until next fall when she would start kindergarten. At the end of the summer due to some special circumstances, we chose to enroll her in the pre-kindergarten class where she was attending preschool. Suddenly, I had a school kid who was going to school five days a week with big kids. This totally snuck up on me and I will save the post about the emotional roller coaster I have been on for another time. Let’s just say there have been some tears and they weren’t hers. *smile*

This post is about something equally important, food.

All of a sudden, I had to come up with five days of lunches and snacks and think about after school snacks that were healthy and ready to eat in the pantry or fridge. When our daughter was in preschool, we had gotten into a rut of sandwiches and chicken nuggets. I was relying too much on packaged snacks that were easy but were full of sugar and were not filling or good for her. I wanted to change that and to have a fresh start. Lucky for me, Healthy Living provided me with a gift certificate to specifically shop for school lunch and snack items at their wonderful store and write a post about it. Their only request was for me to look at the bulk food section for ideas and possibilities.

To prepare for my shopping trip at Healthy Living, I did some research on school lunches and was blown away by all the information. There are moms who blog only about their children’s lunch and post beautiful photographs of each day’s offering which made me feel completely inadequate. I can’t compete with these mom’s, I thought, but the least I could do was try to send her to school with healthy options and more variety.

I printed a few recipes and made a shopping list with the idea of looking to see if any items were offered in the bulk section first. I also looked at snacks that would be easy, healthy and appealing to a four year old with a major sweet tooth.

Ideas to beat school lunch rut

My idea was to make a few lunch and snack items that I could freeze or keep in the fridge. Items like English muffin pizzas, bean and cheese mini burritos and soup were all things I could make in bulk on the weekends and freeze.

Ideas to beat school lunch rut

I also wanted to work on healthier snack items. For snacks I focused on the bulk food section shopping for ingredients to make homemade protein snacks that could be kept in the fridge for a week. I also looked at sweet snacks in the bulk section and to my delight found a huge selection of chocolate in all varieties, chocolate covered nuts and dried fruit. I really paid attention to the labels and found that dark chocolate covered nuts and dark chocolate dollops offered a perfect sweet snack with reasonable amounts of sugar.

Ideas to beat school lunch rut

Lastly, to tackle the after school snack issue, my mom gave me the idea to prepare a snack tray that I could bring in the car. I fill it with cheese, crackers and fruit with a few sweet items. This is her snack until dinner. She can pick at it on our way home, since she is always starving the minute she gets in the car and after we get home if she gets hungry. This really helped us avoid the “no snacking until dinner” argument, which has made our afternoons much happier.

Ideas to beat school lunch rut

After my research and shopping trip here are my tips and tricks to healthier more exciting school lunch/snacks that your kids will actually eat:

  1. Get your kids involved. Ask them what they want and have them help prepare their lunch.
  2. Prepare as much as you can on the weekends and the evening before.
  3. Shop bulk foods for snacks, nuts, seeds, flour, beans and trail mix. Most grocery stores offer a bulk section these days and buying in bulk usually means you save money by not paying for the extra packaging.
  4. Read labels and be informed. Some items that may seem healthy are very deceiving. The American Heart Association recommends 3 teaspoons of sugar for children. 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon.  In other words the “healthy” organic smoothie that I was giving my daughter as an afternoon snack has 6.5 teaspoons of sugar in one serving! Yikes!
  5. Make lunch fun. Using cookie cutters to make cute shapes and leaving notes for your kids will make them look forward to their lunch.
  6. Think outside the sandwich. Soups, hard boiled eggs, and macaroni make great alternatives to the good old sandwich, although in my opinion there is absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich!
  7. Breakfast for lunch. Bagels with cream cheese and jelly, egg burritos and frittatas are also fun alternatives.
  8. Mix homemade with healthy packaged foods to save time. Fruit cups, animal crackers and individual packages cheese make great snacks and you can buy them in small packages that can be thrown in the lunch box.
  9. Take advantage of the occasional school prepared hot lunch if offered.
  10. Try things that are not “typical” kid food. My daughter has a taste for several things that are not typical for kids. She loves plain yogurt, olives, dates and pumpkin seeds. All are healthy and make good options for lunch or snack items.
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A city girl at heart, I moved to Vermont in 2005 and now can’t imagine calling any other place home. Born and half raised in Iran (I moved here when I was 12), I moved a lot before making Vermont home. I live in Essex with my amazing multi-cultural and multi-racial family. My little family consists of my wonderful Canadian husband, my strong, smart and beautiful little girl, Zara (June 2010), and our sweet chocolate lab. I work for the State of Vermont as a Housing Program Officer and own Tala, Taste of Persia, specializing in delicious Persian sweet treats. I am a reluctant runner, love to entertain and shop. My passions are social justice and politics and travel.



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