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Our school lunch and snack menu has been finalized!
Sorry, no cute bento character faces. As much as I admire those who do it, lunch art is not a realistic task for me. Instead my kids get a mix n’ match menu! Easy for me, fun for them.
Once I devised a ‘how to pack a school lunch‘ plan, I sat down with our son and hashed out a whole food, nutritious, easy to follow, mix and match, lunch menu. I hope the menu lasts all school year, but if we need to switch things up, I will revamp it over the Christmas holiday.
Don’t forget to download your own school lunch menu worksheet:
Salmon: Most weeks we eat salmon, so it will be easy to set a small serving aside for school lunch. Salmon is a great source of protein, healthy fats including omega-3 fatty acids which are important for brain function. Also wild salmon is a good source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is an important nutrient that has been linked to both the adaptive and innate immune systems. As parents, we all know that our school aged children need an immune boost to beat those classroom germs.
Pumpkin seed butter is a nice alternative to nut butters. Not only is it a good source of protein it is also an excellent source of magnesium. Magnesium is an essential mineral required by the body for maintaining normal muscle and nerve function, it supports a healthy immune system, and is a key nutrient involved in building strong bones.
Beans and legumes (black beans, chickpeas, lentils) are easy and versatile. Season with mexican spices for black bean soft tacos, or process into a spread and serve as hummus with crackers for dipping. Lentils are quick, they take about 20 minutes to cook, and can be fried in a quesdilla.
Here are a few of my favourite products:
Silver Hills Sprouted Grain Breads (and they are Canadian too!)
*I prefer gluten free tortillas for quesadillas because they stay crunchy.
Select a variety of vegetables and fruits your child enjoys eating. You don’t want these fruits and veggies making it back home. Remember to select produce that is easy to acquire all year around, or consider packing frozen produce during the winter months. In the winter, produce must travel long distances to reach its destination. It is often harvested before it is ripe and ripens on the way or at the final destination. Also, during those travels the produce is exposed heat and light which may degrade some sensitive micronutrients. Frozen produce is harvested at peak ripeness, therefore containing maximum nutrients and immediately frozen, making frozen produce a nutritious choice during the off season.
I plan on doing a lot of baking this weekend! Once I stock the freezer I should be able to keep it stocked by baking once a week to maintain the supply. When packing a bake good as part of a healthy lunch, keep in mind sugar content and portion size. I will bake all the muffins in mini muffin pans and serve one muffin as a snack. The following recipes are all vegan, gluten free and nut free. I also like to add extra protein to all my snack recipes by using bean flours or hemp protein. The added protein combined with whole grains helps maintain a healthy blood sugar balance. We don’t want our young minds to have a late afternoon sugar crash.
This category is optional. You may find that the following four categories provide enough food and nutrients to sustain your child all day. You could use this compartment for a beverage. I plan to pack a separate water bottle. My son drinks more water than can fit in the his lunchbox. Or use this compartment to select a few foods that you would like to encourage your child to eat. You never know, if they choose it , they may eat it…
Here are few extras we added to the menu:
Smoothie Ice Pop: We make a smoothie every morning, so it easy to freeze any left over smoothie to make ice pops. Smoothies are great because you can pack them full of nutrients (dark leafy greens, flax, beans). The ice pops are dual purpose, they will also keep the lunch cool.
Chia Seed Pudding: I love chia seed pudding because there is no cooking required. You can even prepare it right in the lunchbox and it will be ready by lunchtime. It doesn’t get much easier than that! Chia seed pudding is also very versatile, chocolate, fruit, the possibilities are endless. When liquids are added to chia seeds, they form a gel. This also happens in your stomach, slowing the conversion of the chia seed carbohydrates to sugar.
Popcorn, a light, whole grain snack. Top with a little butter or EarthBalance (for a vegan alternative) and nutritional yeast for a vitamin B12 boost. Vitamin B12 is important for red blood cell development and immune function.
Roasted Chickpeas: This is a crunchy snack that can be prepared in advance and in large quantities. Every site I have read suggests doubling the recipe. They are that delicious! There is a seasoning combination to meet everyone’s preferences.
Edamame (green soybean) is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, thiamin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of vitamin K, folate and manganese. These beans can be found pre-shelled in the frozen food section of most grocery stores. Grab and go or should I say pack and send.
Our final menu was printed and laminated. My son will use a dry erase marker to choose one item from each column to pack for each lunch.
Contact me and I will help you customize and balance your school lunch menu.