Written By: Lisa Valentine
It’s that time of year again… Back to school! One of the hardest parts as a parent is figuring out what to pack our kids for lunch. If you’re like me, you want your kids to eat healthy so they can be fueled to work at their highest potential. First start by planning ahead and go food shopping on Friday or Saturday so you can prep on Sunday afternoon. If you have older kids, have them help! Studies show when they are involved in making their meals they are more likely to eat the foods prepared!
When planing try to incorporate a healthy protein (palm sized), fruit serving (1 cup) and veggie serving (1 cup). Using a small thermos for leftover dinners is also a great way to pack a healthy lunch. TIP* To keep food hot until lunch time you will have to prep the morning of. Heat some hot water in a tea kettle and poor it into the thermos and let it sit. Then heat the food you will be using in the microwave (make it hotter then normal when heating). Before you leave for school dump the hot water out and add the heated food. Last year was my first year with a “school age child” and I experimented with various ideas from the school lunch box makeover group I was co hosting. Below were a couple favorites.
Mac & Cheese Bites – 12 servings (12 minutes to make) from Autumn Calabrese Ingredients: 4 oz of whole wheat, quinoa or bean pasta, cooked 1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or coconut milk drink) 1 1/4 cup + 1 TBS grated cheddar cheese 1 TBS corn starch 1 clove minced garlic 1/4 tsp sea salt
1. In a large skillet, combine milk, salt and garlic and bring to a simmer over low heat
2. Toss 1 1/4 cup cheese with cornstarch until coated
3. Gradually whisk cheese mixture into simmering milk until fully incorpated
4. Turn off heat and stir pasta into cheese sauce until coated
5. Line muffin pan with 12 muffin inner and divide mad & chesese evenly between cups
6. Sprinkle remaining cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes until golden on top. Healthy Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins – 12 servings (35 minutes to make) from Well Plated Ingredients: 2 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini (about 1 small /medium zucchini) 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium or large) 1/4 cup melted and cooled coconut oil 1/4 cup honey 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 2 large eggs, at room temperature (I sub with unsweetened apple sauce because my youngest has an egg allergy) 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp kosher salt 2 cups whole wheat flour or favorite flour that fits your dietary needs 1/3 cup chocolate chips (mini or regular)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.
2. Grate the zucchini, then throughly squeeze it with a paper towel to remove as much excess water as possible. Repeat as needed. If you have not already, melt the coconut oil and let come to room temperature.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer or a large mixing bowl, beat together the banana, honey, brown sugar, coconut oil, and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the eggs (make sure they are room temperature or the coconut oil may resolidify), then beat again until combined.
4. Sprinkle the cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the top of the batter, then mix to combine. Sprinkle in the flour, then mix on low speed, just until the flour disappears. By hand, fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips.
5. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them 3/4 of the way. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the muffins from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then carefully lift the muffins out of the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool completely (this will keep the muffins from becoming soggy).
I will be hosting another group in August if you would like to be a part of it for more ideas and inspiration, e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.