Tips for Making Healthy School Lunches that Kids Will Actually Eat

healthy school lunches

Back to school can be challenging enough without having to think about making healthy school lunches that your kids will actually eat. Packing kids lunches is not always an easy task. As parents it can be challenging figuring out what to put in there that won’t come back at the end of the day half eaten and you’re wondering what your child had for lunch that day.

There are many ideas on recipes and creative things to put in kid’s lunches that will entice the kids to eat a healthy well balanced lunch but what I have learned is it is not all the fancy recipes and creativity that does the trick, though that certainly may help, it is knowing what your kids like and putting those items into their lunches that is the key. Or one of. In order to make a healthy school lunch that your kids will actually eat I have discovered the following tips that will create success.

Tips for Making Healthy School Lunches

1.Put in foods that you know your kids like – this is not the time to try out this new healthy food recipes. If kids don’t know what it is they will likely not touch it or tentatively take a bite and skip it. The best time to try a new food or recipe is at home, where you can offer a supportive and happy environment. If you discover that they like it, then you can pop it in their lunch.

healthy school lunches2. Get the kids to help – depending on the age of the child they can help or do it all on their own. Research shows that when kids participate in creating their own meals that they are more likely to eat it.

3. Offer them choice – this can be a win win situation. You as the parent can choose two healthy options and ask them which one they would like, ie the tuna sandwich or the ham. The child feels empowered because they got to choose what they wanted and you are happy because they have made a healthy choice that you are happy with.

4. Have variety – put in a variety of healthy items into your child’s lunch but in smaller portions. This way they have lots to choose from and enjoy and food is not wasted. My daughter often has a sandwich in her lunch but usually eats her spinach dip, apple, muffin and a bit of her sandwich. She is happy and is full and I know that she has gotten a variety of nutrients into her growing  body. It’s ok that she did not eat all of her sandwich as she saves it for the next day. The point is if I had only put in the sandwich and apple then she would have likely still been hungry and not had enough energy for her afternoon. There is also value in having variety from day to day or week to week. Change it up! as no one really likes the same thing day after day after day.

healthy sweet treats for kids5. Add in a healthy sweet treat – who doesn’t love a little sweet treat in their lunch? The kids will love it and see it as a bonus. There are lots of recipes out there for healthy sweet treats that you can feel good about putting into your kids lunch. Ones that are delicious and rich in nutrients so even if they eat that first you know that they are still getting good healthy stuff.

6. Make lunches fun and interesting – adding a little creativity to your kids lunches can not only make it more enticing to eat but can make it fun for you as well. There are many quick easy things that you can do like making faces out of their vegetables, cutting cheese out in shapes, make two tone sandwiches, etc.

7. Make lunch the night before – this takes so much pressure off you and makes mornings smoother and easier, with one less thing to do before you head out the door. If you make it the night before (I do everything except the sandwiches as I like them fresh), then you have time to put things in that are healthy and have the kids participate without everyone having to feel rushed and just tossing in whatever so the kids have at least something for lunch. When you’re not rushed you make better clearer decisions and it enables you to do any extra prep if you need to.

how to make tacos with kids8. Lastly, talk to your kids about their lunches. Ask them what they would like in them, offering a variety of choices that you are happy with. Ask them each day what they ate and enjoyed, what they didn’t like. Did they have enough in their lunch? Having a dialogue about their lunch not only gives you an idea of what they need and like (yes kids tastes can change often) but also helps you create healthy lunches that they will eat. One thing that is very important is to make sure that you do not reprimand your kids for not eating something or become upset, this will have the opposite effect of what you want, to get them to eat. Instead, ask them why they did not eat it – it may be as simple as they were full – or if they didn’t like it – ask them what they would like instead – again offering them choices. For example, if they didn’t eat their apple and tell you they’re tired of apples, offer them a couple other fruits that you would be happy with.

The two most important things that will help you create healthy school lunches for your kids are putting in what they like and getting them to participate. It can also be a great opportunity to spend time with your kids in the busy day doing something you have to do anyway. And guess what? If they help that means you have a little more time for yourself in the evening because lunch is already done.

Favorite Healthy Lunch Recipes

That being said it’s always nice to have a pool of recipes to pull from to create variety in your lunches. Here is a list of some of our favorite healthy lunch recipes for you to try (and remember if it’s new to you, try it at home on a weekend first before popping it into your kid’s lunch).

Veggies & Dip

Wraps

Salads

Muffins

Healthy Sweet Treats

Do you have a favorite healthy lunch recipe? Share in the comments below.

Kids Healthy Cooking – Healthy Sweet Treats

IMG_6963As human beings one of our biggest vices is all things sweet. The same goes for our kids as well, they prefer bananas over carrots, the cookie over the banana and so on. But what if we could create healthy sweet treats for kids that they would not only love and meet their need for sweet, but would provide them with a nutritional impact full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients?

When we decided to go sugar free at our house I got a lot of looks from other people and questions about how can I deny them all the yummy things that are part of a regular kids life, like cupcakes, chocolates and cookies. The truth is they have never been denied, they still enjoy all those things at our house and more. The difference is not in the taste which is just as yummy if not more so than the ‘original’ – but in what they are made of. We have simply switched to natural sweeteners and added in foods that are super high in nutrients. And honestly they not only gobble them up but request them.

It is easy to make the switch at your house too. Just start slowly adding in one or two recipes and go from there. Make it easy. Plus if you get the kids involved in making these healthy sweet treats your chances of them eating them goes up simply because they have helped.

Also starting with ingredients and foods that they like is key to success when getting kids to eat and try new things. If you pick something they like, they are already interested and will be more open. This is why just before Valentine’s Day in our Mini Chefs class I chose two healthy sweet treat recipes for kids that were chocolate. You should have seen the kids eyes get big and how excited they got when I told them what we were making that day was chocolate (same thing happened when we made the chocolate banana smoothie a few weeks ago).

They were all so excited to try it when it was ready to eat, even though they had watched some ‘weird’ ingredients go in like avocado and chia seeds. Chocolate overruled it all.

Raw Chocolate Pudding

The thing I love about this recipe is the fact that you simply put all the ingredients in the blender and mix. In just minutes you have a smooth, fluffy and delicious chocolate pudding.

2 ripe bananas, peeled and slicedhealthy sweet treats for kids

1 avocado, pitted and peeled

2 tbsp. raw cacao powder (this is different than cocao powder)

1 tsp. agave nectar

Put all ingredients in blender in the order listed. Start on low, slowly turn speed up to high. Blend for 30 seconds on high or until desired consistency is reached. *it’s sweet as is, but if you’d like to increase sweetness add more agave nectar to taste – agave is twice as sweet as sugar so use small amounts and taste before adding more 

Avocados are fantastic additions to recipes. Not only are they mild in taste, they are high in vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin K, B5, B6, C and E as well as Omega 3’s. They offer a lot of health benefits like improved mood, reduced stress, good eye health and more. They are also a great food that actually curbs sugar cravings! Because they are high in healthy fats they slow digestion and prevent the body’s blood sugar from spiking after eating. It is also true that when we crave sugar it is often because we are missing certain nutrients and adding a healthy fat will curb this craving as the body becomes satisfied.

No Bake Chocolate Macaroons

1 bananahealthy sweet treats for kids

¼ c. coconut oil, melted

¼ c. pure maple syrup

½ tsp. vanilla

6 tbsp. cacao powder

1.5 c. unsweetened coconut

1 tbsp. chia seeds

small pinch sea salt

In a medium size bowl mash banana well until there are no clumps. Stir in melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Sift cacao powder and stir into banana mixture. Stir in chia seeds, coconut and salt.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop a teaspoon at a time onto parchment paper. Put in freezer for 20 minutes or until firm. Store in freezer until ready to enjoy.

Makes approx 15 macaroons

Chia seeds are not only high in dietary fibre and protein as well as many other vitamins, they make you feel full as well as being an ingredient that stabilizes blood sugar. Cacao powder is rich in vitamins and nutrients such as iron, antioxidants and high in B Vitamins. Cacao does differ from cocoa as though they come from the same plant the difference is in how they are processed and the amount of nutrients that are left in it. Cacao is also considered a superfood while cocoa is not.healthy sweet treats for kids

So have fun, enjoy! not only will the kids love these healthy sweet treats you may find that you love them to (I have a hard time eating only one chocolate macaroon at a time…) They are quick easy and so yummy you and your kids will forget that they are actually good for you.

Next week pancakes with super cool faces!

Kids Healthy Cooking – How to Make Tacos

how to make tacos with kidsTacos are one of those great foods that are an quick easy dinner solution that you can easily incorporate many food groups (including vegetables) and taste delicious. They are also a fabulous way to get the kids involved in helping make dinner as there is lots of scooping and use of their hands. You may think it will create a big mess, but here are some easy ways how to make tacos with the kids and be successful!

How to Make Tacos with Kids

1. Prep in advance – Chop, grate, cut the ingredients you are using in advance and put them into separate bowls that the kids can easily scoop or grab things out of. Place a spoon with each item so they don’t mix them.

2. Provide a variety of ingredients – in Mini Chefs we used just lettuce and tomato and cheese, but you could include avocado, cucumber, spinach…basically any vegetable. Providing variety will not only makes the kids curious but it will also encourage them to try a little, especially when they are making their own.

3. Use some kind of dip or spread – sour cream, Veganaise or mayonaise, guacamole, salsa all add a little flavor and variety to their taco. It also makes it less dry and provides nice texture and easier on the palate.

4. Demo what it looks like – make one and show them what you would typically put in it, everything from sour cream to tomatoes and cheese. Let them know that if they choose not to put an ingredient in that’s ok. The example will not only show them what can go in it but might encourage them to put some of those ingredients in themselves.

5. Let them make their own – give them the tortilla or taco shell and show them all the options, then let them decide which ingredients they want to put in and how much. (Remind them that they need to close up the tortilla so not to put too much in). When they make their own they are more likely to eat it.

how to make tacos with kidsWhen I did this with my Mini Chefs class I had everything ready in advance and this made it very smooth when making them. The only thing we prepped together was to cook the ground chicken, which I did and they watched. They all really like watching what is happening as their curiosity makes them interested and that is the best way to get them engaged.

Many of them tried different ingredients, creating their own with various amounts of the things they liked. We used soft tortillas, which I find easier with kids because you can roll them up and have less stuff falling out! but you can use hard taco shells if you prefer. I did have to remind them that though they could put in what they liked, not to put too much in as we needed to roll it up and have it all fit.

Rolling them up was the fun part. I showed them how to do it and then helped each child coaching them through rolling it up themselves, which each of them did quite successfully. Once we had it rolled up then we chowed down and enjoyed our tasty creations.

I even had the next week a Mom share with me that her son had made tacos for supper one night after this particular class, which I was so pleased to hear. She said he insisted on clearing up which he never does and he is now also eating lettuce, which he never ate lettuce. Wrapping it up and presenting it in a different way is one of the many reasons why this has occurred. Plus he (and the other children) were allowed choice in what they could put in and weren’t told that they had to use this ingredient or that one.

I feel that this class has been our most successful class so far and that learning how to make tacos has taken the children’s learning in the kitchen to the next level. It really is a simple nutrition packed meal which can easily be modified if you want it dairy free, vegetarian or packed with protein (add kidney beans or chick peas). There are a large variety of different taco recipes and combinations to try, but I would recommend starting with a basic recipe to get the kids into it, and then expand upon it from there.

Tacos

Ingredients:

1 pkg. ground chicken (or any choice of ground meat)how to make tacos

1 tbsp. taco seasoning (recipe below)

tomatoes, chopped

lettuce, chopped

Daiya cheddar cheese, shredded (or regular cheddar if desired)

Vegan sour cream – I love Earth Island (or regular sour cream)

tortillas

Brown ground chicken in frying pan. Add 1 tbsp. of taco spice and mix.  Lay out one tortilla flat on counter or plate, spread a spoonful of sour cream on tortilla, add spoonful of chicken, tomato, lettuce and cheese. Fold tortilla over once, tuck in ends by folding over on each side, then roll the rest of the tortilla to end.

Taco Seasoning

(this is an easy seasoning that can be made at home with spices you likely already have in your cupboard. Pre-make it and skip the processed package stuff from the store)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon chili powderhow to make tacos

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.

Do you have a favorite taco recipe that your kids love? Share it below

Coming up next…some chocolate delights, macaroons and chocolate pudding!

Don’t miss our other kids healthy cooking recipes such as yogurt parfaits, tuna melts and kids smoothies

Everything Chocolate

IMG_4653Rich dark chocolate melting in your mouth, delighting the palate as it brings your tastebuds to life and activates natural soothing in the brain, making us feel oh so good.

Chocolate dating back to the Aztecs and Romans, has long since been considered an aphrodisiac, a treat associated with love and romance. Women love it, men crave it. Not only is it a popular gift, but a popular treat as well.

It’s no wonder that during the week of Valentine’s Day, a holiday long associated with love and romance, 58 million pounds of chocolates are sold, being the third largest holiday in sales of this popular treat (Halloween being first with Easter as the second).

The good news is that chocolate is actually good for you, as it contains fat, produces natural opiates which soothe nerves and make us feel good, as well as natural chemicals that lower your risk of cancer and heart disease (sounding pretty good doesn’t it?) Chocolate provides even more health benefits when made with cacao instead of cocoa, both derived from the same bean but processed differently, creating a superfood (cacao) that is rich in vitamins and minerals (getting better and better all the time).

IMG_4647Chocolate is also one of those things that goes with and can be used in just about anything, creating a myriad of delights for the palate to enjoy, a sensation of pleasure and joy in our human experience.

Since I have discovered how to make my own chocolate at home, (ready in about 10 minutes this really is a quick simple and easy way to make chocolate), we have not only been able to enjoy more chocolate in our home, but also enjoy lots of great things around the holidays.

For instance, this Valentine’s Day, we will enjoy heart shaped chocolates, Chocolate Dream Pie, Chocolate Truffles and if the spirit moves me, I may even make Chocolate Cupcakes with chocolate icing of course (even better these recipes are sugar free and dairy free). I love doing it up around the holidays and seeing what kind of fun things I can create; and the kids look forward to it!

Making your own chocolate is very easy, all you need is cacao butter, cacao powder, vanilla and natural sweetener of your choice (such as honey, pure maple syrup, etc.) I have a detailed post on how to make chocolate, as well as one on possible additions or variations you could use to flavor or fill your yummy chocolates.

IMG_4655This chocolate mix is also great for making Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (simply dip fresh strawberries in warm melted chocolate before it sets) or using it for Chocolate Fondue.

Other chocolate delights I have discovered, whether it be for Valentine’s Day or other, are Chocolate Macaroons (could shape them into little hearts for Valentine’s), Chocolate Pudding (one with chia seeds, one simple chocolate), Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Waffles, Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Smoothies and even Chocolate Marshmallows! And I love that they are all dairy free and naturally sweetened! On holidays, like Valentines, I often have a hard time picking only a few things to make 🙂

IMG_4658So now you know, you can live guilt free this Valentine’s Day and enjoy your chocolate; or you can venture out and make your own for yourself or to share with others (but you may not want to). Of course with anything, regardless of how good it is for you, everything in moderation (I know I just took all the fun out of it – but here’s the thing you can make MORE or try a new chocolate recipe, another version of chocolate).

So enjoy your chocolate with a great big smile this Valentine’s Day, and if no one gives you any, go get your own, it’s ok 🙂

*The majority of these recipes can be found on my blog or I have linked them to the appropriate site for you. Just click on the name and it will take you to the recipe. Enjoy!