Mornings are rushed and picky eaters are tough. According to the USDA’s dietary guidelines for Americans, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables and half of your grains should consist of whole grains. Meeting those guidelines, however, can be difficult for those with picky palates.
Strategies include disguising healthy school lunches in tastier forms, getting creative with fun designs and organizing lunches into bento boxes – Japanese containers growing in popularity that separate snacks into neat compartments. We found recipes using each of these methods that will pack lunch bags full of nutrients and appeal to all appetites.
1. Fruit nachos.
Forget the chips and cheese – this treat from the website Super Healthy Kids is nutritious and sweet. Using sliced apples and pears as chips, you can top your fruit nachos with chopped strawberries, coconut flakes, caramel sauce and melted chocolate. Feel free to improvise!
2. The Elvis burrito.
Channel The King for a royal wrap created by Bon Appetit. Spread peanut butter on a wrap and add sliced banana and crumbled bacon. Drizzle honey on for a sweet finishing touch and this burrito will get you all shook up!
3. Fruit in disguise.
Sometimes fruits and veggies get rejected from school lunches, but this idea from the Lauren’s Latest website may be a way around that fact. Make peanut butter sandwiches using apple slices instead of bread. Serve with yogurt-covered raisins, cheese sticks and whole-wheat pretzels to complete the meal.
4. Perfect-size pizza.
Pizza is a childhood staple, and the website Once Upon a Chef created this recipe for English muffin pizza that the pickiest eaters will love. With marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and some oregano, these tiny pies are simple, quick and tasty.
5. Save the crust.
Finish the last crusts of that loaf of bread, or toast some pieces in the oven, and combine with tomato, mozzarella, pepperoni, basil, peppers, oil and vinegar for a quick panzanella salad. This recipe from Bon Appetit is simple but sophisticated, and can be tailored to fit anyone’s taste buds.
6. Breakfast for lunch.
The 100 Days of Real Food website helps your hungry students bring the best of breakfast to their school lunches. Start with homemade whole-wheat waffles, cut into strips, and pack apple slices, strawberries and plain yogurt mixed with maple syrup. For an extra treat, include frozen blueberries in the yogurt.
7. Wrap and roll.
Think small for big results – try rolling sliced deli meats like ham, turkey or roast beef around cheese sticks for a new take on lunch wraps. Include cream cheese and greens for even more flavor and nutrients in this idea from the website The Kitchn.
8. Fondue for kids.
This bento box idea from the Produce for Kids website has compartments for Greek yogurt and ranch dipping sauces, plus areas for fruits like strawberries, apples and banana slices, and an area for carrots, peppers and broccoli. Add mini-sandwich skewers for the finishing touch in this fun, colorful school lunch setup.
9. Bento salad bar.
A perfect high school meal to pack, the bento box salad bar suggested by the website Veggie Bento Love can feature any fruit, vegetable or nut you like. Include lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, sliced red peppers, cooked quinoa and more in separate bento box compartments to keep everything fresh.
10. At the teacher’s table.
This bento box takes a little more work, but is worth the time if you make it in bulk or use it as leftovers. The main event in the Yumbox Lunch website’s recipe is grilled chicken over spinach leaves, red onion and barley. Serve with avocado slices, pistachios and dried mangoes in the side compartments.