School is in full swing now, and packing school lunches has become part of our nightly routine. I'm trying to make it a habit to pack lunches when I'm prepping (or cleaning up after) dinner, so that it doesn't seem like a daunting task after we get the kids to bed, when really all I feel like doing it collapsing on the couch. After all, why bring out the cutting boards, containers and food again, after you've just cleaned everything up?! I've done this enough times to know that it's much easier to get it all done and over with in one fell swoop.
When it comes to packing lunches, I usually start with leftovers (I LOVE leftovers for lunches) and then add: a fruit, a vegetable, a homemade muffin/granola bar/healthy cookie and a protein-rich food like greek yogurt, roasted chickpeas or hummus. This way, I know that my kids are getting a balanced, nutritious lunch. I'm often asked for lunchbox-safe recipes by friends and clients, so I decided to compile my most favourite lunchbox recipes (that my kids love!), and then I asked some of my Registered Dietitian Blogger colleagues for their top lunchbox recipe. In total, I've listed 50!
Muffin-tin Pizza Rolls, by Sarah Remmer, RD
One-Pot Easy Homemade Hamburger Helper, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Easy Casserole Burritos, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Veggie and Bean Quinoa Bites, by Jessica Fishman, MS, RD
Super Easy Skillet Tuna Burgers, by Sarah Remmer, RD
BBQ Slow-cooker Pulled Chicken, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Grilled Thai Chicken Thighs, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Roasted Acorn Squash Mac 'n Cheese, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Easy Turkey Meatballs, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Healthier Tuna Noodle Casserole, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Turkey Tomato Pasta Bake, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Chickpea Salad Sandwich, by: Natalie Rizzo, RD
Easy Egg Wraps, by Lindsay Livingston, RD (Lean Green Bean)
Apple Tuna Salad Sandwhiches, by Katie Serbinski, RD
Easy Chicken Caesar Wraps, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Flourless Oatmeal Apple Muffins, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Cinnamon Applesauce Muffins, by Katie Serbinski, MS, RD
Freezer-Friendly Oatmeal Chocolate Zucchini Loaf, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Chocolate Lentil Lunchbox Muffins, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Cinnamon Spice Muffins, By Amy Gorin, RD
Kid-Approved Bran Muffins, by Jodi Vandenheuvel Danen, RD
Apple and Oat Breakfast Muffins, by Katie Cavuto, RD
Healthy Blueberry Muffins, by Lindsay Livingston, RD (The Lean Green Bean)
Banana Bran Muffins, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Mini Pumpkin Muffins, by Maria Westberg Adams, RD
High Fibre, White Flour Blueberry Muffins, by Jessica Elyse
Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Blender Muffins, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Whole Grain Pumpkin Spice Muffins, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins (can be made without walnuts), by Christy Wilson, RD
Sweet and Salty Caramelized Chia Popcorn, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Stove-Top Popcorn, by Dixya Bhattarai, RD
Homemade Flavoured Poprcorn, by Katie Cavuto, RD
Pumpkin Energy Balls, by Wendie Schneider, RD
Chocolate Chia Protein Balls, by Sarah Remmer, RD (*use pumpkin seed butter)
No-Bake Nut-Free Granola Bars, by Vincci Tsui, RD
Quick Granola Bites, by Cara Rosenbloom, RD
4 Low-fodmap Kid-Friendly Recipes, by Stephanie Clairmont, RD
Easy On-The-Go Granola Bars, by Sarah Remmer, RD (recipe by Cara Rosenbloom, RD)
Best (and healthiest) Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Oats and Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies, by Dixya Bhattarai, RD
Decadent Vegan Chocolate Pudding, by Emily Kyle, RD
Banana Coconut Chia Pudding, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Creamy Garlic Lentil Hummus, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Southwestern Greek Yogurt Dip, by Amy Gorin, RD
Ranch Hummus Dip, by Katie Serbinski, RD
Fresh Salsa Recipe, by Sarah Remmer, RD
Crunchy Chickpeas Two Ways, by Natalie Rizzo, RD
For family-friendly recipes and nutrition and picky eating tips for kids, follow me on Facebook, where I post daily!
RELATED: Packing Healthy School Lunches: Top 8 Sanity-Saving Tips
I love popcorn, and make it several times a week, usually to enjoy while my husband and I watch Netflix after the kids go to bed; I find that it's the perfect bedtime snack to pair with a cup of tea (or sometimes a glass of red wine!). Lately I've been making a huge batch and saving some for school lunches or for after-school snacks. The kids love it as much as I do, and because it's a fibre-rich and nutritious, I feel good about them eating it.
Last week we were invited to an outdoor movie night at a friends house, where all of the kids were able to cuddle up in their sleeping bags and watch a Disney movie, and the parents visited, drank wine and enjoyed some of the movie, too. Each family brought a snack, and because I had a big batch of leftover popcorn (and a Costco-sized bag of chia seeds), I decided to make caramelized popcorn with chia seeds (we've made it before and it was to-die-for). And sure enough, it was a hit again!
Although this recipe is really nutritious, boasting lots of fibre, healthy Omega-3 fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it also contains some added fat and sugar, therefore might not be an "everyday" kind of snack like regular air-popped popcorn would be. But, I consider it a healthier version of kettle corn or caramel corn that you would buy at a shop.
A word of warning: it's addicting...
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or grease a baking sheet.
Place popcorn in a large bowl. Drizzle with maple syrup and coconut oil and toss well to coat.
Mix brown sugar, chia seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Add mixture to popcorn and toss well.
Transfer popcorn to prepared pan and lightly press together to form flat, unified layer. Bake 20 minutes.
Cool , break apart, and store in airtight container.
*Adapted from: Nutritious Eats "Caramelized Hemp and Chia Seed Popcorn "
Follow Sarah on Facebook for more delicious, nutritious recipes for kids and families!
Try Chocolate Chia Protein Balls, as well as these Sweet and Salty Lentil granola bars (both recipes are school-safe too!)
As parents, we sometimes put our “short-term lens” on when it comes to feeding, especially with young kids. We’re often in a rush and want our kids to eat something NOW, or we feel frustrated that they've only eaten the pasta or bread, and left everything else (especially the green stuff). Having three young kids, I know first hand how frustrating meals can be, and how tempting short-term solutions (aka pressuring) such as bribing, coaxing, reminding, and spoon-feeding can be to get them to eat something — anything — healthy, and to speed up meals.
Unfortunately, these short-term strategies are counter-productive when it comes to our kids’ eating success.
Although it can be challenging, it’s important to put our “long-term feeding lens” on, to help our kids form positive thoughts and beliefs about food.
After working with kids and adults in my nutrition counselling practice for over 10 years I’ve learned that the quick-fixes that work so well with young kids, can have lasting negative effects. In the most drastic cases, pressure to eat (or not to eat) certain foods, or specific amounts of food in childhood can result in long-term severe picky eating issues, disordered eating patterns or full blown Eating Disorders. In most cases, pressure results in frustrating picky eating behaviours that persist over time, resulting in unpleasant mealtimes and stressed out parents.
Think about your child’s long-term eating success as a work-in-progress, and try to keep your eye on the prize: raising a healthy, happy eater who loves lots of different foods. This takes a lot of patience and a lot of time, so try not to get discouraged.
Remember, your job as the parent is to provide healthy, balanced meals and snacks at appropriate intervals (every 2-4 hours depending on age), in a safe and distraction-free environment.
The rest is up to your child. Period.
Once parents realize this, most are able to breath a sigh of relief. Mealtimes suddenly become more enjoyable and less stressful. Yes, your child may not eat a single speck of green, but you’ve done your job and that’s all you can do. When your child refuses to eat a particular food, try to think of it as an opportunity to talk positively about that food, model healthy eating yourself, and to encourage your child to explore that food in other ways, such as touching it, licking them or politely playing with it. This will bring your child one step closer to trying, accepting and enjoying those foods in the future.
Think about it this way: Your child will benefit more from having a positive experience with a new or rejected food and not eating it versus having a negative experience with that food and eating it.
In other words, the goal is not to get your child to eat his broccoli.
The goal is to get him to think about eating it in the future. To make broccoli seem a little less scary or foreign so that he can eventually feel ready to put it in his mouth, and maybe one day chew it, and then maybe down the road, swallow it. That might mean that he watches you and your spouse eat broccoli 20 times before he’s ready to taste it (your child seeing you eat it regularly will translate into "it's normal to eat broccoli"). It might mean serving it with melted cheese on top or with Ranch dressing. Or maybe it means playing with it by pretending that it’s a tree at first.
Every encounter with the broccoli should be as positive as possible. Even if it’s simply letting it be on his plate (or a separate "tester" plate). Pressuring your child to eat something healthy will NOT make him like it. In fact, it will probably do the opposite.
Even though we CAN use our authority as parents to get our kids to eat–we can even force them if we want to–it will only discourage them from truly accepting that food, and it could even turn them off even more.
Most parents can rest assured that they kids is meeting their nutrient requirements by the end of the week (even though sometimes this seems impossible). So, the next time you serve broccoli (or any other food that your child refuses to eat), remember to put your long-term feeding lens on, do your job of feeding, let your child do her job of eating and take the pressure off. It's not ALL about nutrition.
For more tips and advice on feeding kids, follow me on Facebook, where I post daily.
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