Eating right is important—especially for kids. Here are a handful of kid-friendly lunch recipes that are easy to prepare and pack away, as well as some key info concerning the kinds of foods a child should eat on a daily basis.
What Should My Child Eat?
It’s important to remember that, unlike an adult, a child’s body is still growing. So they need a broader, more varied diet in order to properly fuel their growth. Here are some of the key nutrients that belong in every child’s diet.
- Protein: Protein is critical: a child needs protein in order to fuel the construction of valuable cells, fight off infections and viruses, carry oxygen through the blood stream and break down food.
- Fats: Fats, like those found in meat and milk, are important. They’re a vital source of energy. However, fat intake should be limited, and balanced with other crucial nutrients.
- Calcium: Calcium is crucial when it comes to the development of a child’s teeth and bones. It also helps to boost muscle and heart function.
- Carbohydrates: Children need carbs to properly fuel their bodies. They also use carbs to break down fats and protein, which they’ll use to repair and build vital tissues.
- Vitamin A: A child’s body uses vitamin A for overall growth. Vitamin A is also useful for preventing infections, fighting off viruses and for keeping a child’s eyes healthy.
- Vitamin C: This vitamin helps to boost the immune system and it also helps the body to heal injuries and repair blood vessels. Citrus fruits, strawberries and tomatoes are rich in vitamin C.
- Iron: A child’s body uses iron to maintain blood flow and also build blood cells.
- Folate: This vitamin helps with cell and overall body growth. Whole-grain cereals, lentils, asparagus, beans and spinach are rich in folate.
- Fiber: Fiber helps to promote bowel regularity. Eating a diet rich in fiber when young can help to prevent certain diseases, like heart diseases, when the child reaches adulthood.
Quick and Easy Packed Lunches
Here are some easy-to-make recipes that feature tons of healthy (and tasty) ingredients:
- Chicken Noodle Soup: Canned chicken noodle soup can be tasty, but homemade soup is even better! You can make the soup on the stove or in a crockpot, and the ingredients are straightforward. You’ll need low-sodium chicken or veggie broth, chicken breast, veggies (carrots, celery, garlic, peas and tomatoes are a must) and noodles—preferably whole-grain.
- Burrito: Sandwiches, depending on the bread you use, can be overly rich in carbs and sugars. Opt for some carb-light tortillas or whole-grain wraps instead and make your kids some burritos for lunch. Add rice, black beans, chicken, low-fat cheese and fresh salsa to a tortilla—now you have a simple burrito that’s bound to be a winner in your house.
- Chicken Nuggets: Dice up some chicken, cover them with some breadcrumbs, and then bake the bite-sized bites. Twenty minutes later, you’ll have a nice healthy snack or part of a perfect school lunch.
- Homemade “Lunchables”: Mix things up by making some homemade “Lunchables.” Slice up protein (like turkey, sausage or baked chicken) and add some cheese (like low-fat mozzarella) to a container. In a separate container, add some crackers, a dip (like hummus) and include some veggies too. Throw in a healthy dessert like grapes or strawberries in a small Ziploc baggie to round out the meal.
- Turkey Salad Roll: diced turkey, almonds, seedless red grapes (halved), celery and mayo to a plastic container. Pack the container into a bag along with some citrus fruit (like oranges), a whole-wheat hot dog bun and a spoon so your child can add the salad to the bun whenever they’re ready.
- Turkey-Cheese Pita: This one’s easy! Make a pita-style sandwich using some pita bread, cream cheese, roasted turkey, cucumbers and baby spinach.
- BBQ Chicken and Sloppy Joes: Shred some rotisserie chicken, add chopped tomatoes, carrots. Then toss in some BBQ sauce, and mix everything together in a skillet over low to medium heat. Add some parsley and pack the mixture into a container. Add the container to a bag, and then also pack a whole-wheat bun, some fresh fruit and some chocolate chips for dessert.
- Chips and Dip: Did you know that you could make your own dip? Chop up some tomatoes, and then add some white onions, fresh cilantro and lime juice. Your child can snack on the dip with some flaxseed tortilla chips. You can also add some avocados and Greek yogurt to change up the texture of the dip.
- Tacos: Add shredded chicken and lettuce to a tortilla—pack this away in foil. Then mix together an avocado with lemon juice and shredded cheese. Place the avocado mixture into a sealed container, and place both the tortilla-in-foil and the container into a bag. When the child is ready to eat, they can combine the tortilla and the avocado mixture together.
- “Healthy” Fried Rice: Add scallions, carrots, peas, corn, water and soy sauce to a skillet and cook them with vegetable oil. Add brown rice and more water and soy sauce. Add a few more scallions, sesame seeds and chopped peanuts. Pack away in a sealed container.
- Breakfast Sandwich: Slice a bagel in half. Add cream cheese, bacon, a scrambled egg and two tomatoes slices to the bottom portion of a bagel. Add some more cream cheese to the top portion of the bagel, and then place the two portions together—now you have a protein-rich sandwich that’s perfect for breakfast or lunch!