The National Parenting Center

Parents Corner – Lunch Ideas to Mix up your Routine

Parents Corner - Lunch Ideas to Mix up your RoutineLunch Ideas to Mix Up Your Routine

By Scott Wardell

Sometimes making a fun and healthy lunch isn’t easy, so we’ve gathered some awesome tips on how to liven up this mid-day meal for your little ones and help you beat the lunch box blues. Instead of finding out they trashed the lunch you packed, you’ll be hearing how excited they were over finding their very own “Mommy McMeal” at lunchtime.

1. Get ‘em to Pitch in
Take your kiddos grocery shopping with you to encourage them to help out with the lunch packing duties. Have them pick out different ingredients, like fruits, vegetables, and healthy snacks (maybe let them choose between plums or peaches this week), or tell them that they can select one special item from the whole store for a fun treat. Sharing the food experience with your little ones will give them the ultimate interactive meal and get them excited to see their picks appear in their lunch boxes this week.

2. Breakfast for Lunch
Schedule a midday appearance for the most important meal of the day! Your kids will love being surprised with an awesome breakfast for lunch. Use two pancakes as the bread for a sausage sandwich and serve with a side of fruit, or try wrapping up an omelette in a tortilla for an easy breakfast burrito. Try one of our 5 Easy Breakfast Meals for even more brunch suggestions.

3. Lunch Salads
It may be hard getting them to eat their vegetables, but your kids won’t complain while they’re munching away on fun salads like a Cobb salad (use spinach or dark green lettuce, a hard-boiled egg, cheese, and/or lean ham), or a Chinese chicken salad (dark green lettuce, shredded chicken, shredded carrots, sliced green onion, and toasted sliced almonds.) They can even add their own dressing if it’s packed into a small container. Your kiddo will love feeling like they helped make it, and those good green eats will stay fresh.

4. Sample Plates
So maybe lunchtime snuck up on you today and you haven’t had a chance to hit the grocery store this week (it happens to all of us!). Sample plates are the perfect solution – grab some of those divided plates from the cupboard (a muffin tin works too!) and start digging through the fridge. Fill up each little compartment with something tasty – crackers, sliced up apples, mandarin oranges, string cheese cut up into pieces – whatever you have! They’ll love being allowed to snack for lunch (nutritiously, of course) and are sure to request this last-minute meal again.

5. Build-Your-Own-Sandwich Bar
If you’ve got creative kids that like to get hands-on with their food, try constructing a sandwich buffet bar for quick and easy lunch packing. Cut up cheese and deli meat, slice some fresh veggies, and line up the condiments to let your kids build their own sandwich creation. They’ll brag to all their friends about how their cool mom let’s them make their own lunch!

6. Dip it Up
What is it about kids and dipping? Kids love any opportunity to dunk their snacks and tend to be more adventurous if they have a tasty topping too! Next time you shop, grab some things that are great for dipping – Greek yogurt, peanut butter, ranch dressing, Nutella – and then give them some dipping foods. Try mini pitas, sliced veggies, whole-wheat toast sliced into triangles, fruit, pretzels – whatever they love! For kids on the older side, get more creative with smaller foods like blueberries, raisins, and edamame that they can use a toothpick to spear and then dip.

7. Easy Peasy Pizzas
Pizza is always a kid favorite, but sometimes even having to wait 15-minutes for a full-sized pizza to cook in the oven is too long for hungry kids to wait. Instead, grab some English muffins or bagels, top with pizza sauce (or even leftover spaghetti sauce!), add some quickly shredded cheese and pop it in the microwave or under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Feeling brave? Try sneaking some veggies in under that cheese!

8. Announce a Lunch Theme
Surprise your little snackers by incorporating a new lunch theme for the day. Try serving all red foods—pair a strawberry jelly sandwich with cherry tomatoes and low-fat ranch dressing with cherry Jell-O for dessert. Or, try a meal with all “round” foods, like a bagel with cream cheese, an orange, and carrot rounds. If you’re feeling really creative, pick a book and make a story-inspired meal…Green Eggs and Ham anyone?

9. Provide a Playful Platter
This is a good choice for families with picky eaters. You can easily make your own hummus without Tahini, which sometimes is a flavor that pick eaters might not enjoy. To prepare, simply place 1 can of beans, ¼ cup of olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp cumin in a food processor (you can also use a hand-blender stick) and blend until you get a nice smooth texture. Pair this with sliced pita bread, cheese slices, and favorite veggies for a Mediterranean meal that’ll spice up midday.

10. Choices, choices, choices
For your kiddos that love having a hand in everything, try setting out different bowls filled with fruits, starches (bread, bagel, crackers, etc.), vegetables, proteins (ham, cheese, yogurt, etc.), and snacks. Then allow your hungry honey to pick one item from each food group for his lunch. This “food pyramid” model in the kitchen gives your kid choices and let’s him feel like he packed his own healthy, balanced meal. It’s quick, easy, and, since he got to pick what he eats, your little one will be happily munching away come mealtime.

11. Cookies Cutter Creations
Use those old cookie cutter shapes you have lying around the kitchen to turn sandwiches, fruit, cheese, and whatever else you can into fun shapes. Your kids will love seeing their lunches transformed into cool designs that not only look good, but taste good too.

12. Cracker Stackers
Every time you go grocery shopping, the kids beg for those pre-packed lunches in the deli section, but we all know how unhealthy they can be. Make this quick, easy alternative yourself at home with whole-grain crackers (ones they can eat in two bites are perfect), fresh turkey or ham from your local deli, and their favorite type of cheese. Stack the mini sandwiches, top with another cracker, and you’re set.

13. D.I.Y. Rollups
For a quick and easy lunch that will also get them involved with the prep, try letting them make their own rollups. Lay out flour tortillas for everyone (warm them in the microwave for 5-10 seconds first to get them soft) then let them go to town with fillings. Turkey and cheese slices, olives, cream cheese, jelly, baby spinach, thinly sliced apples, cucumbers, and peanut butter, all make for excellent fillings. Let them pick what sounds best, layer it on, and then roll it up to eat!

14. Make It a “Mommy McMeal”
Tired of spending $10 at the drive thru? Try making a “A Mommy McMeal.” This fast food alternative consists of chicken nuggets or fish sticks, fries, chips, or apple slices, and a juice box with a toy (of your choice) that you might find way on the bottom of the toy box. Use a toy your kiddo thought they lost or one they haven’t seen in awhile to really brighten up their day.

15. Revamp Your Leftovers
Use your the leftovers of your carefully crafted dinners for a unique and easy lunch! Leftover pasta from last night? Make a meatball sandwich with chunky marinara on a baguette. Turn leftover chicken into a brand new meal by shredding it and serving with BBQ sauce on a bun. Or, grab an airtight container and keep last night’s soup or chili warm all day for a fresh take on a delicious dinner.

We’re always looking for new great ways to make lunchtime fun and easy. Let us know your tips for making super awesome lunches for your little ones.

Scott posted this on Red Tricycle which can be found at www.redtri.com

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HOW IT WORKS

 

A Seal of Approval review involves a multi-step process conducted over an eight-week period.

Parents and children, experience and review submitted products and services either already released or coming to market.

Participants fill out questionnaires for each product or service they test. They score based on 13 levels of criteria including quality, appeal, design, price, packaging, directions, desirability, stimulation, replay factor and more. Results are based on both statistical averaging and comments received by testers.

There are three testing periods each year:

Report Period Testing Begins Submission Deadline Testing Ends Report Issued
SPRING ’23 February 15th March 10th April 24th May 10th
FALL ’23 June 1st June 23rd July 31st August 16th
HOLIDAY ’23 September 1st September 22nd October 30th November 15th

Each submission must be accompanied by a $295 product testing fee (we offer multiple submission discounts). This fee covers the cost of testing, nothing more. It is non-refundable and has no bearing on the result of the testing. Additionally, we require three samples of the product or access codes for online submissions.

FYI about the Seal of Approval

* Winners of the Seal will be announced in a media release which is distributed to over 4700 media outlets including Facebook, Mommy bloggers and TV station websites.

* The report is forwarded to buyers at over 350 major retail and on-line stores including Amazon, Walmart and Target. Amazon features Seal winners on product pages.

* Each report is featured at TNPC’s web site as well as TNPC’s Twitter & Instagram accounts and Facebook Page.

* Links to company websites and a license to utilize the trademarked Seal of Approval artwork on marketing, packaging and web design are available exclusively to Seal winners for additional fees.

* Submitting a product does not secure or guarantee being awarded a Seal of Approval

To submit a product click here.

HOW IT WORKS

A Seal of Approval review involves a multi-step process conducted over an eight-week period.

Parents and children, experience and review submitted products and services either already released or coming to market.

Participants fill out questionnaires for each product or service they test. They score based on 13 levels of criteria including quality, appeal, design, price, packaging, directions, desirability, stimulation, replay factor and more. Results are based on both statistical averaging and comments received by testers.

There are three testing periods each year:

Report Period

SPRING '24

FALL ‘24

HOLIDAY ‘24

Testing Begins

February 15th

June 1st

September 1st

Submission Deadline

March 13th

June 23rd

September 24th

Testing Ends

April 26th

July 31st

October 31st

Report Issued

May 14th

August 15th

November 15th

Each submission must be accompanied by a $295 product testing fee (we offer multiple submission discounts). This fee covers the cost of testing, nothing more. It is non-refundable and has no bearing on the result of the testing. Additionally, we require three samples of the product or access codes for online submissions.

FYI about the Seal of Approval

* Winners of the Seal will be announced in a media release which is distributed to over 4700 media outlets including Facebook, Mommy bloggers and TV station websites.

* The report is forwarded to buyers at over 350 major retail and on-line stores including Amazon, Walmart and Target. Amazon features Seal winners on product pages.

* Each report is featured at TNPC’s web site as well as TNPC’s Twitter & Instagram accounts and Facebook Page.

* Links to company websites and a license to utilize the trademarked Seal of Approval artwork on marketing, packaging and web design are available exclusively to Seal winners for additional fees.

* Submitting a product does not secure or guarantee being awarded a Seal of Approval

HOW IT WORKS

A Seal of Approval review involves a multi-step process conducted over an eight-week period.

Parents and children, experience and review submitted products and services either already released or coming to market.

Participants fill out questionnaires for each product or service they test. They score based on 13 levels of criteria including quality, appeal, design, price, packaging, directions, desirability, stimulation, replay factor and more. Results are based on both statistical averaging and comments received by testers.

There are three testing periods each year:

Report Period

SPRING '24

FALL ‘24

HOLIDAY ‘24

Testing Begins

February 15th

June 1st

September 1st

Submission Deadline

March 13th

June 23rd

September 24th

Testing Ends

April 26th

July 31st

October 31st

Report Issued

May 14th

August 15th

November 15th

Each submission must be accompanied by a $295 product testing fee (we offer multiple submission discounts). This fee covers the cost of testing, nothing more. It is non-refundable and has no bearing on the result of the testing. Additionally, we require three samples of the product or access codes for online submissions.

FYI about the Seal of Approval

* Winners of the Seal will be announced in a media release which is distributed to over 4700 media outlets including Facebook, Mommy bloggers and TV station websites.

* The report is forwarded to buyers at over 350 major retail and on-line stores including Amazon, Walmart and Target. Amazon features Seal winners on product pages.

* Each report is featured at TNPC’s web site as well as TNPC’s Twitter & Instagram accounts and Facebook Page.

* Links to company websites and a license to utilize the trademarked Seal of Approval artwork on marketing, packaging and web design are available exclusively to Seal winners for additional fees.

* Submitting a product does not secure or guarantee being awarded a Seal of Approval

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