This post was written by Erin Palinski-Wade
It’s that time of year again- back to school time! Sure, it may seem like having the kids in school all day will give you a bit for free time to devote to planning and preparing nutritious meals, but that isn’t always the case. Before I had my son, I had this idea in my head that when I went back to work and he headed off to daycare, that you basically just drop your child off, kiss and hug them, and then spend the rest of the day working. I didn’t really give thought to the time needed to plan out lunches and snacks for the day, clean out the lunch boxes from the night before, prep healthy breakfasts we could eat before we head out in the morning, and find time to prepare a healthy dinner as well. Honestly, those first few weeks of adjusting to a new schedule stressed me out more than I could have ever expected. And I think many parents feel the same way.
Whenever you and your family are adjusting to a new schedule, such as the one at the start of the school year, it’s normal to feel a bit stressed and overwhelmed. I see this in so many of my client. That first week or two of the new school year is pretty much a whirlwind filled with grabbing meals and snacks mindlessly on the run. If this sounds like you, I wanted to help take away some of that stress. That’s why I teamed up with my friends over at Chobani to develop my top five quick-fix lunches for all of you busy moms out there. These simple lunches can be pulled together in minutes and are packed full of the healthy nutrients that your little ones needs. Feel free to mix and match these options up for a well-balanced, stress-free start to the school day.
Some kids are more snackers than meal eaters. I get this since I am more likely to graze on food throughout the day than to sit down to a big meal. For snack lovers, try using a compartmentalized bento box to offer a variety of bite sized options. The small portions and increased variety are a great way to prevent your child from feeling ‘overwhelmed’ at mealtime. This is also a great way to introduce new foods in kid-friendly portions. For a balanced lunch, pair together a whole grain muffin, carrot sticks with hummus for a dip, turkey breast, strawberries, and almonds. To save time, spend one day per week washing and slicing variety of fruits and vegetable so you can just grab and go when packing a lunch. For mini muffins, I usually make these in batches of 24 and freeze them. If you pop one in the lunchbox in the morning, it will typically thaw by lunchtime. Round out the lunch with an adorable Doc McStuffins squeezable pouch of Chobani Kids, which contains two times as much protein than the leading kid’s yogurt and 25% less sugar. With a varied lunch such as this one, even if your child does not finish all the foods offered, you can still feel reassured that she consumed a variety of essential nutrients.
If you are packing meals for daycare, it can be easy to run out of ideas for soft food options that provide your little one with the nutrition that he needs. For toddlers, adequate protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids are essential for development and growth. That’s why I love this combination of applesauce, diced butternut squash, whole grain tortellini, and a broccoli & carrot quiche for a mix of antioxidants, protein, and fiber. To round out the lunchbox, I add in a squeezable Chobani yogurt, which is made with only natural, non-GMO ingredients, real fruit, and provides 12mg of DHA omega-3 fatty acids to help promote healthy brain development.
Picky Eater Perfection
If you have a picky eater at home, you are probably no stranger to having your child’s lunchbox return home after the school day completely untouched. To make lunch more appealing to even the pickiest child, liven it up by adding a mix of fun shapes and colors. It doesn’t have to take long to make a ‘fun’ lunchbox. I use a combination of colorful silicone shapes to hold bite-sized snacks along with cookie cutters to decorate sandwiches, fruits, vegetables, and even cheese slices. For the best results, look for the cookie cutters that have a spring-loaded punch. These can cut through more challenging foods like bread and vegetables much more quickly than the standard cutters. Sometimes all it takes is a touch of food art to turn the pickiest eater into an adventurous eater.
The goal of your child’s lunch should be to fuel both her body and her mind. One way to accomplish this is to make sure to include at least one or two “brain foods” into even lunchbox. Foods rich is omega 3 fatty acids such as fish, walnuts, edamame, and Chobani Tots which contains 12 mg of DHA Omega 3 per serving, can make great additions to any meal. Round these brain foods out with antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables and you have a delicious recipe for academic success. For a quick and easy lunchbox, pack together a tuna sandwich on whole grain bread along with a handful of walnuts, blueberries, and edamame. Toss in a Chobani Tots squeezable yogurt for an added boost of DHA.
The Chocolate Lover
Do you have a chocolate lover? I do and sometimes it can be a challenge to get him to eat a meal without the constant begging for “dark treats” as he likes to call chocolate chips. So why not give him what he wants? Of course I don’t mean feed your child chocolate every lunch, but you can incorporate it in a healthy way to make both mom and child happy (and in our house this makes my junk-food loving husband quite happy as well).
I take Chobani Vanilla Greek Yogurt, which contains no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, or flavors, and top it with a small sprinkling of mini dark chocolate chips. This makes the perfect ‘dessert’ for any meal while providing a good source of protein and calcium. You can even try mixing one teaspoon of 100% cocoa powder into one cup of Chobani for a delicious chocolate ‘mousse.’
Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Chobani. All opinions are my own.