With two little ones of my own, back to school fever is rampant in our house. Mixed emotions of excitement and anxiety for new classes, new friends, new teachers – and that is just me : )
For us, this is a time of restoring some forgotten but familiar routines of earlier bedtimes and homework while upholding others like healthy eating. To ensure my children continue to eat the health promoting foods I can count on to help them thrive, I work to make their lunch options creative, exciting, and tasty for them. Sometimes that means offering different choices since each of my daughters has very distinct preferences. Other times, it involves including them in the decision making so we go shopping and pick ingredients for snacks together.
What I have found in my house is that while my girls have some favorite staples they also appreciate variety. Along with daily favorites, they like to see new things appear in their lunch boxes every day. My oldest refers to them as her lunch box “surprises” and definitely lets me know at the end of the day if I nailed it or failed it with my choices.
Here are some of the snack choices that are a hit in our household:
• Air Popped Popcorn o My daughters like snacking on this alone or sometimes with sprinkled on nutritional yeast for a cheesy taste.
• Hummus with sliced bell peppers, carrots, broccoli or cucumber o Some of these vegetables can be bought pre-cut which can increase convenience and ease.
• Guacamole with home made tortilla chips (made from corn tortillas baked in a toaster) o Another option here is to buy baked tostada shells and break those up into chip-sized pieces. We really like the Charras brand.
• Vegetable Sushi o The girls love to make their own rolls, which always include brown rice and avocado and occasionally additional veggies like carrots, cucumbers, asparagus or edamame.
• Apples and nut butter o You can create a variety of flavors by changing up your choice of nut butters. We often use sunflower butter but occasionally opt for peanut or almond butter.
• Roasted chickpeas o This crunchy and delicious snack is eaten by the handfuls in our house. There are many recipes online but this one from Forks Over Knives ( https://www.forksoverknives.com/recipes/jordanian-roasted-chickpeas/ ) is our favorite. Another creamier version we love comes from Engine 2 ( http://engine2diet.com/blog/top-engine-2-recipes-cheezy-chickpeas/ ).
• Trail mix or a version thereof o We usually have bags of walnuts, almonds, and raisins in our pantry. The girls pick from these and add puffed rice or puffed corn cereal to create their own special blend. You can substitute with your favorite whole grain cereal or use raw rolled oats.
• Granola o A variation on the trail mix, you can choice to make this at home or buy one of the many delicious varieties already made. Some of our favorites are the Engine 2 Apple Pumpkin Granola and Blueberry Vanilla Granola.
• Dried fruit o My daughters love dried mango and it has become one of the staples in their daily lunches. Other dried fruit to consider include raisins and dried apricots, bananas, or apples.
• Left overs and then some o You don't need to necessarily create snacks from scratch. Left overs can make for excellent choices and these can be dishes you made for previous meals or ingredients you have lingering in the fridge. Some of our favorites include: pizza, pasta, and veggie burgers that are just as delicious the next day. Other combos we have made from ingredients in the fridge are rice, black beans, corn, and tomatoes; millet, apples, and avocado; and potatoes, cabbage, and green beans.