Beyond PB&J: 8 Quick & Healthy LunchesEmily McClements
I don’t know about your family, but by the time my kids and I walk in the door after picking my daughter up from preschool, we are all famished and ready to eat lunch RIGHT NOW!
It is so easy to fall back on the tried and true, (and fast and easy!) peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and while it’s not necessarily a bad lunch, I feel better if I’m able to offer my kids some variety in their lunches throughout the week. And by variety I don’t just mean turkey sandwich one day, grilled cheese the next, and by the end of the week we’ve basically eaten a sandwich every day, and gone through a whole lot of bread.
I realized that if I wanted to give my kids a healthy variety of lunches, then I would have to plan ahead and be prepared. Planning out our lunches every week helps me to not fall into the PB&J rut, and being prepared means that I make what I can ahead of time, or I start to prep lunch before we leave to pick up my daughter, so everything goes faster and smoother once we get home.
The first thing I like to do is to include some stand alone fruit or veggie that I can offer as soon as we get in the door and my kids will eat it while I’m making the rest of lunch — grapes, apple slices, oranges, carrot sticks, or sometimes salad.
This accomplishes two purposes: 1. Because they are so hungry, they are more likely to eat their fruits and especially veggies, than when I serve them alongside a meal and 2. It gives them something quick so they are not whining and hanging on my legs while I’m trying to get the rest of lunch made.
Then I can quickly make or put together the lunch I have planned and we can all sit down together to a healthy and nutritious lunch.
Here are eight of my go-to easy and healthy lunches:
Homemade Mac & Cheese 1 of 8What kid doesn't like mac & cheese? But we've been moving away from processed foods toward whole and real foods at our house, so I came up with my own homemade healthy version that doesn't take any longer to prepare than the box - especially if you grate the cheese ahead of time. Ready in 10 minutes.
Homemade Mac & Cheese Recipe
Quesadillas 2 of 8Quesadillas come together quickly and easily if you have the ingredients prepped ahead of time. While basic cheese is great, we also do chicken and cheese, veggies and cheese and even egg and cheese - which is one of my favorites. Ready in 10 minutes.
Egg Quesadilla Recipe
Chicken Salad 3 of 8I searched for a long time to find a basic chicken salad recipe that my family would like, and this one is easy to whip up with pre-cooked chicken. My kids eat this as is, right out of a bowl, no bread necessary. Ready in 5 minutes.
Easy Chicken Salad Recipe
Soup 4 of 8Now that the colder weather is here, we love soup for lunch. I can get soup going on the stove in the morning, and leave it on low while we go pick up my daughter, and it's ready to eat when we get home. This black bean soup is one of our favorites.
Black Bean Soup Recipe
Bean and Cheese Burritos 5 of 8Burritos are super easy and quick to throw together with ingredients you've prepared ahead. My kids love basic bean, cheese and sour cream burritos - with either refried beans, or leftover cooked black or pinto beans. Ready in 5 minutes.
Leftovers 6 of 8Which leads us to, of course, leftovers, which is one of my favorites because it is so easy. I often make extra dinner with the intention of eating it as leftovers for lunch, or I'll sometimes re-create leftovers into a new meal for lunch - like a wrap or burrito. Ready in 5-10 minutes.
Healthy Dips 7 of 8
Hard Boiled Eggs 8 of 8My kids love hard boiled eggs so much that I can't keep enough of them on hand in the fridge; I think they would eat them every day if they could. I make the eggs in the morning, and they're cooled and ready to eat as soon as we get home. Sometimes I'll make basic egg salad which my kids eat plain out of the bowl, like the chicken salad. Ready in 5 minutes or less.
What are your favorite quick and healthy lunches for busy days?