(NEW YORK) — The new school year means a new chance to fill your kids’ lunch boxes with healthy and delicious foods that they will want to eat.
The even better news, according to celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli, is that making your child’s lunch each day does not have to be an arduous task.
Instead, says Guarnaschelli, a judge on Food Network’s Chopped Teen Tournament, there are easy ways to both include your child in the lunch-making process and to make sure that the food gets an A+ in both taste and nutrition.
Read below for Guarnaschelli’s lunch-making tips, in her own words:
Best Lunches for Kids to Make Themselves
1) Sunflower Butter and Jelly Sandwiches — Let your kid explore his/her own style with something simple and comforting. Add some cut-up vegetables of their choosing on the side Just making their own choices is a great way to build independence and let them feel like they chose what they’re eating.
2) Turn a Kid-Made Dinner into Lunch — Make spaghetti and meatballs with your child, letting them help to make the meatball mix, sauce and cook the pasta. Then have them pack the leftovers for lunch. They can explore a good companion for their lunch to go with… Cucumber salad? Roasted eggplant?
3) Build-Your-Own Sandwich Lunch — Let them curate all the layers of a sandwich and they build it when they sit down to lunch. It’s interactive and filled with choices.
4) Make chicken alphabet soup together!
Budget-Friendly Lunch Suggestions
1) Make a stir-fried rice dish with some cut-up chicken and any vegetables folded into the rice for a “one pot” meal lunch that has it all — protein, starch and vegetables.
2) A homemade hamburger can be a real treat. Make a turkey burger with lettuce, tomato and pickles on the side so that lunch can be interactive with a build-your-own sandwich concept.
3) Make dinner with the goal of stretching it out for lunch in the back of your mind. Making more of one thing is cheaper than buying more varied ingredients for each meal. Make a basic lasagna with some cooked zucchini or eggplant in the layers for dinner. It can make a great leftover lunch. A wedge of lasagna, why not? Especially if it has vegetables in the layers and it still has that “cool kid” lunch factor.
Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas
1) I love using hummus as centerpiece and then making different containers of vegetables for fun dipping. It can also use grilled chicken or roasted turkey as another component to round out the vegetables.
2) Think about the whole week of lunches by buying cold cuts and cheese and healthy flour tortillas and make a different wrap each day You can also put leftovers into the wrap gussied up with some tomatoes or cheese or lettuce.
3) Pack lunch like a picnic Make extra BBQ chicken for dinner and pack the leftovers with sliced pickles (or marinated cucumbers) and tomato salad as the sides.
Treat and Dessert Ideas
1) Apple fruit bars or pumpkin and pumpkin pie bars for fall. Or try candy apples or oven-dried fruit treats.
2) Rice Krispie treats with added sunflower seeds and dried fruit for healthy wrapped up in a treat kids love.
3) Homemade caramels wrapped in fun colored paper to make homemade healthy candy. You can even use goat milk for caramel.
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