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Published on May 25, 2018

25 Tasty and Healthy Kids’ Lunch Ideas for Home or School

25 Tasty and Healthy Kids’ Lunch Ideas for Home or School

If your kids are picky eaters, you know that every meal can be a battle. Their growing bodies are in need of vitamins and nutrients, yet all they crave are unhealthy foods with no nutritional content. What you need are creative meal ideas they can eat for lunch at home or at school, designed to appeal to their palate.

The recipes listed here contain lots of vegetables, minimal or no processed ingredients, and most importantly, flavors that even the pickiest kids will love! The ingredients for each meal are listed below. Click on the name of the dish to see the full recipe!

Finger Foods

1. Asian-Style Fish Cakes with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

    Do you have a finicky eater that refuses to eat fish? This is a great way to make this omega-3 fatty acid rich protein appealing and fun to eat. And it’s much better for you than frozen fish sticks.

    Just so you know, these fish cakes freeze amazingly well! To save time, make a big batch and freeze them for whenever you need a quick meal or snack.

    View recipe here.

    2. Chicken Zucchini Poppers

      Some kids don’t like the texture of zucchini, but in this recipe, they add moisture and the zucchini is barely detectable. Make sure to squeeze out the excess water in the zucchini so that the poppers stay together and don’t fall apart. They can be pan-fried or baked! The poppers pair perfectly with the citrus avocado dressing.

      View recipe here.

      3. Baked Crispy Chicken Fingers with Apple Fries

        If your kid asks for chicken fingers, you don’t have to say no. This version is made with white meat chicken and baked. Substituting fries with apple fries makes this an appetizing lunch that both you and your kids will approve of. Turkey breast can be used instead of chicken.

        View recipe here.

        4. Broccoli and Cheese Nuggets (Vegetarian)

          Broccoli is notorious for being a hard sell. Who knows why kids don’t like eating these miniature trees? But when mixed with cheese and formed into a fun shape for easy dipping, kids may give these broccoli-filled nuggets another try. Another positive is that they are baked, not fried.

          View recipe here.

          The Salad Bar

          5. Chicken Taco Salad

            Kids love tacos, so why not make them a healthy taco salad? This one is packed full of leafy greens, tomatoes, corn, avocado and grilled chicken. Adding crushed chips on top gives it the perfect amount of texture and appeal for your young kids to enjoy without a single complaint.

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            View recipe here.

            6. Chicken Salad with Grapes

              A colorful chicken salad with crunchy roasted nuts, dried cherries, grapes and celery, it can be served alone, in a sandwich, or on a bed of lettuce. Apples can be used in place of the cherries or in addition. Greek yogurt can also be used in place of the mayonnaise to up the healthy factor even more!

              View recipe here.

              7. Salad Stuffed Pepper Bowls with Creamy Avocado Dressing (Vegan)

                As many of you moms know, a huge part of the appeal of a meal is the presentation. These pepper bowls are such a clever idea for a kid-friendly lunch. The salad AND bowl are made from a plethora of colorful, nutritious veggies. How often do you get to tell your kids to eat their bowl? You can add a protein to the salad if you prefer, such as grilled chicken.

                View recipe here.

                Soup of the Day

                8. Vegan Chili

                  This vegan chili recipe contains primarily of vegetables and beans, making it very healthy and filling. Making a flavorful and rich tasting chili doesn’t have to take all day. By blending a small portion and adding it back in, the chili will be thick and satisfying, and no one will be able to taste the difference! Make a big batch because the leftovers keep very well.

                  View recipe here.

                  9. Chicken Pot Pie Soup

                    Get all the flavors of chicken pot pie in half the time with this chicken pot pie soup recipe. This is such a comfort food, but also contains a lot of nutritionally dense ingredients, such as carrots, celery, peas, corn and green beans. The crust and filling are cooked separately, which is a major time saver for busy moms.

                    View recipe here.

                    10. Slow Cooker Taco Soup

                      Another spin on the beloved taco, a fan favorite of young kids. This recipe is slow cooker friendly, so you can prep all of the ingredients in the morning, throw it in the slow cooker and come back to a house smelling of aromatic taco soup. Serve with tortilla chips or over a baked potato.

                      View recipe here.

                      Oodles of Noodles

                      11. Baked Eggplant Parmesan Penne

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                        Swap out typical Chicken Parmesan with healthier but just as tasty eggplant, which is sauteed instead of deep fried. But you don’t have to sacrifice the crunch from the breading by adding panko on top. You can also use whole wheat pasta to cut calories and add fiber, minerals, and protein.

                        View recipe here.

                        12. Roasted Chicken and Tomato Pesto Spaghetti Florentine

                          This recipe incorporates roasted grape tomatoes, baby spinach leaves and rotisserie chicken breast for a light and easy lunchtime pasta. You can make your own homemade pesto if you have the ingredients on hand. Store-bought also works just as well.

                          View recipe here.

                          13. Thai Noodle Salad (Vegan)

                            Filling your meals with plants of different colors will ensure that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. This recipe alone covers four colors! You can use any type of noodle (wheat, rice, soba, etc.) to make this dish, and customize the veggies to your heart’s content.

                            View recipe here.

                            14. Southwest Pasta Salad (Vegetarian)

                              This pasta salad is bursting with flavor — with tons of spices, lime juice and chipotle peppers. Don’t worry about making too much because the leftovers will be even more flavorful, after marinating in all of the seasonings overnight. And there is no heating needed! Use a lentil and quinoa pasta to make this dish gluten free.

                              View recipe here.

                              15. Avocado Hummus Pasta (Vegan)

                                This recipe is one that I created when I had no clue what to do with the vegetables, ripe avocados and leftover hummus I had to use up in my fridge. The textures and flavors of each ingredient somehow just works magically together. The creaminess from the avocado and hummus ties it all together. This accidental discovery is a huge hit with my husband and son!

                                Prep Time: 20 mins

                                Cook Time: 10 mins

                                Total Time: 30 mins

                                A 30-minute creamy vegan pasta loaded with veggies and tossed in a creamy sauce made from ripe avocados and hummus.

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                                Serves: 6

                                Ingredients

                                • 1 lb rotini pasta (substitute as needed)
                                • 3 tsp olive oil
                                • 3 cloves garlic, minced
                                • 16 oz white button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
                                • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
                                • 8 oz sugar snap peas
                                • 1 cup frozen or fresh spinach, chopped
                                • 1 large cucumber, chopped
                                • 3 oz sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
                                • 2-3 ripe avocados, chunks
                                • 10 oz hummus, any flavor
                                • 1 tbsp garlic powder
                                • salt, pepper to taste

                                Instructions

                                1. Cook noodles according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.
                                2. Chop veggies and set aside.
                                3. Add olive oil to a large saucepan. Saute minced garlic until aromatic. Add mushrooms, asparagus, cucumber, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes. Saute until tender.
                                4. Add pasta, avocado, and hummus to the pan and mix gently.
                                5. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
                                6. Serve warm. Store leftovers in the fridge for a few days.

                                Some Assembly Required

                                16. French Bread Pizza

                                  This is one of the most versatile recipes I’ve ever come across. Not only can you completely customize the toppings on the pizza, you don’t even have to use French bread. Deli rolls, Italian rolls or hoagie rolls work just as well! The possibilities of toppings that you can add are endless. Have your kids customize their own individual pizzas with their favorite toppings to ensure they will create a meal they love.

                                  View recipe here.

                                  17. Rainbow Pizza

                                    Look at the colors on this pizza! Not only is this pizza visually appealing, it’s also extremely healthy and delicious. The combination of bell peppers, broccoli, red cabbage and beets add a variety of complementary textures and flavors to this creative pizza recipe.

                                    View recipe here.

                                    18. Asian Lettuce Wraps

                                      Chicken lettuce wraps are a crowd-pleaser at P.F. Chang’s, but there’s no reason you can’t make a just as good if not better version at home. Requiring only 15 minutes, these lettuce wraps are scrumptious and fun to eat. Your kids will love assembling their own lettuce wraps and devouring this healthy lunch.

                                      View recipe here.

                                      19. Fish Tacos

                                        Another way to get kids to eat fish is to serve them into tacos! These flaky pieces of fish are topped with a tangy, crunchy slaw loaded with veggies. The fish can be pan-fried or grilled and served in a flour or corn tortilla. Your kids will be requesting this dish over and over again.

                                        View recipe here.

                                        20. Skirt Steak Fajitas

                                          This tortilla friendly recipe that incorporates skirt steak, onions and bell peppers has decided to go the fajita route. All of these ingredients can be combined on one baking sheet. That means fewer dishes and easier clean-up! You can serve with your favorite toppings such as avocado, sour cream, salsa and shredded cheese.

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                                          View recipe here.

                                          No Utensils Needed

                                          21. Avocado Egg Salad Wraps

                                            Eggs are a great ingredient to include in a nutrient-dense lunch for growing kids. Egg salad is one of the best ways to serve it, but the large amounts of mayonnaise introduces a lot of unnecessary saturated fats. This recipe cuts out a lot of the mayo and uses nature’s mayo — avocados, for creaminess.

                                            View recipe here.

                                            22. Spicy Tuna Avocado Wrap

                                              Canned tuna is such a convenient ingredient and is also a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and potassium. This wrap contains lots of hearty vegetables and uses avocado and Dijon mustard to flavor the tuna. Sriracha is used for added spice if your kids can handle spicy food! These wraps can be packed easily in a lunch box to take to school.

                                              View recipe here.

                                              23. Chicken and Avocado Roll-Ups

                                                These easy roll-ups take only 10 minutes to make! And they’re packed with great veggies like avocados, tomatoes and onions. You can pack it with even more veggies like spinach, cucumber, or whatever you might have in your fridge.

                                                View recipe here.

                                                24. White Bean Veggie Burgers (Vegan)

                                                  Do you have kids that love eating burgers? These 100% vegan burgers with plant-based bacon and cheese will be so delicious that they won’t even realize they’re not eating meat. Beans contain lots of vitamins and fiber and are a great source of protein. You can bake or grill these delectable burger patties.

                                                  View recipe here.

                                                  25. Turkey Spinach Slider

                                                    One of the problems with turkey burgers is that they can be flavorless and unappetizing when prepared incorrectly. This recipe incorporates ingredients that pack a punch like cumin and garlic. There’s also spinach leaves blended right into the patty, but your kids will be too busy chowing down to even notice!

                                                    View recipe here.

                                                    Making healthy lunches for home or school doesn’t have to be daunting task. Armed with these recipes, you have all the tools you need to find meals that the pickiest of eaters will enjoy.

                                                    By incorporating nutritional but less appealing ingredients into forms your kids recognize and love, you can introduce them to new flavors and hopefully, open their minds to trying new things.

                                                    Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

                                                    More by this author

                                                    Katie Lemons

                                                    Parenting Blogger and Full-Time Working Mom

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                                                    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

                                                    13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

                                                    13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

                                                    Creating your productivity ritual — a routine that helps you to maintain a peak level of energy can get you the best out of your days.

                                                    Part of creating your productivity routine involves removing activities that drain you (what I call “kryptonites”), and that includes your bad habits.

                                                    Like it or not, bad habits are bad for you — mentally, physically, emotionally and even socially in some cases. While some bad habits are harder to quit than others, it doesn’t change the fact that you need to get rid of them. Here are 13 bad habits to quit right away:

                                                    1. Stress Eating

                                                    I used to be a serious stress eater. I would eat whenever I felt unhappy, stressed, disappointed, anxious, or even… happy! My eating had nothing to do with being hungry, and everything to do with using food to fill my emotional voids.

                                                    While eating would comfort me, this feeling was momentary and would disappear right after I was done eating. Instead, what I had left would be the same emotional void that triggered me to eat in the first place (be it unhappiness or stress), a 2,000 excess calorie intake over what I should have eaten for the day, and anger at myself for having stress ate.

                                                    I’ve since overcome stress eating. I have healthy eating habits and a healthy relationship with food today where I no longer use food as a tool to fill my emotions.

                                                    If you are a stress eater, don’t fret — here’s how to manage your stress better:

                                                    How to Manage Stress (A Step-by-Step Guide to Turn Stress Into Success)

                                                    2. Nail Biting

                                                    Not only is nail biting unhygienic, it is also socially repelling, leads to dental problems like malocclusion of the anterior teeth,[1] potentially cause stomach problems,[2] and lead to severely deformed fingernails in the long run.

                                                    People who bite their nails tend to have shorter nails than the average person; their nail plates also experience scarring and may eventually become absent.[3]

                                                    Understand what triggers your nail biting behavior and replace it with another neutral to positive habit. Make habits to break habits.

                                                    For example, if you bite your nails when you are stressed, go for a walk or listen to music instead the next time you feel stressed.

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                                                    3. Hanging out with Naysayers

                                                    We all know these people — people who play devil’s advocate to every idea you have and every goal you want to pursue. We are already our greatest self-critics, so it doesn’t help when there’s someone beside us, ever ready to pounce on what we say and tear it down.

                                                    Hang out less with these naysayers and spend more time with supportive people who share constructive feedback instead. You will be much happier this way.

                                                    Learn how to get rid of naysayers with these 10 Ways to Ignore the Naysayers and Achieve Your Dreams.

                                                    4. Being with People Who Don’t Appreciate You

                                                    Haven’t all of us been in this situation before? Trying to please people who don’t appreciate us? Bending over backwards to be there for people when they are never there for us?

                                                    While we give without expectations of return, we need to draw a line with people who don’t value us because these people damage our souls.

                                                    Stop spending time with people who don’t appreciate you, and spend more time with people who do instead.

                                                    Unsure who you should get rid of? Learn about it here: 5 Kinds of Toxic People That You Need to Get Rid of Now

                                                    5. Smoking

                                                    Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death globally.[4]

                                                    In just the United States alone, about 500,000 deaths are attributed to smoking-related diseases annually. A recent study estimated that as much as one-third of China’s male population will have significantly shortened life-spans due to smoking! Gender-wise, male and female smokers lose an average of 13.2 and 14.5 years of life respectively — that’s over a decade of life right there.[5]

                                                    Not only that, smoking causes pre-mature skin aging (i.e. wrinkles), yellowing of teeth, bad breath, and worse of all — jeopardy of the health of people around you, including your loved ones. Studies have shown that non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk to many of the health problems associated with direct smoking.[6]

                                                    Smoking risks

                                                      6. Excessive Drinking

                                                      All of us know that drinking too much alcohol is bad for us, but do you know how bad it really is?

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                                                      According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking too much — be it on a single occasion or over time — can seriously damage your health:[7]

                                                      • Brain problems: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, making it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
                                                      • Heart diseases: Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle, Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat, stroke, high blood pressure
                                                      • Liver diseases: Steatosis or fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis
                                                      • Pancreas problems: Pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
                                                      • Different types of cancer: Mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, breast

                                                      If you drink a lot, perhaps cutting it out right away will be tough. Cut down the number of glasses you drink each time, followed by the number of times you drink a week.

                                                      If need be, seek help from an AA group — you aren’t alone in this. Change starts from today.

                                                      7. Eating Junk Food (Including Diet Soda)

                                                      Junk food — they are everywhere in our society today. From McDonald’s, to KFC, to Burger King, to 24-hour takeouts, junk food such as fries, highly processed burgers and sodas has become a staple in our society today.

                                                      If you think, “Hey, but junk food is tasty!”, think again:

                                                      A study by Paul Johnson and Paul Kenny suggests that junk food consumption alters brain activity in a way similar to addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin.[8]

                                                      “After many weeks with unlimited access to junk food, the pleasure centers of rat brains became desensitized, requiring more food for pleasure.”

                                                      And you wonder why you seem to crave fast food when you just had some the day before?

                                                      While it may not be possible to remove junk food completely from our diet right away, we can reduce our junk food consumption starting today. Instead of soda, opt for a fruit juice (fresh juice, not the carbonated kind) or mineral water. Instead of fries, switch to mashed potato, a salad, or rice (many food outlets allow for this today). Instead of a fried meat patty, go for a grilled one.

                                                      Where possible, opt for healthy food joints like salad bars and delis as opposed to fast food outlets. Every little step goes a long way.

                                                      Here’re some healthy snacks ideas for you: 15 Healthy Snacks You Should Always Have At Home

                                                      8. Eating Too Much Red Meat

                                                      There has been conclusive evidence that consumption of red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer; and suggestive evidence that it increases the risk of oesophageal cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and endometrial cancer.

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                                                      In addition, some studies have linked consumption of large quantities of red meat with breast cancer, stomach cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer![9]

                                                      Personally, I’m a vegetarian so I don’t consume red meat, but for those of you who consume red meat, do watch out and limit your intake — better still, cut it out of your diet. World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting intake of red meat to less than 300g (11 oz) cooked weight per week, “very little, if any of which to be processed.”

                                                      Of if you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian, check out this guide: 5 Practical Tips For Starting a Vegetarian Lifestyle

                                                      9. Watching Too Much TV

                                                      I stopped watching TV since eight years ago and I have never regretted it. Every once in a while I will switch on the telly to see what is on, and then I will switch it off because it’s just the same boring shtick over and over again.

                                                      Watching TV, particularly well-written dramas, can be a good way to unwind. However, remember that TV isn’t your life.

                                                      Spending three hours every night watching TV will not change your life for the better. Rather, using that time to reflect on your life, take stock, and take action on your goals will.

                                                      It’s not easy to remove TV from your daily routine right away, but follow these 6 Steps To Remove TV From Your Life.

                                                      10. Being Late

                                                      Not only is being late being rude to others, it also means that you’re always rushing from one place to another, playing catch up in your agenda, and having to apologize to every person you meet.

                                                      Stop being late and not being punctual, but practice being early instead. Target to arrive 15 minutes earlier before any appointment and bring along something to do in those 15 minutes (or longer if the other person turns out to be late). Then you can stop playing catch up and stay ahead in life.

                                                      Learn more tips about how to be more punctual here: How to Be On Time Every Time

                                                      11. Being in Bad Relationships

                                                      Are you always dating the wrong guys/girls? Do you end up with jerks all the time? Well, you may not be able to stop yourself from meeting bad partners but you can certainly stop yourself from furthering contact with them, spending time with them, or even… entering into a relationship with them.

                                                      I used to invest myself in this guy who was nothing but toxic for me. After a good five months of experiencing nothing but getting burned over and over again, I realized that he was a total waste of my time and I deserved better. I decided to cut him off, and it was soon after that I met my soulmate.

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                                                      Learn about why you shouldn’t stay in a bad relationship and how to deal with it if you’re in one: Why Trying Hard to Stay in an Unhappy Relationship Is Not Love, but Fear

                                                      12. Leaving Things to the Last Minute

                                                      Burning the midnight oil isn’t fun — it’s exhausting.

                                                      Those of you who got through college by burning the midnight oil would have learned this the hard way. Not only is it damaging for your body, it is also mentally draining as you’re constantly in a hyper-tense mode, feeling anxious about whether you can finish your work on time.

                                                      Start today on a new note. Rather than react to your deadlines, be proactive about them by planning ahead, identifying what needs to be done for the week, and getting things done in advance.

                                                      By staying ahead of your tasks, you can also use your extra time to plan ahead in your life and get more things done.

                                                      Take a look at this guide and learn how to stop procrastinating: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

                                                      13. Focusing on the Negatives

                                                      In every situation, there are two ways you can react: zoom down to the problem areas and crib about how things aren’t the way you want, or celebrate the areas that are going well and work on making everything better.

                                                      Many of us see the importance of doing the latter but in practice, we do the former. Why though? Criticizing and focusing on the negatives is easy but it doesn’t empower nor inspire us to be better.

                                                      Make a change — for every negative encounter you run into, I challenge you to identify three things that are good about it. Practice doing this for one week, and by the end of the week you’ll find that your first instinct is to think positive, not negative.

                                                      And here’re even more ways to help you stay positive: 11 Tips for Maintaining your Positive Attitude

                                                      The Bottom Line

                                                      So here you find the 13 most common bad habits and their consequences on your mind and body. The good news’ you can quit them all.

                                                      Just spot out your own bad habits and take my suggestions to quit them. Then you’ll find your life a lot healthier and happier!

                                                      Need more tips to break your bad habits? Check out these articles:

                                                      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                                                      Reference

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