1. Ultra Creamy Mac & Cheese with Peas
Mac and cheese that's creamy, yummy, and easy enough to make on a busy Monday night sounds impossible, but we're DOING IT (and living for the leftovers). Shredded cheese and cream cheese makes for a dynamite sauce. Soft sweet onions and green peas take it to the next level. We've got you covered!
2. Sheet Pan Kale & Potato Hash with Eggs & Cheese
This recipe makes not one, but TWO dreams come true: it's breakfast for dinner AND a one-pan-wonder because it's built on the sheet pan from start to finish. Timing is everything: first roast the vegetables that take the longest (potatoes & onions), then add kale, then eggs at the very end. Preheating the baking sheet helps make the potatoes extra crispy when it's time to start cooking! We've got you covered!
3. Roasted Red Pepper Panini with Fontina & Spinach
Panini is a toasted, pressed sandwich. And there's nothing we enjoy more than when a dish feels and tastes special, but with very little extra effort. One way to get there is by using time saving ingredients that bring the fancy factor - like roasted red peppers and brioche buns. Plus, you can pretend you roasted and baked them yourself—we won't tell anyone! We've got you covered!
4. Skillet Margherita Pizza with Italian Green Salad
In a pizza parlor, they toss and twirl and stretch and knead the dough as if the dough is an extension of themselves. It's kind of hypnotizing. We sure can't do that. And we're guessing, unless you're a master pizzaiolo, that you can't either. We also don't have a brick oven. And we're guessing that you might not either. So here's a pizza margherita that requires no expertise or special equipment. We've got you covered!
5. Tomato & Red Pepper Shakshuka with Garlic Ciabatta
Shakshuka is a mouthful. A delicious mouthful! This tomato-based stewed dish is popular in North African cuisine. And now it's gonna be popular in your house, too. The eggs cook in the sauce, coddled by the flavors of roasted red pepper, onions, tomatoes, harissa spice, and cilantro to make for perfectly runny centers that ooze into the sauce when you dive in with the crusty ciabatta. We've got you covered!
Use a Bento Box
When it comes to picky eaters, choice and variety are key, and nothing says choice and variety like multiple compartments filled with foods of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Shop for a Bento Box with your child, and let them choose the style they like. If they’ve participated in the lunch making, they’re more likely to participate in the lunch eating.
A spoonful of sugar may have helped the medicine go down, but when it comes to packing a healthy school lunch, shapes are what count. Cut cheese into triangles; slice carrots into thin strips and bundle with twist ties; pack an “all round” lunch (a hard-boiled egg, grape tomatoes, mandarins, a healthy sandwich on wheat toast cut into a circle). The more visually interesting it is, the more your little learner is likely to eat it.
DIY = D…”I love my lunch!”
There’s a reason kids love Lunchables. (Hint: It’s not because of the processed cheese.) It’s because kids like to a) build things, and b) feel like they—versus you—are deciding what they eat. Pack an assortment of whole grain crackers, sliced cheeses and leftover steak or chicken. Add grape tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and thinly sliced carrots with a dip like ranch or hummus, and finish with fruits they can pick at and share. (Think strawberries, grapes, and orange segments.) You’re guaranteed to get an empty lunchbox back.
Stick It To ‘Em
You say kebabs, your kids say, “Yes, please!” Where the above DIY tip for packing a healthy school lunch centers on your child building their own meal, this tip is about un-building. (And as every parent knows, kids love to un-build. Translation: tear, break, drop, and otherwise destroy stuff.) Whether a fruit, veggie, or protein-skewer, your kill will appreciate the tactile component.
Put a PIn [wheel] In It
Pinwheels are small and colorful, two things kids love. Instead of making a boring sandwich, spread a bit of cream cheese on a tortilla then layer leftovers—chicken, meat, tofu, veggies, anything works—by color and roll it all up. Slice your wrap in quarters and hold together with toothpicks that have “flags” (i.e. Post-its) with funny phrases written on them: “You’re my roll model” and “Don’t call me a wrap. I’m a pinwheel!”
Don’t Stuff It
While choice and variety works for some kids, too much choice and variety freaks most kids out. (Adults too, in fact.) Instead, match your child’s sack lunch to your child’s eating habits at home, and keep in mind that kids—young kids, especially—generally don’t eat big meals in a single sitting and are often too busy chatting with friends to eat a big meal.
Let Them Eat Cake!
Yes, you read that right. Let them eat cake. Or a donut. Or a piece of chocolate. Not a 14-layer, grownup-size piece of Costco cake, and not every day, of course. But making space for enjoying tasty things that aren’t 100% healthy is, ironically, the definition of health. How’s that, you ask? Because it helps kids understand moderation and discourages deprivation and viewing food as a punishment. Just make sure the cake—or cookie or cupcake or whatever you choose— is the exception, not the rule.