Lauren Egger is a busy mom of five, a former RN and founder of the Healthy Mom Project.
I always look forward to the end of school year when summer is near. No more rushing out the door in the morning to drop the kids off at school and no more evenings jam-packed with after school activities. Even though we have less scheduled activities in the summer, it can still be a challenge making food for the kids since we seem to be outside all the time! By the time we get inside to eat lunch, the kids are starving.
Our youngest is 15 months old now and keeps me hopping. Literally. She’s the busiest child we’ve had (loving to climb on anything and everything!) Truly, I only get a break from running after her when she naps. My routine with the kids is evolving and I don’t know if I’d even call it a routine anymore. While it may be hectic, my #1 priority is to try to serve them nutrient-dense meals. I am not perfect by any means, but this is the goal every day. Don’t worry — we have plenty of times in the summer where the kids eat from the concession stands at various activities and at the pool. It’s definitely a part of summer you can’t get away from. I always tell myself “the habits that stick are the ones formed at home.”
I try to pack the kids’ lunches before we leave the house if we are heading off to do a fun summer activity. They expend so much energy and their tiny little bellies need lots of nutrition! Here are some easy, yet nutrient-dense lunch ideas for the summer.
PB&J | Celery & Peanut Butter with Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips | Sliced Kiwi | Popcorn & Cereal
PB & J’s are our jam. I like to use Rudi’s Organic Spelt or Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Bread. We use Heinen’s Organic Peanut Butter & Crofter’s Organic Strawberry jelly. We also buy a lot of cashew butter and use as a replacement for peanut butter. Cashew butter is a great source of iron, which can sometimes be hard to get enough iron-rich foods in your kid’s diet. Peel and slice kiwi or cut in half and allow your kid to scoop it out. We like Skinny Pop Popcorn and add a cereal like Kashi Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal to make it more fun and tasty.
DIY Pizza Lunchable | Turkey Roll-Ups | Cucumbers & Carrots | Strawberries & Blueberries
I learned how to make a DIY Pizza Lunchable for my oldest since he was requesting these for school. When I first started buying gluten-free bread over a decade ago, they tasted like cardboard and my mom quickly found an alternative — rice cakes! These organic thin sliced rice cakes are at Heinen’s in the nut and candy aisle. Pack Heinen’s Organic Marinara sauce and Organic Valley Mozzerella cheese on the side in containers. If you pre-make them, it will be too soggy by the time they go to eat it. You can also roll out regular bread (like Rudi’s Spelt Bread) with a rolling pin so it’s thin and easy to hold, and then cut out a circle or square. I buy Applegate Oven-Roasted Turkey slices, which you can find by the Deli. Finally, cut up cucumbers, carrots and strawberries however the kids like to eat them!
Simple Mills Crackers & Hummus | Grapes & Watermelon | Nuts & Chocolate | Cucumbers
We looove Simple Mills crackers! They are naturally gluten-free and contain whole food ingredients. Made from a nut and seed blend, with tapioca, cassava, sunflower oil, sea salt, onion, garlic and rosemary extract, they contain protein, healthy fats and are kid-approved. Serving hummus to your kids is a great way to get them to eat chickpeas! They won’t even know they’re eating them since hummus is so delicious. It’s a refrigerator staple over here. Try having your kids help you scoop out watermelon balls when you bring a watermelon home (not while you’re trying to hurry and make lunches though.) Frozen grapes are a fun treat in the summer. Cut cucumbers in sticks to switch it up. Cashews and pistachios are usually the nuts our kids will eat. I like to throw in some Enjoy Life chocolate, which is also a great source of iron!
- Green Lentil Pasta + Marinara. If you haven’t tried these one ingredient (green lentil flour) pastas, you’re missing out! They are full of protein, iron and fiber. Toss them with grass-fed butter and sea salt for another kid-approved meal.
- Applegate Chicken Nuggets + Sweet Potato Fries. This is a one sheet lunch. Line chicken nuggets and fries on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven.
- Two Ingredient Quesadillas. Smash up an avocado, 1 garlic clove and sea salt. Spread on one side of a tortilla. Spread Amy’s Traditional Refried Beans on the other tortilla. Place them together and fry in avocado oil or grass-fed butter for 2 minutes on each side. Top with salsa, sour cream, olives or any other good fixings your kids like!
- Leftover Chicken, Rice & Hummus Wrap. Place chicken, rice and hummus in a tortilla wrap. Serve with a side of fruit, veggies and pretzels.
- Applegate 100% Grass-fed Hotdogs + Tortilla Chips & Salsa + Sliced Apples.
*** For those times you make last minute plans and need to run out the door: grab a loaf of bread, jar of nut butter and jelly, fruit (bananas are easiest to grab), healthy potato chips or popcorn, bag of carrots, water and throw it all in a cooler! Don’t forget butter knives and plates.