(Baptist Health) – Dust off those lunch boxes and throw the ice packs in the freezer. It’s back-to-school season, so many parents will again face the daily struggle of packing nutritious lunches that their kids will actually eat. Here are some simple tips, plus two recipes to try! 

5 Ways to Make Packing Lunches Easier 

  • Let them choose: Depending on your child’s age, they may be able  pack their lunch themselves safely. But even if they aren’t, they can still have an opinion. Talk to your child about healthy lunch options whether it’s reviewing the school cafeteria menu for the next day or checking the shelves of your own fridge or pantry. Involve them in grocery shopping and planning for the upcoming week. Giving them a say in their lunch will take some of the stress off of you and provide them with something to look forward to at lunchtime.
  • Don’t be afraid to compromise: We’d all love to be the parents who only stock Bento Boxes with fresh veggies, hummus, chicken-filled pitas, and fruit cut into perfect little stars. But let’s face it, not all kids want to eat that. Be willing to allow your child to add a treat like a cookie, fruit snacks, or miniature candy bar. One treat won’t hurt if the majority of their lunch is well-balanced. 
  • Make it convenient: Whether it’s a protein bar or a string cheese, your local grocery store offers many healthy, pre-packaged options to make your life easier! Take advantage of freezable yogurts, frozen fruit, baby carrots, pre-sliced apples, and protein packs with nuts and cheese (be mindful of student allergies). Not only are they easy to grab and throw in a lunch bag, but the frozen items will keep the rest of the lunch cold. 
  • Use your leftovers: Repurposing leftovers from dinner is a great way to free up fridge space and ensure your kids get a well-balanced meal. Turn “Taco Tuesday” into a school lunch on Wednesday. Air-fry a few extra chicken strips to pair with a toaster waffle and a small container of sugar-free syrup in their lunch box the next morning. Sliders are also great for dinner or lunch the next day. You can even make an extra batch to separate, bag, and freeze for future lunches. 
  • Try meal-prepping as a team: If you’re the do-it-yourself type, the internet is full of recipes and gadgets to help you make affordable versions of your kids’ favorite meat and cheese trays and crustless PB&J sandwiches. Overnight oats are versatile, customizable to your child’s picky palate, and can be used for breakfast or lunch. Reusable sandwich bags, bento boxes, and sandwich cutters can turn a boring lunch into something fun! Make it a family event and spend some quality time in the kitchen prepping lunches in bulk for the week. 

Hallelujah for Hawaiian Rolls! 

Sandwiches are a lunchbox staple, but this year up your game by using Hawaiian rolls or slider buns. Sliders can be a parent’s best friend. They are just the right size and can be filled with your child’s favorite sandwich toppings. 

Pizza Sliders

You’ll need:

  • 1 package of Hawaiian rolls or slider buns
  • 1 package of turkey pepperoni
  • 1 package of sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup of your favorite marinara 
  • Sandwich bags

Typically Hawaiian rolls come in a 12-pack, but you may be able to find other slider buns in smaller quantities. If using the Hawaiian rolls, start by removing them from the package and slicing the entire loaf of rolls horizontally. Set the top aside and start layering your cheese and pepperonis until the bottom layer is covered. Put the top back on and cut it into squares. Place 1-2 sandwiches into a baggie and place in the fridge or freezer if you plan to send the following week. Pour some of your child’s favorite marinara into a small container with a lid for dipping during lunch. If you’re making these for dinner (with the intention of having leftovers for lunch) melt a little butter in a bowl in the microwave then add Italian seasoning. Spread over the top of the rolls and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the buns are browned. Enjoy! Let the sandwiches cool completely before packing them into sandwich bags or containers. 

BLT Sliders 

You’ll need:

  • 1 package of Hawaiian rolls or slider buns
  • 1 package of fully cooked microwavable bacon strips
  • Roma tomatoes 
  • Romaine lettuce 
  • Mayonnaise 
  • Sandwich bags

Follow the cooking directions on your microwaveable bacon. While that’s cooking, wash your lettuce and set out to try. Wash and thinly slice your tomatoes. Once the bacon has cooled, you can begin building your BLT. Add Mayo or condiments of your choice. This recipe is so simple you could quickly prepare these in the morning with any bacon leftover from breakfast.