Back to school looks a little different this year. Some students are back to school, but socially-distanced, while others are there half the week, and still others are doing online learning at home. No matter what the classroom looks like, parents, care-givers, and teachers are looking for ways to engage and keep learning fun. One way to help this year’s school feel more normal and more fun is to find ways to provide their favorite school lunches, even at home. Making healthy versions of classic school lunches can make those online lessons, or even just to provide a better alternative for what is offered at school, can be both fun, and give kids more control over their meal choices, while ensuring they are getting their vitamins and nutrients. In this month’s blog we have a traditional school meal, but with a Stretch-n-Grow twist.

Tater tots: This crunchy treat is the classic school lunch option as a side. Kids love them because they taste like french fries, and schools love them because they’re easy to make. To make them healthier, consider using sweet potato or quinoa as the base. Mix a green vegetable into the mix like broccoli or spinach. Use parmesan or almond  flour for breading. Added bonus: because this is your recipe, you and your family can flavor them with whatever cheeses or spices you want.

Sloppy Joes: Many kids look forward to sloppy joe day at school, though sometimes it can mean more laundry. To have this fun sandwich at home, try ground turkey meat or lean beef. Many recipes include brown sugar in the sauce, so using a sweetner ulterior can make a big difference in the daily sugar intake of a child. For some families, choosing to not use a bun may be a great alternative to address wheat allergies. Make sure to have plenty of napkins on hand!

Fresh Fruit and Veggies: Most school lunches come with a fruit or vegetable side option, but they don’t always have options some picky eaters like, or they are in sugar water. When making your home-made version, pick options the children will eat. Use this time to expand the family palette by slicing up a mango, or making kale chips. Getting vitamins and minerals at lunch is crucial for growing kids, and the more plants they eat the better they will be!

Think back on your favorite school lunches; find out what is popular with the little ones in your household; even if they cannot be in school every day, they can still have a fun lunch experience – delicious and nutritious!

By: Bethany Verrett