Nourishing Warm Lunches for Kids to Power Through Winter

Dec 20, 2023 | Children's Health, Eating Well

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We want our children to grow up healthy, happy and performing their best in school. Packing nutritious winter lunches is one way to set them up for success.

Check out these warm lunchbox ideas from ParentingU to provide fuel for your kids’ growing bodies while supporting brain development and concentration skills. 

Warm Them Up

Keep a selection of wide-mouth thermoses so children can enjoy steaming soups and stews on cold days. While you prep the rest of the lunch, fill the thermos with hot or boiling water to warm it up and the food will stay warmer much longer — certainly until lunch time!

Think beyond soups and stews, although they are filling and a great way to pack in veggies and protein. Take your weekly meal rotation with meals you know your child loves and send leftovers. Warm them in the microwave, add to the thermos and it’s ready to go. Don’t forget utensils! 

A quesadilla whipped up in the morning can also stay warm in a thermos – wrap it in foil to keep it crispy. Scrambled eggs and cheese in a tortilla make a great breakfast burrito – the foil in a thermos trick can keep it ready to eat come lunch time.

In general, loading up on vegetables, fiber-rich beans and lean meats keeps kids feeling satisfied. A warm soup packed with a half sandwich made with nut or seed butter on the side can provide lasting energy. Homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds and chopped fruit is another good brain-boosting snack or side.

Build Balanced Bento Boxes

A bento box approach helps ensure all the food groups are included for balanced nutrition in one convenient container. Pack a whole grain like brown rice, quinoa or whole wheat couscous along with vegetables, fruits and lean protein. Some other ideas to fill out the bento box: turkey and cheese pinwheels, hard-boiled egg wedges, roasted sweet potato cubes, avocado slices, shelled edamame and fresh fruits like clementines.

Infuse Water with Fruit

Kids often forget to hydrate in the winter. Make it more appealing by sending creative infused waters like frozen fruit-kissed water or citrus cucumber. Hydration helps transport nutrients in foods to fuel all body systems. An insulated bottle keeps drinks cool but not frozen. 

A commuter mug that fully seals can be another hydration hack. Make tea in the morning and kids can sip on a still-warm drink with their lunch, they may find it appealing to look so grown up at the cafeteria table. Some cafeterias may offer hot water, so older kids could even steep their own tea during lunch.

The Professional Pantry

Having a well-stocked “lunch-making” pantry, freezer and fridge section saves time during your morning rush. Keep on hand whole grain breads/wraps, nut butters, assorted cheese sticks, small hummus dips and individual yogurts and applesauce. Prep over weekends by washing fruits and pre-cutting vegetables so they’re ready to just throw in.

Pack in the Nutrients and the Love

Assembling balanced bento box lunches on chilly mornings teaches children nutrition concepts they’ll carry for life. Beverages, fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains ensure their lunch contains a range of essential vitamins and minerals. 

Use handy food group checklist stickers as a loving visual reminder. Throwing in a sweet homemade treat can make them smile, too!

A sweet note from you reminding your child of your love and affection can warm their hearts while their yummy lunch warms their tummy.

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