Sandwiches, granola bars and juice boxes can get tedious — so how do you prep healthy lunches and snacks for your kids when you’re on the go?
Turns out, there are handfuls of healthy, easy meals parents can pull together now that the back-to-school season has arrived.
Global News asked registered dietitians across Canada for their go-to, three-ingredient recipes for kid-friendly snacks and lunches. Here’s a list of their favourite dishes.
Saskatoon-based registered dietitian, Brooke Bullock, says kids love these rainbow kebabs because they’re colourful and fun to eat.
“They can pull each item off one-by-one making bite-sized finger food a fun little snack.
Three ingredients: Strawberries, grapes, cubed cheese (you can also use other fruits, such as mangoes or raspberries). Add the ingredients onto a skewer, alternating the colours.
Christy Brissette, a Toronto-based registered dietitian and founder of 80 Twenty Nutrition, whips up this easy meal for quick lunches.
“This homemade lunch tastes like takeout but is way healthier. Frozen vegetables make it much easier to prepare. Eggs are rich in choline, an important nutrient for brain health,” she told Global News.
Three ingredients: Rice, eggs, frozen mixed Asian vegetables. See the full recipe.
Brissette makes a hearty chili for the cold, damp school days. Chili is tasty, nutritious, easy to make and lasts for a few meals.
“Beans are rich in fibre and protein to help satisfy hungry kids. Plus the tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may help boost brain health,” Brissette said.
Pack the meal in a Thermos to keep it warm for a comforting lunch.
Three ingredients: Mixed canned beans, ground turkey, diced tomatoes with herbs. See the full recipe.
Krista Leck swears kids eat up this tasty meal for lunch or as a snack. It has protein and fibre to keep their tummies satisfied for longer, too.
“This is also versatile for a breakfast, lunch or even snack time. Allergy friendly options can be made with seed butters instead,” she said.
Three ingredients: One whole banana, one whole wheat tortilla, two tablespoons of nut or seed butter. Simply spread the nut or seed butter on the tortilla, top with the banana, roll and slice into sushi pieces.
Leck makes a batch of breakfasts in one tray for this recipe.
“Eggs are cost-efficient and a fabulous source of protein. Vegetables can be customizable to what your child prefers and the ham “liner” makes it easy to transport.
Three ingredients: 12 eggs, 12 slices of ham, 2 cups of diced broccoli (or other vegetables of your choice). Optional: swap out the ham or vegetables for grated cheese instead.
Simply spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray, line each muffin cup with a slice of ham, sprinkle in the broccoli and add an egg into each cup. Bake until the egg is fully set.
Nothing beats a tuna melt when you’re tired of ham and cheese sandwiches.
“This healthy tuna melt is another vehicle to sneak in some veggies and healthy protein. You can also enjoy the tuna mixture on crackers for a lunch bag snack,” Nicole Osinga, a Courtice, Ont.-based registered dietitian, said.
Three ingredients: Tuna salad (with celery, plain Greek yogurt and dill), one slice of bread (for an open-faced sandwich), and sliced or shredded cheese.
Yogurt and cereal are common go-tos for breakfasts and snacks, but what about chia seed pudding?
Chia seed pudding is also packed with omega 3s, soluble fibre and vitamins B6, vitamin K, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron and selenium.
Three ingredients: Unsweetened almond milk, chia seeds, vanilla extract or pure maple syrup. Fruits, like raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple, mango, banana, can be added as toppings. See the full recipe.
Chickpeas showed up on many of the experts’ recipe rosters. They can be made into simple salads with olive oil and lemon juice with herbs, salt and pepper, added to soups and even roasted, transforming them into a crunchy snack.
“Homemade chickpeas are an easy snack to prepare ahead of time. Toss them on a tray and into your hot oven when cooking the day before. I recommend doubling up batches and switching up the flavours to appeal to your child’s tastes,” suggests Toronto-based registered dietitian, Andrea D’Ambrosio.
You could try making pizza-flavoured chickpeas, curry flavours or even cinnamon-roasted chickpeas.
It’s a snack that’s packed with fibre and protein.
Three ingredients: Chickpeas, olive oil, dried rosemary (salt and pepper to taste). See the full recipe.
Brissette has this recipe for coconut lime roasted chickpeas.
Packaged Lunchables are an easy way out, but they’re pricey and just as easy to assemble on your own. You can make cracker stackers, putting control into what your kids are eating, according to Bulloch.
“Stackers are fun, crunchy and a great way to bring a variety of nutrients into a simple three-ingredient lunch. Getting kids involved with a variety of items to choose from increases the likelihood of them enjoying healthful foods like veggies,” she said.
Three ingredients: Brown rice crackers, cucumber slices, and hummus. You can switch up the crackers (rice cakes, whole grain crackers, for example), vegetables, and a protein source (lean chicken or turkey and even slices of cheese).
Toronto-based registered dietitian, Andrea Miller, said parents should have pre-made snacks that are quick to eat on the way to soccer practice.
She makes carrot chips and stores them in small containers to serve with other raw veggies and hummus.
“We know most kids don’t get enough veggies – the carrot chips are a novel way to up veggie intake. Easy eating when on the go – no utensils and quick cleanup,” she said.
Three ingredients: One pound of carrots, half a teaspoon of cinnamon and two tablespoons of orange juice. You can also add a quarter of a teaspoon of nutmeg. Slice the carrots evenly at a diagonal using a mandolin. Toss them with spices and juice and arrange on a baking tray to bake for 45 minutes, until crisp.