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Raising Generation Nourished School Lunch Gear Resource Guide

August 2, 2020

This all-inclusive school lunch gear guide will help you select what lunch gear works best for YOUR family and how YOU pack lunches in YOUR home!

Raising Generation Nourished Lunch Gear Resource Guide

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Simplifying life

It is so very easy to get overwhelmed by all of the lunchbox choices that we have today. While we have certainly improved from the squished brown paper bags and endless plastic baggie waste of our 1980’s and 1990’s youth, we have also been inundated with enough lunch gear choices to make any mom’s head spin. My hope is to give you a comprehensive guide with my own veteran momma thoughts on packing so that you can select gear that works for YOUR household.

“Build Your Own BLT Lunchable with Amazin’ Bacon Dipping Sauce” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Bentgo Kids Box

There’s no one right way to pack a lunch

This has become a mantra of mine when teaching about lunch packing every school year, and I mean every word of it. Every household has a different rhythm, and my rhythm does not have to be your rhythm. Your bestie momma friend’s rhythm does not have to be your rhythm. We all have different schedules, different likes and dislikes, and of course – different kids!

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
“Colorful Rainbow Pinwheels” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a BriGenius Bento Box

So as you walk through this guide think about how YOUR household runs.

How YOU like to pack lunches. And then match that rhythm to lunch gear that fits.

  • If you like to incorporate dinner leftovers, soups, and warm items weekly, be sure to check out the thermos options section.
  • If your kids prefer “snackier” cold lunches with lots of choices, then a multi-compartment bento might work better for you.
  • If your child gets overwhelmed by too many choices, pick a simpler box and set up.
  • If your kids like lots of variety, you might want to invest in both a thermos type of lunch box as well as a cold lunch bento. You are truly in the driver seat!
“The Best Chinese Take-Out Copycat” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a thermos

BENTO BOX OPTIONS

Planetbox

Planetbox has been a favorite in our household since pre-school ages, my now 11-year-old still uses the same Planetbox she had from her early elementary years!

  • Material :: Planetbox styles are all stainless steel.
  • Design :: These lunchboxes are multi-compartment bento boxes depending on the style – see the styles below. The bento box comes with magnets to customize the lunchbox if you want (be sure to pull these off before washing however or the steel will rust underneath!)
  • Leak-Proof? :: The actual compartments do keep items separate very well, but they are not leak-proof. Each Planetbox does come with leak-proof containers though, so things like salad dressings, ketchup, other dips, can go in a condiment container neatly in the box. And other leaky items like juicy fruit, applesauce, and yogurt can go in the larger round containers. Again, these leak-proof containers come with your Planetbox.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Planetbox and all of the accessories are dishwasher safe. I would recommend pulling the magnets off before washing to prevent water from getting under the magnet and rusting the box.
  • Age Group :: Depends on the style Planetbox – see each style below.
  • Planetbox Style #1 – “The Shuttle” :: The Shuttle is a really nice size for toddlers and pre-schoolers. My youngest was in Young 5’s two years ago, and we used this for her for the first part of the school year.
  • Planetbox Style #2 – “The Rover” ::The Rover is really the ultimate elementary aged sized lunchbox. Lots of compartments to separate food without being overwhelming, easy to open and close, with everything presented just like a plate at home. My kindergarten through late elementary aged kids used this box.
  • Planetbox Style #3 – “The Launch” ::The Launch lunchbox is a great size for middle school ages and beyond (I even used it to pack sometimes as an adult!). If you have an upper elementary aged child that has a really good appetite, then the Launch might work well for him as well.
  • Lunch Bag :: You’ll have to use the Planetbox lunch bag to fit the unique design of the planetboxes. These have lasted my kids many years. I have only bought a new one for my oldest once, and it was mostly because she wanted a different color.
  • Price Point :: While the price point on this lunchbox feels high, I have considered it a very worth investment as it is the only lunchbox I’ve had to buy my kids in 7 years of schooling so far!
“Charcuterie Board Lunchbox from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Rover style Planetbox
“Colorful Rainbow Chicken Salad with Fruity Poppyseed Dressing” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Launch style Planetbox

BriGenius

The BriGenius has been a fun lunchbox to play around with, and I can see this working very well for both younger and older children with it’s simple set up for ease of eating for little kids, and plenty of space to pack for older ones.

  • Material :: The BriGenius bento box is made of BPA free wheat fiber. (Does anyone know what this means for Celiac kids? I tried researching this and came up empty – please comment below!)
  • Design :: The box is a 5-compartment bento. It feels lightweight like plastic and washes up well. This bento box comes in one color, but the lid is plain and might do well with a some fun laptop stickers to customize!
  • Leak-Proof? :: The compartments keep food separated well, but only the middle compartment is leak-proof, perfect for dips. I did not think it did well with thinner dressings, but thick dips like ketchup, hummus, or a creamy dressing do well.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: This bento box washes up well and fuss-free. It is dishwasher safe.
  • Age Group :: While this box advertises “older kids and adults,” I can see this bento box being great for little kids too. It is a simple set up for little ones and easy to open/close.
  • Lunch Bag :: This lunchbox would fit in most lunch bags you can find at the store measuring 7 inches X 8.7 inches X 2.7 inches.
  • Price Point :: I love the price point on this lunchbox, though I have only had it about a year, so I can’t comment on how long they last. If anyone has one and would like to comment, please do below!
“Best Busy Kid Approved Veggie Nuggets” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook

Bentgo Kids

Bentgo Kids is perfectly made for your younger crew!

  • Material :: Bentgo Kids is made of BPA free plastic.
  • Design :: The box is a 5-compartment bento box. You can get Bentgo Kids in one color designs, two-tone color designs, or with patterned designs too.
  • Leak-Proof? :: Bentgo Kids is totally leak-proof.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: The tray comes out for dishwasher safe washing, but outside of the box with the leak-proof seal is recommended to be washed by hand to maintain it’s leak-proof nature. I have a feeling you will want to pull the rubber leak-proof parts out to wash here and there unfortunately or it might start to smell/mold.
  • Age Group :: They recommend ages 3-7, though I can see your younger toddlers being able to manage this box. Also, my 7 year old is able to fit her portion sizes into this box, so I can see this box working through 1st or 2nd grade.
  • Lunch Bag :: The box measurements are 8.5 inches X 6.5 inches X 2 inches, so it is going to fit in most store bought lunch bags. I have found the Bentology bags to fit most bento boxes perfectly.
  • Price Point :: The price point on this lunchbox is great, and it does have a 2 year warranty. I’m not sure if that means they plan on it being worn down by then or not! If anyone has experience with years of use using a Bentgo, we would love to hear from you below!
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
“Crunchy Honey Oat Nature Valley® Granola Bar Copycat” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook

UpBento

The UpBento brand is very similar to Bentgo in design and age range, but I liked the versatility of having 2 trays with different set up options that this box gives. It makes it stretch past the age 7 in my opinion.

  • Material :: The UpBento box is made of BPA free plastic.
  • Design :: The box comes with 2 tray set-ups (a 4-compartment tray, and a 6-compartment) for versatile food options. There is just the one, 2-toned color pattern for the lunchbox, but it does come with some fun stickers that your child can personalize their lunchbox with. I’m not sure how long those stickers stay! If anyone has experience with this lunchbox, please let us know below!
  • Leak-Proof? :: The UpBento is totally leak-proof.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: This bento box is dishwasher safe. The leak-proof lid has a part that removes to wash – I think water will get underneath and start to smell if you don’t do that often just FYI.
  • Age Group :: They advertise the box as ages 3-8 but I know that my 7 and 9 year olds’ portions fit just fine in here (my 9 year old is going into 4th grade).
  • Lunch Bag :: The UpBento measures 8.9 inches X 6.9 inches X 2 so it will fit most store bought lunch bags. I have found the Bentology bags to fit most bento boxes perfectly.
  • Price Point :: This box has a 180 day warranty and an affordable price point.
“Party Time Confetti Bean Salad” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in the 4-Tray Option of the UpBento Box
“Carnival Corndog Copycat” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in the 6-Tray option of the UpBento Box

OmieBox

I’m putting the OmieBox in the Bento Box section even though it has a thermos, because it is the only bento box with a thermos option! If you are a thermos packer, this is such a great option for your elementary aged children. Instead of a separate thermos and box to manage, everything is all in one which is perfect for little kids.

  • Material :: The OmieBox is made of BPA free plastic. The thermos is stainless steel.
  • Design :: The box has 3 compartments plus a thermos compartment that is completely removable for days that you don’t want to pack hot food – it is the perfect size for a sandwich or larger food. The thermos holds 6 ounces of hot food – which is truly a perfect size thermos for little ones. The other 3 compartments are plenty deep and hold a lot of food.
  • Leak-Proof? :: This box is totally leak-proof.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: This lunchbox is dishwasher safe, though the rubber sealed parts do need to be removed to wash here and there or they start to smell – I have had this happen!
  • Age Group :: Pre-school to around middle elementary school years. My 4th grader’s portions would still fit in this box. I would say anything past 4th grade this box will be too small though. I will mention that my 4th grader thought this box was “too baby-ish” last year in 3rd grade though, so keep that in mind.
  • Lunch Bag :: I love that this box has a handle for carrying – you don’t need a separate bag! You could purchase the OmieBox carrying bag however in case you have to pack a cold pack sometimes.
  • Price Point :: Considering you are getting both a bento box and thermos in one, I consider this price fairly affordable.
I gave our OmieBox away to a friend – apologize for the stock image! If you have other OmieBox questions, I used it for 2 years and can answer them!

Stackable Bento Boxes

I wanted to share one other option for bento boxes that you might not think about! I can see stackable bento boxes working very well for middle school and high school, especially for kids that want a more space saving, compact lunchbox. This age carries around so many books and devices, that I think the compact nature of this style might be nice for them.

  • Material :: You can find stackable lunchboxes in stainless steel or BPA free wheat straw type plastic materials. It depends on how you like to clean your lunchboxes, as well as if the weight of the lunchbox matters to you. The plastic boxes will be lighter weight.
  • Design :: The main concept of these Japanese style lunchboxes is 3-5 separate compartments that stack easily on top of each other. The boxes are nice and deep, holding a lot of of food for older kids. I love that these compartments not only work well for staples like sandwiches, but also for big salads like taco salad, pasta salad, cobb salads, or chicken salads, and then have a compartment for sides like chips, fruit, etc. Great lunch options for older kids!
  • Leak-Proof :: Many of the stackable designs are completely leak-proof as each compartment has a separate lid.
  • Dishwasher Safe :: Most of the stackable designs are dishwasher safe.
  • Age Group :: Upper elementary through high school and college. I wanted to also mention that the reason I wouldn’t pack these for younger kids is because of all the separate boxes and lids that aren’t attached. It is just too much for little ones to manage (and not get lost!), so for that reason, I wouldn’t recommend this style for little ones.
  • Lunch Bag :: Many of these stackable designs have a strap or carrying handle making it so easy to travel. I think a taller lunch bag would be nice to have around though for packing with ice packs as needed. I found many on Amazon.
  • Price Point :: I just love the price points on the stackable lunchbox styles! I’m not sure how long they hold up, but I think they are quite affordable and super compact!
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
“Fast Prep Brain Boosting Bow Tie Pasta Salad” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
“Taco Tuesday” Fajita Salad from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook

THERMOS OPTIONS

LunchBots

We’ve been using LunchBots thermoses for years now, and I would say I’ll probably buy them again if we wear them out!

  • My biggest love for these thermoses (other than the fact that they keep food hot and my kids can get the lid on and off) is the size. These thermoses hold 8 ounces of hot food, which is the perfect size for most kids. It is a bit big for your really little guys (see the OmieBox in the bento box section above if you want a really small thermos), but my kindergartners have “grown into” their thermoses, and this thermos is still a great size for my 6th grader. I literally search every year for a thermos that holds 6-8 ounces, and have only found this one! Most other popular thermoses for kids (Thermos Brand, Skip Hop, Foogo) are all 10 ounce thermoses – they hold a lot of food but it really is a lot for kids. These sizes will work for older kids I’m assuming. The problem with a container that is too big, is that the food will get cold faster if the container is not filled up at least 3/4 of the way. By getting a smaller thermos, you can be sure the food won’t have a bunch of empty space to compete with keeping the food warm.
  • LunchBots thermoses are stainless steel and dishwasher safe. They are easy to clean by hand if you have to do that too.
“Creamy Tomato Bisque” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Lunchbots Thermos

Mira

The Mira Thermos was a new to me thermos while I wrote The Little Lunchbox Cookbook, and it’s a nice one!

  • This thermos is stainless steel and dishwasher safe – it cleaned up nice.
  • The Mira thermos holds 9 ounces of hot food – as I said in the above Lunchbots Thermos section, I have found 8 ounces to be a good size for most elementary school aged kids, so you can judge what would work for your children.
“Back To School Fall Harvest Soup” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Mira Thermos

Larger Thermoses for Middle & High School

So I’m planning on updating this section as my crew gets bigger. As of right now, my oldest is in 6th grade, and I am still finding the 8 ounce Lunchbots thermos works for her. If you have older kids, I would love to hear your thoughts on how many ounces of hot food they like to pack! Here are some bigger thermoses that I think older kids would like the look of and the amount of food they hold is great. I would really love to hear from you if you try any of these out, or have a thermos that your middle or high schooler loves! Please comment below!

  • HydroFlask – holds 12 ounces (These are popular with water bottles in this age group, so I think they would be more likely to pack a hot soup or dinner leftover with a thermos in the same brand!)
  • Thermos Brand – there is a 10 ounce, 16 ounce, and 24 ounce option here
  • Capsule – this brand has a 16 ounce food capacity and a sleek look I think older kids would like.
  • Iconiq – there is a 10 and 16 ounce option for this brand. I love the stackable option and the spot for the fold-able spork!
Dairy Fake Out Mac ‘N Cheese” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a larger, ArderLive Thermos that might work well for High School aged kids.

SMALLER BOXES FOR THERMOS SIDES OR SNACKS

I wanted to include some ideas for the side items that get packed on a thermos day! You don’t need a huge lunchbox in addition to the thermos, so I have a small container that I use for things like their main items to go with a thermos of soup, or their side items to go with a thermos of spaghetti.

LunchBots

On most thermos days, I pack a Lunchbots Container with the girls’ main or side items to go with the thermos. I like the Uno or Trio for days that I want to pack something like a sandwich or wrap to go with a thermos of veggie soup, or a salad to go with spaghetti. And I like the Quad for days that I want to pack snacky sides to go with a thermos of dinner leftovers like stir fry.

  • Material/Design :: Lunchbots has a variety of set-ups from the Uno (one compartment) to the Cinco (5-compartment). They are all stainless steel.
  • Leak-Proof :: These boxes keep dry food separated well, but they are not leak-proof. They do have accessories like condiment containers that keep dips and dressings leak-free.
  • Dishwasher Safe :: These simple stainless steel designs wash up nice and are dishwasher safe.
  • Age Group :: These boxes are easy to use, but do have a lid that is not attached. If your little one tends to lose things, you might practice before school starts for your child to put the lid under the box while eating so they are in the habit of keeping it in a safe spot. I think the portion size of these boxes is good for holding food to go with a thermos lunch for older kids. You might not need this much room for younger ones.
  • Lunch Bag :: I always used my Planetbox bags for thermos days that included side items too. I think you could put a thermos and Lunchbots container in just about any lunch bag.
  • Price Point :: While you may feel like these boxes are pricey when you have to buy a thermos to go with it, I have not needed to replace our Lunchbots containers since my 6th grader started school. No rusting, no damage – they look brand new. They are made very well and are a great investment!
“Winter Blues Buster Creamy Potato Soup” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook with sides in a Lunchbots Trio

Kid Basix

From thermos side items to morning snacks, we love these containers!

  • Material/Design :: Kid Basix boxes are a one compartment, stainless steel with a BPA free plastic lid that is attached. There are 3 sizes – small, medium, or large and a variety of lid colors.
  • Leak-Proof? :: These boxes are not leak-proof. I have found both Planetbox and Lunchbots condiment containers do fit in these boxes though, so if you need to pack a dip you could do it that way.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes
  • Age Group :: I used these most often for my younger girls on thermos days. They are smaller and have an attached lid! These also work fantastic for any age group for morning snack packing.
  • Lunch Bag :: I always used my Planetbox bags for thermos days that included side items too. I think you could put a thermos and Kid Basix container in just about any lunch bag.
  • Price Point :: These containers have a great price point and have lasted us literally years – since my oldest started school.

DRINKING CUPS

So let’s also briefly talk about drinking cups! Let me tell you a secret, dear momma! I am a drinking cup SNOB. I *loathe* washing drinking cup straws and accessories, so I am a minimalist. This is list is not all inclusive – just my favorites for ease of washing and safe materials. I don’t have a dishwasher, so part of my weirdness surrounding drinking cups has to do with the fact that I can’t just toss everything into a magic dishwasher!

Life Factory

I know, I know, glass. But hear me out! If your school allows it, I truly just love how glass washes up, and I have never had one break – even with my kindergartners.

  • Material/Design :: Glass with BPA free drinking top parts. There is an open spout option or straw (probably the ONLY straw cup I’ll use because it’s easy to wash!). Because these cups are glass, they are going to feel heavier than some stainless steel – though the insulated stainless steel cups are pretty hefty too.
  • Leak-Proof? :: Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes, however I recommend a cleaning brush for straws in the straw version.
  • Age Group :: The smaller, 12-ounce cups are great for Preschool through middle elementary. You can start with the straw top for littles, and buy an open spout lid when they are ready! The sizes for older kids come in 16 ounce or 22 ounce.
  • Price Point :: The price point on these cups are so affordable, and they last so long. I have never had to replace one or any of the parts.

Klean Kanteen

My favorite stainless steel option for cups with a simple, easy to clean design.

  • Material/Design :: All Klean Kanteen options are stainless steel with BPA free plastic lid/spout options. The single walled cups are very light-weight while the double walled/insulated cups are heavier.
  • Leak-Proof :: Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes, however I’m not sure how long the spouts hold up using a dishwasher since I don’t have a dishwasher.
  • Age Group :: The smaller, 12-ounce cups are great for Preschool through early elementary. They have a sport top spout. The sizes for older kids come in 18-ounce or 27-ounce.
  • Price Point :: These cups have an affordable price point and we have had our cups for about 5 years without any issues.

Hydroflask

I am including Hydroflask because we are trying them out this year. I know it is a “popular” brand and I wanted to give them a try so that I can speak from experience. In my research, I have found that Hydroflasks made after 2017 do NOT have the lead “dot” at the bottom (if you are unsure of what I am talking about – just Google how insulated water bottles that have the little dot at the bottom of the bottle have lead – it is eye opening!). So any Hydroflasks made after 2017 are safe.

  • Material/Design :: Stainless steel with BPA free lid options.
  • Leak-Proof? :: Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes – I’ll keep you posted on how the spouts hold up.
  • Age Group :: The smaller, 12-ounce cup is good for pre-school through middle elementary and has a straw spout. The size for older kids comes in 21-ounce size and has a sport cap top. There are some other larger sizes that perhaps might be good for high school aged kids.
  • Price Point :: I’ll keep you posted if the investment is worth it! These are pricey IMO!!!

Yeti

I am also testing out Yeti for kids this year. One of my older girls is getting a Hydro Flask and the other a Yeti, and I’ll keep you posted! I know both are popular and I want to be able to report on how they hold up if your kids are asking for one. From my research, Yeti does not contain the lead “dot” issues that some insulated stainless steel cups have.

  • Material/Design :: Stainless steel with BPA free lid options.
  • Leak-Proof? :: Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes – I’ll keep you posted on how the spouts hold up.
  • Age Group :: The smaller, 12-ounce cup is good for preschool through middle elementary and has a straw spout. The sizes for older kids come in 18-ounce or 26-ounce but you have to buy a straw spout or spout top separately. It is just a wide-mouth open cup otherwise.
  • Price Point :: Again, I’ll keep you posted if the investment is worth the hype – I know that I have loved my Yeti coffee travel mug for years, but I’m skeptical if having this spendy of a water cup for kids is necessary!
Raising Generation Nourished Lunch Gear Resource Guide

Want more school lunch ideas?!

My cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook has over 60 ideas with full color photos of balanced lunchboxes! Just one homemade item per box, these lunch ideas are do-able for the busiest of families! You can read more about The Little Lunchbox Cookbook here!

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Healthy Kids and Teens Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches

4 School Lunches With Veggie Variety PLUS Tips For Avoiding Lunchbox Packing Burn-Out

October 25, 2018

Pack school lunches full of veggie variety with the greatest of ease, and learn how to avoid lunchbox burn-out!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

October school lunch burnout…

If there is anything I have learned 3 kids into this school thing, it’s that lunchbox burnout is totally a thing. We are exactly 2 months into school, and I am already getting messages, emails, and questions about how to get into a school lunch rhythm, how to get variety into lunchboxes, and why, oh why do we have to do this 5 days a week?! You guys, I completely get it. I have been there.

Wait…what?!

Yep, the food blogger that literally makes her living off of blogging about feeding kids healthy and Instagram’s daily school lunch posts (#rgnschoollunch) has struggled with school lunch packing burnout. Because there really is a human, normal, everyday mom behind this screen, and it is completely normal to feel the burnout. <—- Please read that part again. Don’t give up on it all and beat yourself up, because lunchbox burnout is a very real thing, and I can’t wait to give you some seasoned momma tips on how to avoid it for as long as possible.

A framework, a rhythm, and a flow

I recently recorded a podcast with my friend Kristin from Live Simply. At the beginning of the interview, I remember telling Kristin how google eyed I always am at her meal planning posts, because I have simply “never been a meal planner.” As it turns out, we discovered that there is definitely a “framework” to how meals flow at my house – it just might not all be down on paper in a pretty planner. I really do think that having this rhythm and flow to how I pack school lunches is how I have been able to avoid the burnout. A framework takes the thinking out of packing – you just follow the pattern!

What exactly is a framework?

I love the idea of calling this meal planning style a framework because it leaves plenty of wiggle room for variety. And that matters for multiple reasons. Not only does variety help save your budget by allowing you to buy whatever produce is in season and on sale depending on the time of year, variety also allows us to get a good diversity of nutrients into our ever-growing kids’ bodies. So for instance, if you follow my #rgnschoollunch tag over on Instagram, you’ll notice a rhythm to Monday’s. I almost always use leftover GF waffles from weekend breakfast to make sandwiches, and then the fruit and vegetable are constantly changing. Seriously momma, it is that simple. Don’t complicate this thing – it is one of my secrets to NOT burning out. So that veggie might be a salad, or veggie sticks with dip, or whatever roasted veggies were left-over from dinner that night – there is so much wiggle room depending on what vegetables are in season and on sale.

So let’s zero in on the veggies

I’m all about baby steps, so let’s take this one thing at a time. Since all things vegetable is one of the most commonly asked about lunchbox questions I get, I thought we could focus on that. How do we get the variety in and how much do I pack? 


4 School Lunches With Veggie Variety!


THIS, dear momma, is seriously where it’s at. Cook once, eat twice. Dinner leftovers aren’t just for the main meal or thermoses like spaghetti. You are absolutely allowed to take your kiddo’s regular PBJ lunch and add dinner veggie sides to it! Kids LOVE roasted veggies – and who wouldn’t?! Roasting vegetables brings out their sweetness, and it is so easy to eat. Veggie “mashes” also work so great. Sweet potatoes and regular potatoes are only the tipping point! You can get squash mashes in there or even roasted root veggie mashes blended with carrots, potatoes, and a little green.

  • Veteran Momma Tip #1 :: YES, my kids eat this stuff cold. If your kiddo won’t have anything to do with that, you might need to use a thermos. If you happen to be reading this post, and you have younger children (babies and toddlers), I encourage you to start NOW. Train their palates to be cool with leftovers at room temp, and I promise the lunchbox packing years will be so much easier.
  • Veteran Momma Tip #2 :: Make more veggies than what you really need for dinner to ensure you have those leftovers. If you usually make one sheet tray of veg, make 2! You already have the oven on anyway, you might as well work ahead. You can fill up lunchboxes, and also use the leftover veg for your own breakfasts or lunches.

There is so much you can do to change up a salad. The veggie toppings can change weekly, and you can add in extras like crush nuts or seeds, dried fruit, cheese, or hard boiled eggs to make them fun and interesting.

  • Veteran Momma Tip :: Because younger children typically take a longer time to manage eating a salad, it is important to realize that salads are sometimes better suited for kiddos past Kindergarten/1st grade. In these cases, just “de-construct” the salad. Put the different components of the salad in to the lunchbox and add some dip. Not having to manage a fork to work at a salad helps with time management, because at school they don’t necessarily have an hour to eat. Leave the salad eating practice for dinner time at home for your little guys, and just make it easier to eat in their lunchbox.
  • Veteran Momma Tip #2 :: You do not (I repeat, you do NOT) need to go overboard making veggies into fancy shapes and patterns (unless that is your thing of course!). But you CAN make the veggies more interesting and even more easy to eat by using things like a julienne peeler to make strips of carrot versus sticks. They are easier to eat that way for some kids. Or, cut disks/coins of carrots and cucumbers for easy dip scooping.

Peas and little mixed frozen veggie bags from the freezer section, dear momma! They are a finger food snacktime lifesaver as babies and toddlers, and they are a lunchbox lifesaver for school aged kids! I get the big bags of frozen organic peas and mixed veggies at Costco. You can put them in frozen and they thaw by lunchtime!

  • Veteran Momma Tip :: If your kids prefer some butter/seasoning on their veggies, simply warm them up in a pan real quick to coat them with butter and sea salt and then pack them in. One of my girls prefers them this way, so I take the extra minute to do that and lunchboxes come home empty. The extra fat consumption and minerals from the sea salt is a bonus too!

Because seriously how fun is that?! You can make a fry out of lots of different kinds of veggies – white potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, yucca, carrots, parsnips…the list is endless!

  • Veteran Momma Tip #1 :: Make a sheet tray of fries to go with dinner, and while you are at it just add in a second sheet tray so you have enough for lunchboxes. Cook once, eat twice.
  • Veteran Momma Tip #2 :: There is something about crinkle cut fries that literally make kids think they hit the jackpot! Just get a little crinkle cutter and watch how fast the veggie fries go!
  • Veteran Momma Tip #3 :: A little ketchup never hurt anyone 😉 If it means they will get the veggie fries in, I say go for it. My kids don’t necessarily need it, but I do like to play the fun mom every once and a while and pack some ketchup along.

 

Originally, this post was supposed to be cold lunch/bento box style lunch focused, because I know not everyone uses thermoses. I just couldn’t leave this idea out though. One of the ways I really love packing the veggies into kids is using soup. Soup purees to be exact. The added bone broth is extra protein and nourishment – it’s truly win-win. THIS is the thermos I’m using!

  • Veteran Momma Tip #1 :: Stainless steel straws are your friend! The make the soup less messy, faster to eat, and much easier to eat, so the kids are more likely to get it all down.
  • Veteran Momma Tip #2 :: Cook once, eat multiple times. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but utilize this! Make a big pot of broccoli soup, squash soup, or tomato soup for dinner, and then scoop the leftovers into thermoses for lunch the next day.

How many veggies should I pack?

This is literally going to depend on each and every individual child. It is definitely not going to look the same even within the same family. Here are some things to consider::

  • If your child is not really into veggies, focus on veggie eating at breakfast and dinner at home. You want your child to be full and focused at school, and if you pack it full of veg they probably won’t eat, you are risking them going all afternoon without fuel.
  • If you have a younger child (1st grade and under I would say), consider how long raw veggies take for your child to eat. Specifically salads which take some coordination with a fork and extra time to chew, sometimes these veggie meals are best kept for dinner time at home to practice. Roasted/steamed veg or just veggie sticks are easier to manage for little guys.
  • Another thought on the very little guys that are in their first or second year of school. Their brains are literally on overload. A school day is a lot to take in. If they have never eaten at a daycare as a baby/toddler, eating at school with a bunch of their peers is so different. It is exciting! And they are going to be slower to eat. The star of their lunch should not be veggies – make sure there are enough filling items in their lunchbox so they can fill up as much as possible before their afternoon begins.
  • Consider the time your school allows the children to eat. Unfortunately, the 25ish minutes my girls have to eat is probably not the norm – I hear of schools that only allow 15 minutes. Consider this, and save larger portions of veggies for dinner time – you want to make sure what they do have time to eat is going to fuel them for their afternoon.

Packing gear in this post

We’ve been using our Planetbox’s since my 4th grader was in Kindergarten! They still look like brand new, and they are so easy to pack and wash up. Make sure to check out the accessories tab for the “Pods” that you can use to separate compartments, the leakproof “Dippers” for their condiments (each Planetbox comes with one of these), and the leakproof bowls for drippy food (each Planetbox comes with one of these). Also pictured in the “bonus” number 5 lunch idea is the gear I use for soup days. It all fits right into the Planetbox bag too. I use the Lunchbots brand 8oz thermos and have the Trio and Duo Lunchbots trays.

Salad Dressing & Veggie Dip Recipes for all those veggies!

Hey, listen, if the vitamins in our veggies are “fat soluble,” we might as well pair them with delicious fat based dips to allow those vitamins to absorb. Let the kids pick what they love and dip away!

School Lunch Packing Resources ::

  • If you are a paper and pen sort of a person, you MUST check out Kristin’s Simplified School Lunch Kit over on her blog – absolutely invaluable for new school lunch packers and visual learners!
  • Here is my Lunch Gear Resource Guide if you  want to learn more about the lunch gear I use and why.
  • Here is Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the real food podcast recorded with Live Simply – there are so many tips and real life examples from my own home menu, including lunchboxes.

 

 

Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly!

September 17, 2016

Change up your lunchbox routine with these healthy, easy to prep school lunches!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

So here we are a couple weeks into the school year…who is needing a little lunchbox inspiration?!

I am pretty sure we all start the year off motivated to pack fun, healthy lunches for our kids…but I will be the first to admit that a month or 2 into the daily packing, unpacking, and washing of trays I start losing a little steam! Guess what? That’s ok! None of us are perfect, we are all human, and school lunch making totally gets mundane after a while!

Which is why it is so easy to fall into the PBJ rut. It’s easy, fast, and a no brainer!

You’ll probably even see it in my daily #rgnschoollunch posts on my Instagram right around April…when I have had enough already with the school lunch packing! Go ahead and browse that hashtag over there to take a look – I can guarantee the sandwich ratio during that last month or 2 of school sky rockets!

So, what’s the big deal then? What’s wrong with PBJ every day?

Nothing! Absolutely nothing if that is how you want to roll with your lunch packing! I am definitely not in your shoes, and I don’t run your house! But, I’m willing to bet because you clicked over to read this post, you are searching for some inspiration. Some ideas to break up the week a little. If you browse my school lunches on Instagram you will notice even I do PBJ once a week. Do it up momma! (PS – if you are in a nut free school zone, coconut butter or sunflower seed butter works as a great companion to jam for those quick sandwiches!)

I am also willing to bet that your clicking over to this post means you have some healthier eating goals in your house. Awesome! Because variety is key in creating healthy, broad taste palates in kids! It makes for less pickiness when it comes to food, and makes those kids well rounded not only in the nourishment hitting their system, but also well rounded in their acceptance of new food.

We pack PBJ *all* the time…where do I begin???

My advice to you if you are a PBJ packer most of the week is to take some small baby steps. If you overhaul lunch in one shot you are sure to get resistance from older kids. Pick *one* day a week to try something new with your kids. I think you would be surprised at how excited they would be to have something different for a change! Show them this list, as well as my other 6 non PBJ school lunch lists, and see what their eyes light up about!

A note on packing time

Because I know what you are thinking…I’m going to be in the kitchen all night packing these kind of lunches! Please note the prepping tips in each lunch idea. I guarantee I don’t spend more than 5-10 minutes packing lunches every evening – promise. I just can’t! I don’t have the time for it. What I do have the time for is making dinners that stretch into lunch and spending an hour in the kitchen over the weekend making things that will stretch into the week.

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

I hope to see some of these over on Instagram in the coming weeks – give me a tag so I can see your creations!


The Pizza Day Lunch!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

Whether it’s the cafeteria pizza day, or a just the end of the week that needs to be celebrated in a fun way, using leftover pizza is the perfect way to enjoy a fun pizza day lunch! Simply plan to make pizza night dinner one night, and double it up so there is sure to be leftovers! I always serve a big salad and some fruit with our pizza nights at home so that everyone fills up on the other stuff too which helps with having some leftovers!

Lunchbox Contents:


The Comforting Chicken Noodle Soup Lunch!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

There is simply nothing like a warm bowl of chicken noodle soup on a cool fall day, or those chilly winter afternoons! Warm those kiddo’s bellies up with comforting chicken noodle soup from home! Plan a big pot for dinner one night and pack up the leftovers right into the thermos! Easy peasy! A fatty, satiating side like avocado rounds out the meal and cinnamon apples are just fun! The cinnamon keeps the apples from browning too!

Lunchbox Contents:

  • Homemade GF Chicken Noodle Soup (pictured is this thermos – I love the wide mouth for these kind of soups – just like a bowl! You can read more about how to keep food warm in thermoses in this post.)
  • Avocado (wrap the flesh up in plastic wrap or rub it with lemon juice to keep it from browning!)
  • Apples with cinnamon (or other seasonal fruit you have on hand!)

The Hummus Dipper Lunch!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

I don’t think I’ve met a kid that doesn’t love to *dip*! Hummus is a pretty typical kid friendly dipping side and gives a little variety to lunchtime! Whether you like to use crackers, tortilla chips, or crisped up rice tortillas like I have pictured here, it is perfect for little hands rounded out with fresh veggies and fruit, as well as a hard boiled egg for protein and brain nourishing fat. (Hard boiled egg prep tip! I hard boil 1 dozen eggs every Sunday to keep in the fridge for quick lunchbox addtions!)

I’m even giving you a little permission to cut your time in half and use some store bought hummus if you don’t have time to make it. I love to make hummus, but I rely our Costco organic hummus a lot. Just be very sure to check the ingredient list to avoid junky oils or additives.

Lunchbox Contents:

  • Rice tortilla “chips” with hummus (crackers, tortilla chips, etc would work too!)
  • Sugar peas and tomatoes (or whatever fresh veggies you have on hand!)
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Oranges (or whatever fresh fruit you have on hand!)

The Classic Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Lunch!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

It doesn’t get any better than this! We all grew up on this classic lunchtime staple and I love packing these memories for my kids! The fresh tomato soup is such an easy recipe – you can make it to enjoy over the weekend and pack the rest away in the thermos for a school day during the week! My kids will eat the grilled cheese cold and I think if you get that bread done up right with a generous helping of butter and cheese, just about any kid would happily gobble it up! It takes just minutes to cook in the pan the night before or that morning too. Fresh veggies and dip with a sweet potassium rich date on the side too!

Lunchbox Contents:


The Loaded Salad Lunch!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

Think of your favorite cobb salad or salad bar pile-ons! Sure fresh chopped veggies are nice too, but add in some chopped nuts, eggs, seeds, and raisins too! A kid friendly dressing like homemade Ranch, Thousand Island, or French is not only loaded with brain nourishing fat, it makes it taste even better! Make some breakfast cookies, granola bars, or energy bars on the weekend in a doubled up fashion so you can keep them in the freezer for quick lunch additions too! This lunch truly takes just minutes to make!

Lunchbox Contents:


The Fiesta Lunch!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

Who doesn’t love a good Taco Tuesday?! In my house any day of the week is good enough for a fiesta, so this is a popular lunchbox with my kids! Have a taco night and make a load of guacamole so there is enough to pack up in the condiment containers for the next day! Pictured here I crisped up some rice tortillas to make chips for the guac, but you could use tortilla chips or crackers too! Guacamole is a great brain nourishing fat as is the olives!  15 minute Chicken Tortilla soup goes well with this lunch (really any soup for that matter is fine!).

And again, there are some great store bought guacs out there if you just don’t have the time for making it. Avocados are extremely expensive at times where I live, so I do rely on certain guacamoles at Costco here and there – take a look around and please be sure you are checking ingredient labels – some of those brands get sneaky with their preservatives, junky oils, or other additions!

Lunchbox Contents:

  • Rice “tortilla chips” with guacamole (crackers or tortilla chips work too! Just watch the ingredient labels!)
  • Olives
  • 15 minute chicken tortilla soup (picture here is this thermos)
  • Pear (or other seasonal fresh fruit!)

More school lunch posts you might like:

Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches

School Lunch Gear Resource Guide :: A detailed brand comparison so you can find out what works with how YOU pack lunches!

August 13, 2015

This comprehensive resource guide will provide you the perfect help to choose what school lunch gear & packing routine will work out best for YOUR family.

School Lunch Gear Resource Guide :: A detailed brand comparison so you can find out what works with how YOU pack lunches!Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

With back to school right around the corner, I decided that this year instead of just showing you how I will be packing my first grader’s lunches, I wanted to provide you a resource guide to help you choose what gear and packing routine will work out best for YOUR family.

Since we all run different households, there really is no right way for going about the lunch packing thing! We are also all at different places in our real food journey, so while I do tend to pack a lot of homemade soups and dinner leftovers because that is what works for me, I absolutely understand that not everyone is there – and maybe those kind of meals are more breakfast or dinner for your family!


CHOOSING A PACKING SYSTEM


When choosing your main packing gear, the biggest question you need to ask yourself is:

“What kind of lunches do I plan to pack this year?”

If you are planning on packing dinner leftovers and soups at least 1-2 times per week, then you need to pick a system that works with leak-proof thermos. If packing up dinner leftovers and/or soups is not in the plan (which is totally ok!), then your options are a little more open.

I think it is safe to say that the “bento” box style containers have really become popular – and for good reason. They are so convenient, compact, and portable. Picking a stainless steel brand will reward you with lunch gear that will last years. I have a couple friends that have had their PlanetBoxes for 7+ years! What a great money saver to not have to buy new lunch gear and throw away plastic baggies every year!

School Lunch Gear Resource Guide :: A detailed brand comparison so you can find out what works with how YOU pack lunches!PlanetBox

Planetbox has 3 lunchbox styles. Depending on the age of your child, the different styles will hold the right amount of food, and still be super compact and portable.

The Shuttle is their smallest box and holds lunches perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. The Rover is designed for elementary aged children. There are multiple sections for small snacking hands and provides a lot of choice. I think it is a great choice if you have an eater like that! The Launch style is their largest and designed for teens and adults. I actually use this one for my elementary kiddo since the style of compartments fit how I pack lunch a little better. (Update 2017 :: I am still loving our Launch style box! My 2nd grader and Kinder both use one!)

PlanetBox systems work great for those who do not plan on hot meals/soups for lunch packing since a thermos doesn’t fit into the bag. There are leak-proof condiment containers to fit each PlanetBox style that are great for dips, dressings, and spreads. There is a larger leakproof container that fits the Launch that I use for yogurt as well. (Update 2017 :: The larger PlanetBox bag fits a thermos for soup! It doesn’t fit with the PlanetBox together with the thermos, but on the days I pack a thermos of dinner leftovers or soup I just stick an apple or other sides right in the bag or in a LunchBot.)

PlanetBox has a lunch bag that specifically fits each PlanetBox style. They have a slender ice pack that slides right in and a water bottle pocket too.

**If you prefer to shop Amazon, you can get your PlanetBox there too!

School Lunch Gear Resource Guide :: A detailed brand comparison so you can find out what works with how YOU pack lunches!LunchBots

LunchBots offers multiple free flowing containers with different compartment amounts so you can choose what container works with what you are packing for that day.

The “Uno” container has one slot and is great for a whole sandwich or wrap, or salad. The “Duo” container has 2 slots and will work nice if you are packing a soup in the thermos and want to pack along a muffin or biscuit and some fruit to go with their thermos of soup. The “Trio”, “Quad”, & “Cinco” have 3, 4, and 5 slots and are more like a traditional “bento” box. You could fit a whole lunch in these with maybe a banana on the side or the Uno container with a salad.

I opted to get the stainless container “set” which comes with the Uno, Duo, and Trio together at a discounted price. Since my daughter takes along soup/dinner leftovers at least 1-2 times per week, these free flowing containers work well with a thermos. The LunchBot’s lunchbag fits multiple LunchBots containers at one time along with a water bottle. I played around with multiple set ups and it really does fit a lot.

LunchBots also has leak-proof condiment containers for dips, dressings, and spreads. The lids on these were a little harder for my first grader to manipulate than the PlanetBox condiment containers – but fit in the LunchBots containers better.

**If you prefer to shop Amazon, you can get all LunchBots items


Water Bottle Picks


I honestly only have one recommendation here. Keep it simple.

School Lunch Gear Resource Guide :: A detailed brand comparison so you can find out what works with how YOU pack lunches!I seriously love my Kid Basix Safe Sporter. There are no parts to take out and clean, no straws to rinse out…you get the point. I want easy to clean. It fits in any lunchbox – including the PlanetBox bag and the LunchBots bag described above. I have had my water bottles for 4 years now and they are in great shape.

I also like Kleen Kanteen’s bottle with a simple spout (there is a small 12oz for the little kids, and an 18oz for the big kids) . Eco-friendly and easier cleaning is always good in my book!

(Update 2017 :: The spouts on my KidBasix gave out last year – but they did last about 5 years which is pretty good! We have made a switch on cups to using these Life Factory cups for all 3 of my girls and we really love them and how they hold up. You can also get them in more color options here in the straw top. I like the straw for travel for my toddler. I bought an extra flip cap top for her bottle when I don’t want the straw.)


Thermos Picks


If you are planning on packing soups and/or dinner leftovers, a good thermos or two is a must. I like having more than one because a lot of times I will take dinner leftovers right from the pot or pan into the thermos before I have her thermos from that day washed.

Thermos Brand Funtainer Thermos

Thermos Funtainer is the brand we used last year and I have no issues with them! They worked very nice all year, I threw them in the dishwasher instead of washing by hand more often than not, and we used them at least 1-2 times per week all year. My then kindergartener could manipulate the lid on these well.

I have a few different lunchbags around the house and this thermos fit in all of them. The Funtainer holds 10oz so it is plenty for elementary kids (there are a few other bigger sizes if you search around for the big kids). The only lunch system it does not fit into would be the PlanetBox. (Update 2017 :: The Thermos 10oz Funtainer fits in the larger PlanetBox bag that has the cup holder and pocket so I use that bag for everything now!)

LunchBots Brand Thermos

I decided to try a LunchBots thermos out this year – some because I was just curious, and some because I did need a new thermos anyway for some other uses in the family. So far I am happy with how it keeps food warm – and I actually like the wider opening because it makes it feel a little more like a “bowl” to eat the soup easier from. My now first grader can manipulate the lid on this as well despite being wider than the one she was used to.

The LunchBots thermos fits the best in the LunchBot’s bag. It holds 16oz which is more than my 1st grader needs for lunch – but again I kind of like how there is room left at the top to manipulate a spoon easier or stir in some cheese.

LunchBots also has a “thinner” style thermos like the Funtainer – I have not tested this one out. It is 12 oz. I also have their 8oz smaller thermos on my wishlist to use if I ever want to pack just a small cup of bone broth (think herbal tea etc!).

School Lunch Gear Resource Guide :: A detailed brand comparison so you can find out what works with how YOU pack lunches!Tips For Keeping Soup/Dinner Leftovers Warm In Your Thermos

There is definitely a method here. I spent the first month or so of last school year figuring out how to pack up the soup and keep it warm – without spending a bunch of extra time in the kitchen in the morning.

Thermoses really need to be “tempered” before putting the warm food in there to keep it warm from early morning until lunchtime. In my case from about 6:30am until noon. My method is to run the sink water to the hottest it will go, and fill up the thermos with the hot water. I don’t take the extra time to boil water for the thermos to temper it at all. Just hot water out of the tap, put the lid on, and once your soup/dinner is warmed up you can dump out the hot water and pour in the soup. Sometimes I do this right when I get up in the morning and it sits there for 20 minutes or so before I get to the soup. Either way works.

I do have a tip for dinner leftovers like stir frys, meals with rice, or soups with noodles. Since the starch tends to soak up any leftover liquid, I splash a little water or bone broth in the pot when I warm it up. It makes things stir better while warming them up.


Extras Worth Noting!


School Lunch Gear Resource Guide :: A detailed brand comparison so you can find out what works with how YOU pack lunches!LunchBots “Rounds”

I got one of the 8oz rounds for yogurt. It is a nice size so I can make it “fruit on the bottom” yogurt and still have room for her to stir the fruit in. There is also a 4oz round that I think would be great for hummus or guacamole to dip!

Silverware & Straws

I pack my own silverware from home. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my own at home, I don’t need extra utensils to wash and not lose 🙂 My silverware packs up just as good in the lunch gear and I didn’t have to buy anything extra!

I love my stainless steel straws at home, and they work really nice for liquid soups like broccoli soup or tomato soup. It keeps things less messy, and the kids can eat these kind of soups easier/quicker with a straw I think, especially the littler kids. My stainless straws from home fit right in lunchbags as well.


I’ve got my gear! Now what do I pack?!


 Ok! So I may add extra notes in here as the year goes along, and definitely hit me up with some questions in the comments if I can help with anything! You can follow my Instagram for weekday pictures of my daughter’s school lunches for great variety of ideas as well once the school year starts. If you search the hashtag #rgnschoollunches you can look through last year’s kindergarten lunches! (Update 2017 :: I still post the girls’ lunches everyday! Hop over and join the fun for so many great ideas!)

Batch Up Meals Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches Snack Ideas

6 School Lunch Ideas *Besides* Peanut Butter & Jelly!

April 26, 2015

6 School Lunch Ideas *Besides* Peanut Butter & Jelly :: Plus a PlanetBox Review!Standard review and affiliate disclosure: The PlanetBox shown in this post was given to me for the purpose of this review. Links are also affiliate links. All opinions on the product reviewed are my own. Please also know that I would never affiliate link products that I don’t stand behind or would never use with my own family.

Ok so I’m going to start out with admitting…I totally love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches 🙂

I grew up on them and to this day I thing they are *so* darn good!

My girls really love PBJ’s and I don’t mind having them in the lunch rotation here and there. It’s just really important to rotate our kid’s foods.

Having the same foods over and over again can wear on the gut – and if you already have a compromised gut lining (think food allergies or sensitivities, seasonal allergies, digestive issues whether constipation or loose stool, and even behavioral issues a lot of times point to gut distress), it just adds fuel to the fire to have the same thing over and over again.

I also like to keep different foods rotating in children’s diets because it creates kids with broad taste palates. Meaning, they will pretty much accept anything new you give them to eat. It takes some training while they are young, but it is so worth it!

But…PBJ is so easy!

Isn’t it though?! It totally is. I agree it is so easy to just pack up a quick sandwich and go.

But I have learned that lunch packing really doesn’t have to be that complicated. My kindergartener is eating the same things she had while she was at home as a toddler/preschooler, just packed up. Of course I still pack the occasional PBJ, but for the most part I’m packing up other nourishing favorites – that pack up just as fast.

If you let your kids be involved in the packing, I think it can run smoother and quicker. It takes some training at first. But at this point in the year, my now seasoned kindergartener picks her own fruit and veggie and fills her water bottle for her lunch the night before. I just fill in the odds and ends and it’s done – takes 5 minutes – tops.

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.Having great lunch gear really helps the process along and we have loved the functional simplicity of the “Launch” PlantBox. It really fits the types of nourishing lunches we pack for school, and my 5 year old loves it. The sturdy design lasts for years, so it is really an investment you make once…no more lunch gear replacing year after year when things get too worn. It washes up so nice (well my 5 year old will tell you that since she does it every day 😉 ).

SO! Whether your kids are tired of the same PBJ everyday, or you are looking to get more variety in their diets, here are 6 lunch ideas to try to finish our your school year!


1.   One of my favorite features of the Launch PlanetBox is the large side container for holding things like salad. I think most kids will be agreeable to salads at lunch so long as they have super yummy dressings to pour over them! You can make your own store bought dressings like Ranch, French, and Thousand Island right at home – takes 5 minutes to shake up in a jar!

6 School Lunch Ideas *Besides* Peanut Butter & Jelly :: Plus a PlanetBox Review!Another lunch packing tip is how to make hard boiled eggs convenient. Hard boiled eggs last around 5 days in their shell! So I hard boil around a dozen eggs once a week and I use them for quick lunchbox additions or breakfasts. The crispy nuts in the photo are part of my freezer stash – I make a big load of them at a time and pull handfuls when I need them.


2.   The Launch PlanetBox comes with a leak proof container to fit in that large side slot as well. I have been using it for yogurt. I scatter frozen fruit on the bottom and scoop about half cup or so of whole plain yogurt over top. If you have kids that are used to sweeter commercial yogurts you can drizzle some raw honey over top too. My 5 year old can manipulate the lid on the container and we haven’t had a problem with leaking at all!

6 School Lunch Ideas *Besides* Peanut Butter & Jelly :: Plus a PlanetBox Review!The tuna salad in this lunch is my quick 5 minute blender tuna salad – it is great on a sandwich or kids love to dip or make their own “sandwiches!” with crackers and veggies.


3.   About once a month I take an hour or 2 and make large batches of energy bars, apple bars, granola bars, or blueberry bars and freeze them flat in freezer bags. They pull from freezer to lunchbox faster than making a PBJ!

6 School Lunch Ideas *Besides* Peanut Butter & Jelly :: Plus a PlanetBox Review!Keep things colorful! I use purple cabbage instead of green for coleslaw a lot! If you think you need to sweeten the deal with eating coleslaw with the kids, add a drizzle of raw honey or sprinkle in a few raisins.


4.   Kids missing pizza day at school? Try pizza muffins! My daughter has pizza day *every* Thursday. These muffins freeze up so nice – so they pack up really easy right out of the freezer! We have homemade pizza every once and a while that she takes leftovers of…but I just don’t think pizza night needs to be scheduled every week.

6 School Lunch Ideas *Besides* Peanut Butter & Jelly :: Plus a PlanetBox Review!My sliced apple trick is using cinnamon or running a lemon over the tops! It will keep them from browning really well! The lemon works for avocado halves too.


5.   Don’t forget dinner leftovers! This was parmesan baked quinoa. A lot of evenings I pack up dinner leftovers right as I’m cleaning up from dinner. It takes no time at all!

6 School Lunch Ideas *Besides* Peanut Butter & Jelly :: Plus a PlanetBox Review!The Launch PlanetBox comes with a great condiment container that is leakproof. It holds everything from veggie dip, to salad dressing, or nut butters for apple dipping.


6.   If you really have “sandwich eaters” that are hesitant to give up their PBJ, try wraps instead. Or at least something different on the bread you use. I crockpot 3 whole chickens once a month and shred the meat for the freezer in handful portions. This wrap was shredded chicken from the freezer, my own 5 minute mayo, lettuce, and tomato. I like these rice wraps or the Sami’s millet wraps (I get both at our health food store in the freezer section) for my family since we are gluten free. Just be mindful of the ingredient list!

6 School Lunch Ideas *Besides* Peanut Butter & Jelly :: Plus a PlanetBox Review!Ok! So talk to me! Hit me with your best PlanetBox or lunch packing questions and let me know how the new lunch routine is going!

For more lunch ideas you can follow my Lunch Ideas board on Pintrest!

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook

July 22, 2020

It all started during now 11-year-old’s first year of school…

Kindergarten. I remember being pretty geeked about packing lunches, and the first week or two it was so exciting. Being a child of the ’80s and spending my teens in the ’90s, I discovered that this lunchbox thing had gotten pretty cool since I had finished school. I would even go as far as to say it had become a bit fun compared to the wrinkled up brown paper bags that we all grew up with. It was about two full months into my daughter’s kindergarten year before it hit me….

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Colorful Rainbow Chicken Salad Pinwheels from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” (Lunchbox is a BriGenius Bento Box)

“I have to pack this thing again?!?!”

You know what I’m talking about: blankly staring into the lunchbox and wondering, “What in the world am I supposed to put in here?!” Because as beautiful as that lunchbox was, I still needed to fill those compartments. And the parents of today are doing that whole “know better, do better” thing—we know our kids need more than a bag of chips and an apple to get through the school day. But I still had an infant and a preschooler at home (who apparently needed lunch too!), and I couldn’t spend all day preparing my kindergartener’s lunchbox.

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Easy Sheet Pan Sweet Potato Tots from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” (Lunchbox is a Planetbox Rover)

An easy, predictable rhythm

I started creating a rotation to our lunch routine that was both exciting with variety and nutrients, and predictable so that I could still live in the unpredictability that is a household filled with little people. The quickest way to lunchbox burnout is making everything from scratch. I found out real quick that making everything myself was a one-way ticket to lunchbox burnout, and one frustrated, tired momma. While I wanted to include real, whole foods in her lunch everyday, it just wasn’t realistic to scratch-make everything. I remember feeling like I was trapped somewhere between throwing Twinkies® in a brown paper sack and creating elaborate “Pinterest Mom” bento box works of art.

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Healthy Alphabet Soup Copycat from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” (Soup is in a Lunchbots Thermos)

There is a better way, dear momma.

Introducing “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook!” You absolutely can pack school lunches that nourish your growing children and can be packed on a busy schedule. My biggest goal for each lunchbox represented in this cookbook (besides being filled with a balanced, whole-food meal that kids will eat!) was for each lunchbox to have just one homemade item. One homemade item per box is realistic!

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Lunchbox Friendly Real Food Sloppy Joe Bites from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” (Lunchbox is a Bentgo)

Why does packing a healthy lunch matter?

I get it dear momma. With the schedules we try to pull these days, it’s any wonder we don’t absolutely crash at the end of the day. Why, oh why do we have to make sure our kids’ lunches are clean and nourishing?

  • The average school aged child grows 5-7 pounds & 2 ½ inches per year. Pre-puberty/puberty (Age 10-14 for girls, & 11-16 for boys) is the second largest growth spurt your child will have! (The first is birth to age 3.). <—-Let that sink in a minute! If you think you are out of the woods once you are out of toddlerhood, you are in for a big surprise! These pre-teens grow…a lot! I have one that has entered this season, and it is truer than I ever thought it would be!
  • School day hours are long, and their brains/bodies are working overtime. Most kids are eating breakfast around 7:30am, and even earlier if you have a child in middle or high school with earlier school start times. To expect that these rapidly growing children to not need a big fuel up mid-day is like expecting your car to go on a cross-country trip without a stop at the gas station.
  • The bottom line is…kids and teens are NOT mini adults. You may not understand their appetite as your adult metabolism slows, but there is rapid growth happening in your child, & they need REAL fuel!
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Fast Prep Brain Boosting Bow Tie Pasta Salad from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” (Lunchbox is BentoRyte)

A lunchbox book for EVERY type of mom and dad

I knew from the minute that my first cookbook, “Nourished Beginnings Baby Food” published, that I wanted to write a sequel or a spin off. Sure, the absolute high from accomplishing that book was reason enough to want to do it again, but there was more. Babies don’t stay babies! They grow into little people that still need to be fed well, and I wanted to help moms make that transition. “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” helps parents make the jump from babyhood to school-aged children without compromising the real food foundations that they set in those first few years. While I was writing, I also had a goal to reach a broader audience of moms. Some parents don’t learn about real food until later, and I wanted them to be able to pick up this book, be empowered, feel some grace, and know that they could do this as well.

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Build Your Own Nachos “Lunchable®” from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” (Lunchbox is an UpBento)

Allergen Friendly Recipes!

Because nut free school zones are so common these days, as well as the danger that celiac kids face with traces of gluten, I’ve made “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” entirely nut, gluten, and soy free. Of course, there is nothing inherently bad or unhealthy about nuts or well cared for wheat if you don’t have an allergy to them, so you may swap the seeds in any recipe for nuts that you might have in your pantry, or play around with using regular flour where appropriate if your school doesn’t have those precautions. And because so many kids have trouble digesting processed dairy, most of the recipes are dairy free, or have swaps for any dairy!

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Crunchy Honey Oat Nature Valley® Granola Bar Copycat from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” (Lunchbox is a Bentgo)

A vision for a well-used cookbook at the heart of your kitchen

My vision is for the pages of The Little Lunchbox Cookbook to be dog-eared, dripped on, written on, faded, and loved on so much that this cookbook becomes a permanent fixture on your counter. I want your kids to be able to point to their favorite recipe. I want your menu plan to become a rhythm of recipe rotations from the pages of this book. You are the reason this generation is going to know how to fuel their bodies to feel well. It starts with you. You will be rewarded with children that are nourished to grow and know what foods make them feel their best.

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Pizza Lunchable® Copycat from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” (Lunchbox is a Planetbox Rover)

Every chapter with YOU in mind, dear Momma!

The pages of “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” were a labor of love. Everyday that I get up and get to communicate with you all on social media, and in this space, I count myself blessed. As I wrote each section, I had you and your kids in mind. I can’t wait for you to read each one!

  1. Beyond Peanut Butter & Jelly–Fun & Delicious Sandwiches! :: I’ll help pull you out of your sandwich rut with a fun rotation to add to your sandwich days each week!
  2. Lunchables® Copycats :: You know the kids see the store bought ones everyday! Making your own Lunchables® with healthier ingredients is so easy and much more filling for a full afternoon at school.
  3. Warm and Comforting Thermos Lunches :: For the kids that like hot lunches! This section has a good mix of kid friendly soups like creamy broccoli, and fun hot dishes like Spaghetti-O’s, Mac ‘N Cheese, and stir fry.
  4. Nuggets, Dippers, and Bites :: Because I don’t know any kid that doesn’t love to dip! Make anything bite sized and kids will be all over it!
  5. Colorful Kid-Approved Salads :: I promise this isn’t just for the older kids (although I had tweens and teens in mind when writing this section!) – fun, colorful salads and pasta salads filled with brain nourishing fats will make getting veggies in super delicious!
  6. The Finishing Touches–Snacks & Sides :: From muffins and granola bars, to easy trail mixes, energy bars and bites, this is a fun one to stock the pantry with!
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Comforting Beef Noodle Soup from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” (Soup is in an Arder Live Thermos)

Bonus sections in “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook!

The last 2 sections in the cookbook are my bonus gift to you!

  • Section 7 includes a really fun selection of lunchbox treats! It is so important that our kids have a healthy relationship with food – including occasionally getting to have a sweet treat to celebrate their birthday, or a holiday! From birthday cupcakes and fruit packed gummy bears, to Valentine’s Brownie Bites and Halloween Pumpkin Harvest mini cookies, I’ve got you covered with healthier choice, allergen friendly mini treats to surprise the kids on a special day!
  • Section 8 is packed with real food kid staples for your kitchen. Everyday items like homemade 5-minute Ranch and hummus for dipping, as well as a handful of “how-to’s” to make life easier like how to batch cook beans, hard boiled eggs, and chicken/beef for fast protein additions.
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Valentine’s Day Brownie Bites from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook”

What others are saying!

“A great resource! Renee’s recipes are a creative twist on healthy and satisfying with tons of ideas and beautiful images to match.”

Natalie Monson, founder of SuperHealthyKids.com and PrePear.com

“Renee has not only made real food doable for busy families, but has created healthy kid-friendly recipes that appeals to children of all eating styles and offers parent fueling ideas for those lunch boxes. Chocked full of variety, easy recipes and inspiring lunch box images, this book will become a kitchen staple for parents and caregivers.” 

Taesha Butler, Founder of TheNaturalNurturer.com 

“As a parent, figuring out how to nourish our kids in a traditional, real food way while living in a fast-paced, processed food society can be quite the challenge. Renee offers us simplicity and encouragement with practical ideas, beautiful photo inspiration and guidance, and delicious, easy-to- make recipes. No matter the age of your child or season of life, Renee breaks down nourishing lunches in a doable and approachable way!” 

Kristin Marr, Found of LiveSimply.ME

“I love that Renee’s approach makes it easy for parents to make and pack healthy meals. Plus, kids love her recipes!”

Amy Palanjian, founder of YummyToddlerFood.com and author of Busy Little Hands: Food Play!

Is it possible to be both jaw-dropping and doable? I’m just tickled that so many of Renee’s incredible whole food, allergy friendly recipes are together in one place to help other moms feel like superwoman. 
Renee’s advice to strive for one homemade item in each box is perfect for busy families, and then the rest is just putting together puzzle pieces according to her quick tips for balance. With recipes for unique sandwich options, homemade Lunchables® and Spaghetti-O’s® copycat, 8 different dippables and more, your kids’ lunches are about to be the talk of the cafeteria… And the only risk may be that your kids will be so inspired they will grab this cookbook and you’ll work yourself out of a job!

– Katie Kimball of Kids Cook Real Food
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Buttermilk Biscuit Breakfast Sammy from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” (Lunchbox is a Lunchbots Trio)

You can find “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook here!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound

Books-A-Million

Book Depository

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
5-Ingredient Fast Prep Chicken Nuggets from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook” (Lunchbox is an UpBento)
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook

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Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

February 6, 2020

From lunchbox snacks to on the go toddler munchies, these copycat coconut clusters are kid approved and safe for nut free school zones!

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

February thaws and a new favorite snack

Good gracious these Michiganders of mine aren’t quite sure what to do with this mild winter we are having so far! The first weekend into February and we had such a huge thaw that we could play in the beach sand and hike without snowpants! We’ve been extra active this winter, which is so nice, and it also works up little appetites! Let me tell you about a new favorite of ours!

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!
Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

From a Costco find to a homemade copycat!

Earlier this fall, we picked up these cute new coconut cluster snacks at Costco, and my kids really liked them. I loved the simple ingredients, and that they were packed with fatty coconut and mineral rich seeds. I did not, however, love that they were sweetened with brown rice syrup and sugar. I decided to try a bag anyway, and when I discovered how much the girls liked them, decided I better figure out a better way to make them so they weren’t having brown rice syrup and sugar on a weekly basis. The snack was such a great idea otherwise, so we gave it a shot!

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

The prepping method

Because in all actuality, the store bought coconut clusters were really just as simple as a bunch of coconut flakes and seeds baked with their mode of sweetening! You’ll start by adding your coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia into a large bowl and then mix with just the right amount of mineral rich pure maple syrup.

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

The baking method

Then, you have two baking choices! If you like neat little cluster rounds, you can spoon your coconut mixture into small cookie sized shapes. Or, you can spread the entire mixture onto the baking sheet, and break it up after it bakes, leaving uneven little clusters. The choice is yours! Both work great!

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!
Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!
Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!
Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

Sweetener choices

I loved the warmth that the pure maple syrup brought to these little coconut clusters. I do think that raw honey might work here, however honey has a tendency to burn a bit, so be super careful as they bake. I have not tried a combo of maple syrup and coconut sugar but I do think that might work. You do need some sort of liquid sweetener though to get the stick that you need for the clusters to come together. I’d love to know what you’ve tried, if you want to comment below! As it is, the fat and fiber in the coconut and seeds balances the sweet, and this is a side or snack, not a full meal, so all in all I don’t tend to worry about it!

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

Can I swap the seed for nuts?

If you can handle nuts, and want to change things up for more variety, any nuts will work here too. If they are heftier nuts like almonds or walnuts, I would consider a rough chop to make the pieces a little smaller.

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

Storeage

Good news! These little guys store right in your pantry for easy peasy lunchbox additions or snacktime! Just put the baked and cooled coconut clusters in an airtight container in the pantry up to 3 months.

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and line 2 sheet pans unbleached parchment paper.
  • Mix all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, until thoroughly coated in the maple syrup.
  • To make clusters, use a spoon to drop a couple tablespoons of the mixture into a cluster onto the sheet pan, lining up the clusters like you would cookies on a cookie sheet. To make one large sheet pan to break up into uneven clusters and smaller chunks, divide the mixture between the 2 sheet pans and spread the mixture out evenly, making sure everything is touching so it sticks together.
  • Bake the coconut clusters at 350 degrees for 14 minutes until the coconut is lightly toasted. Do NOT touch the coconut clusters for about 1 hour so that they harden. Leave them on the sheet tray. Once the coconut clusters are completely cooled, they will be hardened and stick together well. If you made a large sheet pan full, you can break apart your clusters once they are cooled. Store your coconut clusters in an airtight container in the pantry up to 3 months.
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11 Healthy Packaged School Snacks For Kids

August 15, 2018

Give yourself some grace, dear momma, and stock your cupboard with these 11 healthy packaged school snacks for kids to help you balance homemade food with real life!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

So here we are…

The start of the school year! I’ve got a handful of amazing back to school fall recipes up my sleeve that I just can’t wait to share with you. But first…my favorite packaged morning school snack ideas for back to school!

*Cue the real food police*

Packaged?! *Gasp!* Yes, my friends. Three kiddos into this school thing, I have discovered one key to keeping a happy household. That one thing is keeping momma sane. Keeping momma from burning out. Keeping momma…mentally healthy. And sometimes (for this momma at least), that means pulling a “better than most” packaged snack from my cupboard to take care of that dreaded morning snack for school.

Grace, dear momma…

Because we don’t give ourselves enough of it. Like, at all. Give yourself some grace dear momma who was up all night with a newborn and needs to get her preschooler to playgroup. Let up on yourself dear momma who has a brood of kids to get into the van by 8 for school. Take a deep breath and give yourself a break dear momma of that busy teen that you stayed up talking to just trying to help them figure out…life.

Because they are watching.

The kids. They are watching you. They are not only watching how you take care of yourself by choosing healthy meals to cook day in and day out, they are learning from you what self-care means. And sometimes self-care means taking a break from making things from scratch, admitting you cannot, in fact, do it all, and make some careful choices on some packaged items to reach for when life gets busy to avoid burn out.

Morning snacks

I think most elementary school aged children have a morning snacktime. I struggled with this concept for years when the girls started school, because I typically never “snacked” my kids. They ate really balanced breakfasts, and when they got hungry again, we ate lunch, and then dinner. I found out real quick that doing a morning snack lead to un-eaten lunches, and that gets super frustrating. I bagged snack time all together…that is until school started. And truthfully, these school aged children do need a small snack most of the time to get them until the lunch hour. Eating breakfast at 7am and expecting a young, growing child to make it to noon without a snack is not going to happen.

Snack time goals

“Make every bite count” has always been a goal of mine, and if you have been around this blog long enough, you know that is always my mantra when it comes to anything kids are taking in as nourishment. You can check out my “9 Fast Prep School Snacks Post” for my favorite rotation of morning snacks that take some preparing. These work well for every age, are filling, nutritious, and satisfying. But in the last couple years, I have made a few packaged snacks a part of the morning snack rotation to give myself some grace on needing to prep *everything*. I use these packaged snacks for 2-3 out of the 5 school morning snacks during the week. Will that change as the years go by? Possibly. Is that what you have to do? Absolutely not. If you choose to make the morning snack something packaged every day, no one (at least in this community) is judging you.

How to make it into my approved packaged snack list!

I can guarantee this list is NOT inclusive of every packaged snack that has a great list of ingredients and is safe, nutritious, and satisfying. I find new items every year, which is fun and exciting, actually! The real food community is growing, and manufacturers are listening to where we are spending our dollars – and responding with making really great packaged choices for those times we just don’t have time to make things from scratch. Here are some of my criteria when I’m looking at something packaged:

  • Zero high fructose corn syrup
  • Very little to no added sugar
  • Healthy fats only (no sunflower, safflower, soy, vegetable, canola oils)
  • Zero food dyes
  • Natural or zero preservatives
  • Some sort of fat or protein for satiating – not just all fruit or all grain.
  • Gluten free (many of these snacks are also dairy, grain, and egg free)
  • Under $1.25 per snack to keep my budget happy
  • And finally…something my kids will eat 😉

Couple final notes…and some ground rules

  • Please, use the “shopping cart method” while browsing my snack list. If there is something you don’t agree with as “healthy,” simply leave that item “on the shelf” and move on. Pick up ideas from the list that appeal to you and check on out!
  • Also, I realize that some of you are in nut free school zones. Our school is not a nut free zone, so I am able to use all of these. More than half of this list is nut free, so there is plenty to choose from.
  • Finally, keep in mind this is a snack. Not a meal. My goal is not to make the girls “full” with this – it is something to give them some quick burning fuel, so they can make to lunch time. Meaning…I want them hungry at lunchtime! Morning snack time is a great break from classroom time – it’s a brain break and should be enjoyed!


Chia Squeeze


I grab for Chia Squeeze Pouches over plain fruit pouches not only because of the mix of veggies with the fruit, but the added chia seed brings some satiating sustenance to the snack. They are nice a filling and taste great!


Nut Butter Pouches


There are a lot of options to squeeze the nut butter pouches onto! My girls love dried banana chips to dip, so I’ll just toss some of those in our favorite snack container with a pouch. My only note to take on this one would be that the pouches works best for older children. My youngest (age 4) is messy with the pouches. You can scoop some nut butter from a jar into a condiment container to make this same snack, but again, I’m trying to keep the prep and wash up time at a minimum, so my older girls will take these for a morning snack. Also, keep in mind some of the Justin’s nut butter pouches are a bit high in sugar and other ingredients – just watch for that. I usually just get the plain almond butter, but occasionally our Meijer will put the Maple one on sale for a really great price and I’ll grab those (as you can see pictured!)


Larabars


A staple for many real food families. There are so many options here now as well. The girls have really been loving the Fruit & Greens Larabars in addition to their regular flavors. They also enjoy the Nut & Seed Crunchy Larabar (they are so good!).


Grassfed Beef Sticks


These were tough for me to find for a while, but in the last couple years there are some great brands out there that are also affordable. We like the SoGo Grassfed Beef Sticks,  Field Trip Grassfed Beef Sticks, and we just got a brand new product from New Primal Brand called  “Snack Mates” Meat Sticks For Kids, and they are fantastic! The New Primal brand also has meat sticks using chicken or turkey if your little one can’t have beef. The girls pack these alone, but if you have older kids, you could toss a slice of cheese or piece of fruit in there as well.

  • UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2020 :: We found these Duke’s meat sticks at Costco this summer and have been enjoying them too! You can find them on Amazon as well if you don’t have Costco!


WholeMe Grain Free Clusters


The WholeMe Clusters taste so good and have a great ingredient list, packed with nuts, seeds, coconut oil, and honey. I toss a hand full into our favorite snack box for the girls to take to school.


Guacamole or Hummus Dippers


Costco is my best friend on these items, but you can find them just about any store now. I like the Organic Wholly Guacamole Minis, and the Kirkland Organic Hummus. Pack along veggie sticks if you don’t mind the prep – I tend to load up the girls’ lunchboxes with veggies, so I toss Simple Mills Crackers (I get the crackers at Costco too), or Plantain Chips in with these. The dippers and crackers fit in the medium size of these snack boxes we have had for years and love! (Please note the hummus does have sunflower oil. The Kirkland hummus is organic/non-gmo so to use for every once and a while, I don’t worry about it. I have yet to find a hummus dipper mini with good oils – please let me know if you find one!)

  • UPDATE AUGUST 2019: I FOUND ONE!!! We are seriously in love with these Lilly’s brand hummus cups and they are a GREAT portion size for kids – perfect for packing and the best part is that the hummus is made with organic chickpeas AND olive oil instead of junky oils!!!!
  • UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2020: I found another great hummus AND black bean dip single pack that uses olive oil and great ingredients! These Go-Go Dippers are so great and they taste so good!


Shine Pouches


I like the ingredients on this Calm flavor and Purify flavor the best, and these are my oldest’s favorite snack. One note for you on these would be that they are bigger than most pouches. My youngest (4 years old, almost 5) rarely finishes a whole pouch. I tend to opt for the Chia Squeeze above for her if we want to do pouches. But because these are bigger, they make a great option for older children that might not feel filled up after the smaller pouches.


Enjoy Life Seed & Fruit Mix


The Enjoy Life Seed & Fruit Packs are fantastic especially if you are in a nut free school zone and the kids want some trailmix! This is the only snack on the list that has some added sugar in the form of a few mini chocolate chips per pouch – super minimal. My kids love these. My only hang up with them, is that my youngest cannot open the pouch easily. When I pack it for her, I dump it in our favorite snack box. You can also buy the seed & fruit mix in a big pouch to take handfuls from for snack boxes.


Seaweed Snacks


Salty and crispy, Seaweed Snacks are a fun one to munch on, and full of nutrients! Be very mindful of ingredients when you look for seaweed though. Many seaweed snacks use questionable oils and have soy or other flavorings that do not meet my criteria for a snack to use regularly. In this GimMe brand I go for the one that says Olive Oil, and the ingredients are minimal and safe.


Lark Ellen Farm Sprouted Seed & Nut Granola Clusters


These granola clusters are super tasty, and I love that the nuts and seeds are sprouted. Great ingredient list too. I just toss a handful into our favorite snack box for the girls to take along to school.


Pressed by Kind Fruit & Chia Bars


The Kind Pressed Fruit & Chia bars are just fruit, veg, and chia seed! That’s it! These are nice portions, filling, and taste really good! Our Meijer puts them on sale a lot so I snag them that way most of the time, but the Amazon pricing is decent too.

UPDATE AUGUST 2019!

Isn’t it so cool that companies are coming out with healthy packaged snack ideas all the time! Mommas they are LISTENING!!! Since this post was written, I do want to let you know that I have found another new bar that we just love with super clean ingredients. These make a great morning snack or lunchbox filler! The Health Warrior Pumpkin Seed bars are GREAT! Super simple ingredients and we have tried both the honey and maple syrup flavors with all 3 girls giving them thumbs up. My middle kiddo thinks the honey flavor is “too sweet” for her – but that is coming from kiddos that truly don’t get a lot of sugar. I think these will be a great addition to your pantry. They are nut free, but the packaging does say that they are processed on machinery that handles nuts, so keep that in mind.

Give yourself some grace, dear momma! Happy fresh start to the school year to you!

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Healthy Homemade Nut Free Granola Bars :: Nut Free School Zone Safe and Naturally Refined Sugar Free!

September 13, 2017

Nut free school zone safe homemade granola bars that are fruit sweetened, and definitely kid approved!

Fall fun!

I feel like every mid September I start to feel the crunch. As in…you have T-minus 2 more months until that weather turns, and instead of sinking your toes in the sand and soaking up the sun’s rays, you’ll be sinking your toes into warm, wool socks and soaking in the warmth from thick blankets while snow surrounds your house!

We are on the go until that winter mess happens, and that means snacks need to be portable!

My granola bar nemesis conquered…

Granola bars have been on my goal list for at least 2 years now. I just could never get them right. I tried a few recipes when my oldest started Kindergarten a few years back, but the ingredients were never to my standard using puffed cereals, rice syrup, and oats that weren’t properly prepared. I would make swaps to meet my ingredient goals, and the whole darn thing would fall apart.

Turns out you really need the right kind of “sticky-ness,” and *just* the right ratios of solids to liquids to get these puppies to hold. I would give up for a couple months and then re-visit them…and this time around, I hit the nail on the head!

So worth 6 batches!

If you are a follower to my Instagram school lunch posts (just search the hashtag #rgnschoollunch on IG!), you are going to be seeing these granola bars often this year. The girls are obsessed with them, and they are going fast. I did end up making 6 batches to make sure my consistency was perfect with certain swaps, and I have a nice stash of them in the freezer for quick, pack-able school morning snacks or lunchbox additions. I have been grabbing them to go for myself as well.

Minimal prep is the name of my game!

Listen, I know it is just as easy to grab a healthier version of granola bars at the store. So my goal in making these was not only to make the nutrition far superior to that found in store bought granola bars, but I also needed it to be something I was willing to make weekly, or even just monthly to keep in my school packing rotation. I don’t have extra time to be spending on picky little steps and long drawn out processes for making a simple granola bar.

You are going to flip at how easily these come together!

Nut free school zone safe!

While my kiddos are not at a nut free school, I have been feeling the questions from you, my dear readers, about nut free snacks for your kids who may be in nut free schools, or who have kids at home that need to be nut free. These granola bars are seed based, and even if you don’t have kids that have to be nut free, it is such a good idea to keep a variety of foods in front of them so they are getting different nutrients.

Hold up! These are not just for nut free kids!

My kids tolerate nuts and eat nuts just fine, but let’s face it….Between that PBJ a couple times per week at school, granola or nuts on their oatmeal once or twice a week, and using almond flour here and there for baked goods, it doesn’t hurt to change things up a bit. I fully plan on making these granola bars with some different nut varieties too, but it was a really fun challenge to make these completely seed based so that our nut free friends could enjoy them too.

Change it up!

Since these granola bars are SO easy to make, they will soon become a staple in your lunchbox packing game! Here are some ways to change things up so that you can keep things interesting!

  • Swap the raisins for another dried fruit (dried cranberries, dried mango, dried apples, dried blueberries, dried apricot) or healthier option chocolate chip
  • Swap the cinnamon for pumpkin pie spice and use dried apples for a fun fall flavor.
  • Change out the seed butter for different flavor seed butters or, if you tolerate nuts you could try some different nut butters.
  • If you tolerate nuts, you could swap some of the seeds for nuts.

Print Recipe
4.93 from 13 votes

Healthy Homemade Granola Bars

Nut free school zone safe homemade granola bars that are fruit sweetened and definitely kid approved!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: homemade granola bars, nut free granola bar recipe, school safe granola bars
Servings: 12 granola bars
Author: Renee - www.raisinggenerationnourished.com

Ingredients

  • 6 large Medjool dates soaked in warm water to soften plus 3 tbsp of the date water to make the date paste (I find our dates in the produce section at our local grocer or at Costco)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds I buy coconut shreds in bulk at our local health food store
  • 1 cup raw pepitas aka pumpkin seeds, coarsely chopped (I buzzed them up about 5 long pulses in my food processor)
  • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds coarsely chopped (I buzzed them up about 5 long pulses in my food processor)
  • 2 tbsp flax seed meal I buy our flax seed meal at Costco
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds I buy our chia seeds at Costco
  • ¾-1 cup raisins
  • 1 tsp sea salt if your seeds or seed butter are salted, you will want to cut this back by at least half
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup tahini This is sesame seed butter. Sunflower seed butter should work too. Or if you tolerate nuts, use a nut butter of choice like almond or peanut butter. I think the biggest thing to keep in mind with the seed or nut butters is that you want something that doesn't have a bunch of other added ingredients/oils/sugar etc. Just check the ingredient labels.

Instructions

  • Fill a small bowl with warm/hot water from the tap and place the dates in the warm water while you prep the rest of the ingredients. They need to soak at least 5-10 minutes to moisten and soften.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees, and line a small baking pan with parchment paper. There is no need to grease the pan or the paper. Make sure the sides of the paper go over the sides of the pan so you can lift the granola bar mixture out of the pan easily.
  • Put the coconut shreds, pepitas, sunflower seeds, flax meal, chia seeds, raisins, salt, and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl, and stir with a spoon to combine.
  • Pit the dates, and put them into a blender along with 3 tablespoons of the warm water that the dates were soaking in. Blend to make a smooth date “paste.” Put the date paste and tahini in a small sauce pan. Warm the date paste/tahini mixture until it melts and starts to sizzle a little, stirring along the way. This only needs about 1 minute to melt and warm so that it is easier to mix into the seeds.
  • Stir the warm date paste/tahini mixture into the mixing bowl with the seeds using a spatula. It will be thick and sticky. It will seem dry at first but do not add more moisture or they will not set right. It will start to combine as you mix.
  • Press the granola bar mixture into the parchment paper lined baking sheet. I use my hands – press it in tight. Press it into the sides and corners, and slide the edges and corners down to compact in.
  • Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes, take them out of the oven, and use the back of a wooden spoon t gently press the granola down a bit more so it really compacts in to set. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then use the parchment paper sides to lift the solid bar mixture onto a cooling rack to finish cooling (I keep it on the parchment paper while on the cooling rack). Do NOT cut the bars until they are cooled – it sets up as it cools off, and it will fall apart if you cut it while it is still hot.
  • Once the granola is cooled, cut the bars into the sizes you want, and either freeze or store in an airtight container.

More real food lunchbox ideas you might like!

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Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!

June 16, 2017

Kid favorite tomato soup made with nourishing bone broth and fresh tomatoes in a fraction of the time!

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Wait, 92 degrees in June? {In Michigan?!}

I can’t even begin to describe how excited about this I am! I am a hardcore beach bum, and this weather totally suits my style!

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!It does not, however, jive with some of the cooking projects I had planned this month!

I wasn’t anticipating this weather when I picked up some fresh tomatoes destined for soup. It is just too hot to have that stovetop heating my house up. My kids were really looking forward to that soup, so I decided it was time to get the pressure cooking method  perfected on this family favorite soup recipe.

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!A family favorite staple soup

My original tomato soup recipe is a family favorite – one we have almost weekly all year round! During the summer I use as many tomatoes from our small family garden, along with a good bushel full from a local farmer, and stash it away for cooler months. I happened to see these greenhouse grown tomatoes at the farmer’s market this week, and just had to get started on my stash!

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!Same soup…WAY quicker cook time!

I’ll be honest, the first time I pressure cooked tomato soup, I wasn’t planning on it taking on the same slow cooked taste as my original. I was curious, however, and boy was I wrong. It literally tasted the exact same! The key is that buttery sauté in the first step before you pressure cook the rest!

And the quicker cook time {plus not heating up my house!} thanks to the Instant Pot has basically sold me on making all of my summer tomato soup this way.

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!Step 1 – Flavor Infusion

Turn the Instant Pot  to “Saute,” melt the friendly fat, and sauté the onion and carrot with a big pinch of sea salt for about 7 minutes until the veggies soften and sweeten. Add the garlic and tomato paste, combine and cook for 1 minute. Turn the Instant Pot to off (“cancel”).

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!Step 2 – Set It and Forget It!

Add the bone broth, tomatoes, and basil. Put the Instant Pot lid on, and make sure the vent is closed. Turn the Instant Pot to the “Soup” setting. Bring the time down to 10 minutes. The Instant Pot will take around 10 minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 10 minutes.

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!Step 3 – Blend, Season, and EAT!

Once the 10 minutes of pressure cooking is complete, turn the Instant Pot off, release the valve, and take the lid off. Add the honey, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. You can sea salt and pepper the soup to your taste once pureed. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can pour the soup into a high powered blender to puree)

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!School {Or Work!} Packing Tips

I mentioned above how nice this soup is to bulk up on, and use for school lunches. Here is how I make that work without being in the kitchen all the time.

  • Whenever I make the soup, we eat it for a meal, and there is usually enough to fill 1 quart of soup for the freezer. That way, every time I make it, I’m building my stash. You cannot double this recipe in the Instant Pot (although I think  you could in the newer 8 quart Instant Pots!), but you can double or triple in a stockpot if you wish to cook stovetop. That is typically how I do things at the end of the summer when I purchase a bushel of tomatoes from a local farmer, to get a bunch done in one shot. I may do both stovetop and Instant Pot this summer!
  • I freeze soup in these BPA free freezer containers. When my family was small, I froze in pint containers. At this point, I generally freeze in quart, though sometimes in half gallon. I like to thaw on the counter overnight, but in the fridge for a day is fine too. If I’m in a real pinch and forgot, just a sink full of hot water will thaw it out in a half hour 😉
  • We have had these fantastic soup thermoses since my oldest was in Kindergarten – going on their 4th year of use multiple times per week all school year long, and they still look AND keep food warm just like new. They are a great investment.
  • These stainless steel, shorter straws are fantastic for babies and toddlers to drink their soup. In fact my youngest 2 (age 3 and 6) still prefer to have soups like this with a straw. My 6 year old especially for school so it is easier to eat and doesn’t make a mess. My oldest is too cool for a straw anymore as I was promptly told not to pack one earlier this year 🙂
  • My husband takes soup to work in a Travel Crockpot – the base stays at work and he brings the liner home for me to fill up. That way, he can warm it up right at this desk.  We’ve had this for years – longer than the thermoses – and it still works like new!
  • Re-heat your soup stovetop so you keep all the bone broth benefits!

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!

Print Recipe
5 from 12 votes

Instant Pot Tomato Soup

Kid favorite tomato soup made with nourishing bone broth and fresh tomatoes in a fraction of the time!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Instant Pot tomato soup, Instant Pot tomato soup recipe
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Renee - www.raisinggenerationnourished.com

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp friendly fat to cook in such as butter avocado oil, tallow, lard, or coconut oil
  • 2 medium onions coarsely sliced
  • 2 medium carrots peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 quart bone broth
  • 5 large tomatoes seeds scooped out (no need to chop finely – I just halve them)
  • ½ cup fresh basil or a tbsp or 2 of dried basil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Turn the Instant Pot to “Saute,” melt the friendly fat, and sauté the onion and carrot with a big pinch of sea salt for about 7 minutes until the veggies soften and sweeten.
  • Add the garlic and tomato paste, combine and cook for 1 minute. Turn the Instant Pot to off (“cancel”).
  • Add the bone broth, tomatoes, and basil. Put the Instant Pot lid on, and make sure the vent is closed. Turn the Instant Pot to the “Soup” setting. Bring the time down to 10 minutes. The Instant Pot will take around 10 minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 10 minutes.
  • Once the 10 minutes of pressure cooking is complete, turn the Instant Pot off, release the valve, and take the lid off. Add the honey, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. You can sea salt and pepper the soup to your taste once pureed. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can pour the soup into a high powered blender to puree)

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!More real food recipes you might like ::

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Tips For Keeping Kids Healthy All School Year

August 5, 2016

Simple, natural tips for keeping kids healthy and giving them the advantage in fighting the every day school germs!

Tips For Keeping Kids Healthy All School Year
Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Every momma’s goal come the start of the school year…

Escape the back to school bugs!

I admit, it creeps in the back of my head as well. Within those first few weeks of school the emails start rolling out warnings of this bug and that being passed around the classroom, and it’s enough to make you want to send your kid to school in a bubble!

Of course our kids do not live in bubbles, and in fact, an occasional cold bug is a great thing to let their bodies “clean house” and build immunity.

There are definitely some things we can do however, to give our kids the “upper hand.” We can help their bodies fight off bugs more efficiently so that the bugs either don’t even show up as a full on cold, or so that they don’t last as long.

Tips For Keeping Kids Healthy All School YearHere are our household secrets in keeping our houseful of kiddos healthy *all* school year long!


Tips For Keeping Kids Healthy All School YearFirst and foremost, it is important to remember that school aged kids are kids. Not adults. School days are long at every school age. In addition to school schedule, packing in a bunch of extra activities at the end of the day can really drain their bodies. If activities after school are a “must”, then it really ought to be made up for on the weekend with naps and early bedtimes. Period.

Growing kids need downtime and play to recoup. Taxed adrenals from lack of sleep and stimulating days don’t allow the immune system to do its job effectively. Plan in what is absolutely necessary, and literally schedule in bedtimes and playtime if after school activities are a part of their week.


Tips For Keeping Kids Healthy All School YearBack to school bugs are pretty much a given to be passed around within the first few weeks of school. We have escaped the throws of those first few weeks of the back to school cold being passed around by boosting our systems a good month before school starts and continuing through the fall.

Get the kids outside for fresh air after school and open the windows at home to air everything out! YES in the middle of winter too! The kids breathe stale, inside shared air all day at school and need to play outside and breathe some fresh air. You would be surprised at what even the winter sunshine can do for their demeanor and health – outside light and fresh air is important!

Keep in mind that bugs are going to happen!

It’s inevitable and sometimes a good thing for their body to do some housecleaning with a bug. If the illness is a recurrent thing, it’s time to stop and take a look at what might be a root cause keeping their body run down, but a few bugs in the course of a school year isn’t the end of the world.

So here is our immune system booster line-up!


DAILY


1. Cod Liver Oil

Well sourced cod liver oil is a fantastic source of the right ratios of vitamins A and D which nourish the immune system. High doses of vitamin D by itself is not recommended as it is balanced best in the presence of vitamin A. This is why cod liver oil is a great source of getting your vitamin D during the cold, dark fall and winter months.

Cod liver oil is also a good source of omega 3. Omega 3’s fight inflammation in the body from stress and stressors (like being sick!) and help the body heal. I have doubled up on cod liver oil during the first day or 2 of the onset of a cold and really felt like it helped knock the virus and inflammation out faster.

How we take cod liver oil in our house

You can find our favorite quality sourced cod liver oil here (Use the code GENERATION 10 checkout and get my RGN reader 10% discount!). We follow the WAPF dosage recommendations. 1/2 – 1 teaspoon 3 months old to 12 years old, and 1-2 tsp 12 years old and up. I do double up the cod liver oil for a day or 2 during illness.

2. Whole Food Sourced Vitamin C

Vitamin C can do some pretty amazing things to aide our immune systems in fighting bugs. It reduces inflammation and boosts the fighting power of our immune system to make the bugs have a shorter duration.

The sourcing on the C truly does matter, and if the back of your bottle says that the C is “ascorbic acid” as its source, you will want to take a peek at this article about why a whole food sourced C works better and is safer.

How we take vitamin C in our house

My favorite source for a whole food based vitamin C is this brand. I also use THIS whole food vitamin C spray for my toddler who can’t swallow capsules yet, and I LOVE the convenience of it! My girls take 250-500mg of vitamin C every day, though keep in mind every child is different and has different needs. Start out small and be sure they are doing well on it. I do double their C during illness.

3. Quality, Whole Food Sourced Multivitamin

Since our soils are so depleted of minerals and vitamins, which in turn make our food supply less than robust, a multivitamin is a good idea. A quality whole food sourced multi-vitamin is hard to come by though! I don’t want the synthetics, and a bunch of other junk like dyes added either! Kids need a chewable or powder until they can swallow capsules, and I have used THIS brand for years. We follow the dosing directions on the back of the box. (Don’t forget you can use your RGN reader code at check-out for 10% off! GENERATION10)

4. Quality Probiotic Rotation & Fermented Foods

By now I think everyone has heard the phrase “all disease begins in the gut,” and it couldn’t be more true. The beneficial bacteria in our guts are the immune system’s first line of defense. Probiotics keep the intestinal lining strong and secure, providing a barrier to fight against pathogen attacks. Keeping the flora in the gut balanced means having more good bacteria present than bad.

We love probiotic rich fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, and pickles in our house. Sometimes they just aren’t at every meal we are eating, however! I have found it best to keep up on our gut flora by using quality supplements which also present our guts with different varieties of bacteria to keep everything happy.

How we use probiotics in our home

My girls take 1 dose (depending on the brand we are rotating) of probiotics every day, and I rotate the brand to give them a variety of bacteria strains. We use Just Thrive, PrescriptAssist, and Garden of Life for Kids. (Don’t forget if you click through those links and purchase through Perfect Supplements to use my code GENERATION10 at check-out to get your RGN reader 10% discount!).

A quick baby and toddler note! When I had babies in the house, I just poured the powder in the cap right on my baby’s or toddler’s tongue. You can stir the powder into food like yogurt, smoothies, or even a spoonful of cod liver oil if you wish!


AT ONSET OF ILLNESS OR IF THERE IS SOMETHING “GOING AROUND” THE CLASSROOM


1. Elderberry Syrup

Elderberries are powerful virus killers and immune system boosters! When I get teacher email warnings of flu spreading, hand foot and mouth outbreaks, or other viruses, you better believe that elderberry syrup is coming out! You can bottle up elderberry goodness in elderberry syrup or tincture form and it is super easy to take because it tastes really good!

How we take elderberry syrup in our home

2 weeks before school starts I like to give the girls 1 tsp of elderberry syrup per day through the first week or two of school starting. If I get warning emails of flu or other viruses, I will do the 1 tsp per day for a good week or 2. When my kids are coming down with something or are home ill, we do 1 tsp of elderberry syrup every waking hour until they perk back up.

2. Boosted Vitamin C

You can pop up to the Vitamin C section in the preventatives section of this post to read about why the Vitamin C is so crucial in fighting illness, but just wanted to review here that during the onset of illness or illness, I double their vitamin C dose until they perk up from being sick.

3. Chiropractic

Years ago, I had a chiropractor friend where we were living at the time explain the benefits of having kids adjusted at the onset of illness to help them recover faster, and I have been amazed at how true this is. I have gone through a couple colds with the girls where we haven’t gotten to the chiropractor, and they just seem to linger longer.

I asked our family chiropractor if he could explain why chiropractic is good for the immune system, and his response made so much sense I asked if I could quote him!

Proper alignment enhances circulation and drainage of fluids. It also optimizes nerve function to help calm the body’s stress response (sympathetic nervous system), and enhance the body’s healing response (parasympathetic nervous system). This has been shown to not only reduce illness, but help children recover from illness quicker.
Dr. Levi Pulver, DC

I also want to mention that I have noticed regular, “well visit” adjustments seem to keep my kids on top of things especially during the school year. I take them for an adjustment monthly whether they are sick or not. It is a simple, non invasive step to keep the connections at the spine firing where they should be to keep every organ system operating well. (If you are looking for a chiropractor in your area that works with kids well, I love using this site to search.)

4. Germ Targeted Essential Oils

Essential oils were fairly new to me when my daughter started school a number of years ago, but I have come to realize just how effective they are! I have been without them during illness and really could feel how much faster my kids got better when germ targeted oils were diffusing during illness.

How we use germ targeted essential oils in our home

We do not diffuse germ targeted essential oils all year every day. That is not how they were intended to use. I diffuse germ targeted essential oils during the first week or 2 of school starting, during school bug outbreaks, and when my kids are ill. I have found them super effective especially diffusing them in their room overnight – when they wake up acting like a whole fresh new kid you know something is working! I love that!

Our favorite germ targeted essential oil blend is THIS kid safe blend. I am a huge fan of using oils that are safe for kids – many germ targeted blends are great for adults but not intended safe for kids. This Kid Safe blend was created to be safe for kids and it really works!


nourishing mealsI decided not to put the nourishing menu in the “preventatives” section, even though that is exactly what it is, because I didn’t want it to get skipped by. Children’s fuel makes a difference in their body operating correctly, including the immune system…period.

But wait! Before you write this section off because your kiddo might not be the best eater, hear me out!

Eating well for their immune system doesn’t have to mean boring veggies they might turn their nose up to. I think the biggest thing we can do is get the sugar and processed food out, and get the nutrient dense items in.

Ensuring they are getting adequate amounts of friendly fats will help their hormones and sugars stabilize, which will keep their immune system functioning.

  • Lots of pastured butter, lard/tallow, coconut oil, used in your cooking and serving of food.
  • Bone broth is a daily goal of mine to get into my kids during the school year. Whether in a tea cup with butter at breakfast, or in their school thermos in the form of a kid friendly soup like tomato soup, broccoli soup, chicken noodle soup, or butternut squash soup, daily bone broth replaces missing minerals in the diet, nourishes the gut lining with collagen, and is an overall comforting addition to their day.
  • Nettle Infusions are another great way to replace missing minerals in children’s diets which will help organs and systems in their bodies operate more efficiently. The infusions are also hydrating and kid friendly in taste. It packs up in the water bottle for school to drink easily. It is a great mineral rich boost at lunchtime!
  • You can use immune booster smoothies once or twice a week for breakfast. If your kids really love smoothies you can try these green smoothies for kids as well to change things up.
  • You can browse the meals in the Recipes tab at the top of the blog, and you can also get a collection of my family’s favorite staple meals in my new book Nourished Beginnings . The recipes in the book are meals my girls have grown up on, and are on our table weekly!Tips For Keeping Kids Healthy All School Year

More cold & flu season posts you might like:

Post Tummy Bug Recovery Smoothie

Naturally Healing Ear Infections In Kids

Natural Tummy Bug Remedies For Kids

Vitamin C Gummies

Elderberry Syrup

Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches Snack Ideas

Mix & Match Real Food Packable Bento Box Lunch Ideas :: PLUS! A free mix & match printable for you!

June 24, 2016

A simple “mix and match” lunch plan to help you and the kids pack fun and healthy, real food lunches!

Mix & Match Real Food Packable Bento Box Lunch Ideas :: PLUS! A free mix & match printable for you!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

I originally planned on this post for the middle of August to get everyone’s wheels turning toward back to school, but get this….

Kids totally need to eat in the summer too 🙂

Right?!

And I don’t know about you, but I spend almost as much time packing up lunches in the summer as I do during the school year for everything from park picnics and beach days, to zoo trips and friend visits.

Mix & Match Real Food Packable Bento Box Lunch Ideas :: PLUS! A free mix & match printable for you!

So one of my goals for this post is for it to be universal.

An all year plan for lunch packing that is evergreen from the first day of school through the last day of summer – without getting boring.

Mix & Match Real Food Packable Bento Box Lunch Ideas :: PLUS! A free mix & match printable for you!

And as always, my number 1 goal in lunch packing is to make every bite count. Nutrient dense and nourishing to fill up busy, on the grow bodies and brains.

So let’s make this fun! Sit down with the kids and let them do some mixing and matching for their lunch! I’ve left an outline here so you can have some links to recipe ideas, and here is a printable PDF for you to print out and use together as a family. You can laminate it and use dry erase markers for the kids to mark off what they like, or you can mark off the choices they have to pick from for the week based on what is in season right now and what you have grocery shopped for.Mix & Match Real Food Packable Bento Box Lunch Ideas :: PLUS! A free mix & match printable for you!

main meal

Pick ONE of these:

  • Coconut butter and jam or raw honey sandwich, roll ups using wraps, or leftover waffles
  • Nut butter or seed butter and jam or raw honey sandwich, roll ups using wraps, or leftover waffles
  • Tuna salad (or could use canned salmon) – can serve this as a sandwich, wrap, pita, in a bell pepper cup, or as a dip with crackers or veggie sticks.
  • Egg salad – can serve this as a sandwich, wrap, pita, in a bell pepper cup, or as a dip with crackers or veggie sticks.
  • Chicken salad – can serve this as a sandwich, wrap, in a bell pepper cup, or as a dip with crackers or veggie sticks.
  • Hummus and veggies wrapped in a pita, wrap, or with crackers.

OR Pick TWO of these:

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Breakfast cookies (Here are a few to stash away in the freezer! Lemon Breakfast Cookie, Molasses Protein
  • Breakfast Cookie, The Ultimate Breakfast Cookie)
  • Guacamole & crackers or tortilla chips
  • Yogurt with granola (Here are some easy homemade granola that stashes away in the pantry well: Grain Free Apple Cinnamon Granola, Simple Cinnamon Granola, Strawberry Quinoa Granola)
  • Granola chunks or easy trail mix with raw cheese or coconut flakes or coconut butter. For trail mix I just take a handful of whatever nuts/seeds I have on hand and mix it up with raisins or other dried fruit. You can add a TB of Enjoy Life chocolate chips if you have older kids that are used to “typical” trailmixes.
  • Olives (not a “main meal” but goes well with any of the options in this section as an added real food fat)
  • Avocado (not a “main meal” but goes well with any of the options in this section as an added real food fat)

veggie

Pick as many as you like to fill the veggie section of your lunch container!

  • Carrot sticks or rounds (rainbow carrots are fun too!)
  • Celery sticks
  • Broccoli florets
  • Cauliflower florets
  • Cucumber rounds or sticks
  • Radish slices
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Zucchini sticks
  • Sugar peas
  • Bell peppers of all colors

Dip Options to add real fats for nourishment and digestive aide for the veggies

  • 5 Minute Ranch
  • Cream Cheese
  • Hummus
  • Sour Cream
  • Herbed Olive Oil (just whisk sea salt and herbs into the oil)
  • Coconut butter
  • Olives (not a dip but a great fat that goes well with veggies)
  • Raw Cheese (not a dip but a great fat that goes well with veggies)

Other veggie sides to try!

  • Salads with quick homemade dressings (try some of these!) Can add hard boiled egg or nuts/seeds to the salad too!
  • Ferments such as pickles, sauerkraut, dilly beans, or fermented carrots. Either homemade or check out Bubbies brand at your health food store if you are just getting started!
  • Beet Slaw
  • Coleslaw
  • Summer cucumber chunks with cherry tomatoes and olive oil with sea salt
  • Peas from the freezer thaw out by lunch time – drizzle olive oil and sea salt
  • Cucumber “Sandwiches” using cream cheese in between rounds
  • “Ants On A Log” (celery sticks with nut, seed, or coconut butter down the middle and dried fruit sticking to the butter!)

fruit

  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc)
  • Grapes
  • Apples (if cutting them, put cinnamon on the flesh to keep them from browning)
  • Pears (use the same cinnamon trick as the apples!)
  • Orange slices
  • Cherries
  • Peaches/Nectarines
  • Melon/watermelon slices or chunks
  • Mango chunks
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Banana (best kept in the peel so they don’t brown)
  • Dates, Larabars, or homemade Larabars (I count larabars as more of a fruit even though there are nuts mixed in as they are mostly composed of the dates)

Planetbox 5

A few of my favorite Bento Box style lunch gear!

Our school lunch staple has been the PlanetBox. We are going on our 3rd year of this box and it still looks brand new. Occasionally I will get inquiries about what I think of the cost, and, in my book, buying one lunchbox that lasts for years on end when being used day after day, is a huge budget saver! We use the “Launch” style, though they have a few different layouts depending on how you like to pack up!

I really love our LunchBots containers as well. The Uno, Duo, & Trio are a great sizes for toddlers and little kids, and we are going on our 3rd year of them holding up just like brand new. During the fall and winter months of school, my daughter takes along soup or dinner leftovers 2-3 times per week requiring the use of a thermos. On those days a thermos of soup and a LunchBots container of the extras makes for perfect packing. The also have larger sizes for the bigger kids and teens too!

Mix & Match Real Food Packable Bento Box Lunch Ideas :: PLUS! A free mix & match printable for you!

A quick note on packable drinks!

Water is our staple, though we do drink a lot of kid friendly nettle infusions as well all year long. Herbal tea infusions can be a great way for kids to hydrate and load up on missing minerals from a busy morning. Adding a squeeze of lemon is always a nice idea if your kids like that!

We have used these Kid Basix Safe Sporter cups for the last 5 years – including the last 2 years of daily school. The spouts are finally starting to look a little worn after 5 years of daily use so I think they have been a good buy especially for toddlers and little kids in early elementary who maybe won’t handle an open water cup as well for on the go situations. This year I decided to invest in an “older kid” water bottle and we went with these Eco Vessessl for Kids for both my 2nd grader and I think my new Kindergartener will do fine with these without spilling. My toddler (2 years old) drinks out of open cups perfectly, but doesn’t manage a bigger, open bottle like this without help.

Ok! Keep me posted on those lunches! You can follow my Instagram hashtag #rgnschoollunches for more packable lunch ideas too!

Oh! And don’t forget your free mix and match printable!

Mix & Match Real Food Packable Bento Box Lunch Ideas :: PLUS! A free mix & match printable for you!

 

 

Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches Snack Ideas

9 Packable Nutrient Dense School Snacks

February 13, 2016

School snack time can be both nourishing and quick prep with these great packable snack ideas!

9 Packable Nutrient Dense School Snacks :: School snack time can be both nourishing and quick prep with these great packable snack ideas!

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with school snack time.

On the one hand, a school morning is really long for those little guys in preschool and early elementary school. Most of them have breakfast quite early and to make it from 7:30am until noon or so without eating is a long time to go without re-fueling. Even if those little ones are eating a nice nutrient dense breakfast, going 5 hours without eating isn’t going to work for growing bodies.

On the other hand…I have had my share of bringing home a preschooler that hardly eats their noon time lunch because they had a school time snack.

So in the last few years of having little ones in preschool and early elementary school, I have come up with a happy medium method to snack time that keeps the kids fueled to make it through the morning, as well as nourish them with something you can feel good about.

My goal in feeding little kids has always been “make every bite count”.

Every meal and snack has a purpose. That might seem “deep” for talking about food. But those little tummies don’t always hold very much. Filling them up on something unsubstantial like fish crackers isn’t doing them any growth good. Think about those rapidly growing brains, their synapses, and also a child’s rapidly growing body. Fueling the brain with friendly fats as well as the body with some carbohydrate energy is vital to keep happy moods and balanced systems.

So what about the provided school snack?

Most preschools and some elementary schools provide a snack and I just pack my own. There will be different rules at different schools, but I have found that being as non-threatening and non-confrontational as possible, as well as “kindly confident” has worked for me.

Between my 2 oldest girls, I have now been through 4 different preschool systems, 1 elementary school, and a handful of church situations. All of the school and church systems have a provided a snack, and none of them have had a problem with me packing my daughter’s snacks. We have had a couple of years of a room with severe peanut allergy as well as egg and gluten that can’t even be in the same room. In those cases you just adjust the snacks to the allergens and I have always been fine. In the severe peanut allergy case I gave a list of snacks I would be packing to the mom and we talked about the ingredient lists and that was that. A little extra work but do able.

In my opinion it was better than having my daughter fed fish crackers or Fruit Loops (yes this is actually a routine snack given!) every preschool morning.

But what about the time?!

Hear me on this one…I make 3 meals a day. Barely. Usually at least one of those 3 meals of the day is leftovers that are warmed through. Honestly I don’t have time to be making elaborate and fancy little snacks every school day. I want quick prep and easily packable. So these have been my go-to packable snacks that are also fast prep and nutrient dense – that is quite a tall order and it really is do-able!

A note on the snack types and portion sizes…

These snack ideas are meant to be your inspiration. To get the wheels turning. If you eat differently in your family change things up! And fix the portion sizes to your kids appetites. Every kid is so different, and different from every other kid that age. Older kids may need more than what is pictured here, and early preschoolers might need less. Do what works for your little one.

9 Packable Nutrient Dense School Snacks :: School snack time can be both nourishing and quick prep with these great packable snack ideas!

My favorite snack time packing gear!

Quick, portable, NON SPILL, and easy for little hands to manage is my goals. Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • Small stainless steel containers with lids. I have these square containers and round containers that work well.
  • Condiment containers for dips. The LunchBots condiment containers fits well in the 2 containers above. They will also grow with your child and be able to be used for elementary school lunches as they fit in just about any bento box.
  • LunchBots “Rounds” containers for yogurt or otherwise liquid-y snacks. This is another one that will grow with your child as I use them weekly for my oldest daughter’s school lunches for yogurt, applesauce, etc.
  • I also really like the PlanetBox “Shuttle” snack container, which is a little on the big side for these small snacks, but I use them ALL the time in the spring and summer for packing snacks for all 3 of my girls and even some smaller lunches.
  • **Update 2017 :: We picked up these Kid Basix snack containers with attached lids that I am really loving – the lids are sturdy (and attached!). I have the small size for my current preschooler, and my older 2 girls have been using the medium size for their morning snack at school.

Ok! Onto some details for those snacks!


Cucumbers and Cream Cheese or Raw Cheese: These are fun to make little sandwiches with or just eat side by side.

9 Packable Nutrient Dense School Snacks :: School snack time can be both nourishing and quick prep with these great packable snack ideas!
Olives and a Date: Olives are a great source of fat and dates of energy and minerals. It is a really great, light snack and one my girls ask for often.

9 Packable Nutrient Dense School Snacks :: School snack time can be both nourishing and quick prep with these great packable snack ideas!

Celery with Nut or Seed Butter: Just check for the tree nut allergies in the room – most kiddos with the tree nut allergies can have SunButter (sunflower seed butter) in the room. If they cannot have the seed butter in the room either, then we like to use coconut butter (sometimes called coconut manna) on the celery instead.

9 Packable Nutrient Dense School Snacks :: School snack time can be both nourishing and quick prep with these great packable snack ideas!

Fruit On The Bottom Yogurt: I love these little “Rounds” containers– I use them for snacks for my preschooler, and also in lunches for my oldest. They fit the perfect amount of yogurt and you can top it with fruit from the freezer or your own granola. We do this snack often. Add a drizzle of raw honey or pure maple syrup if your kids are used to the typical sweetness of commercial fruit on the bottom yogurt cups.

9 Packable Nutrient Dense School Snacks :: School snack time can be both nourishing and quick prep with these great packable snack ideas!

Crackers with Guacamole or Hummus: I usually make these quick plantain crackers or simple GF crackers every weekend that work well for this – they are so crispy and delicious. But there is nothing wrong with getting a quality non-junky cracker from the store like the Mary’s Gone Crackers. My kids like this kid friendly guacamole, and I make hummus occasionally. I think store bought is fine too in a pinch by the way.

9 Packable Nutrient Dense School Snacks :: School snack time can be both nourishing and quick prep with these great packable snack ideas!

Crispy Nuts or Seeds & Dried Fruit Trailmix: Do roasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds if there is a nut allergy in the room. If nuts and seeds are not allowed in the room do coconut flakes or toasted coconut chips and dried fruit!

9 Packable Nutrient Dense School Snacks :: School snack time can be both nourishing and quick prep with these great packable snack ideas!

Veggies & 5 Minute Ranch or Paleo Ranch: Some of our favorites are carrot sticks, sugar pea pods, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, etc.

9 Packable Nutrient Dense School Snacks :: School snack time can be both nourishing and quick prep with these great packable snack ideas!

Hard Boiled Egg & Cherry Tomatoes: You can keep a stash of hard boiled eggs for the week in the fridge to pull from quick. This is a favorite of both of my girls!

9 Packable Nutrient Dense School Snacks :: School snack time can be both nourishing and quick prep with these great packable snack ideas!

Raw Cheese & Fruit: Some of our favorite fruits for quick packing snacks are orange slices, berries, and grapes. I like to peel oranges or cut anything that needs to be cut because usually snack time is pretty short and little ones don’t have much time to fuss with that.

9 Packable Nutrient Dense School Snacks :: School snack time can be both nourishing and quick prep with these great packable snack ideas!

Ok! So hopefully that gets your wheels turning! What are some of your favorite preschool and early elementary school snacks to pack?

For more real food snack ideas, you can follow my Snack Ideas board on Pinterest!

More real food ideas you might like:

6 School Lunches Besides PB&J

6 School Lunch Ideas *Besides* Peanut Butter & Jelly :: Plus a PlanetBox Review!

How To Find The Right School Lunch Gear for Your Family!

School Lunch Gear Resource Guide :: A detailed brand comparison so you can find out what works with how YOU pack lunches!

DIY Chocolate Chip “Larabar” Copycat

Chocolate Chip Cookie Fruit & Nut Bar (Compare to Larabar!)

Molasses Protein Snack Bars

Molasses Protein Snack Bars :: Gluten, Dairy, Nut, & Egg Free

Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips School Holidays school lunches

Egg Salad Pinwheels :: Perfect For Little Hands & An Easy Lunchbox Addition!

December 15, 2015

Simple and quick egg salad pinwheels perfect for little hands and easy lunchtime!

Egg Salad Pinwheels :: Perfect For Little Hands & An Easy Lunchbox Addition!Product links in this section are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

“Gah! It’s 11:00 a.m. already?!”

I think I say that just about every day. I can aspire to have the most organized day, but there is absolutely nothing predictable about a morning with a 2 and 4 year old by my side, as well as getting a first grader off to school in the morning!

I rely on my freezer stash of simple soups like broccoli soup and tomato soup most days. It is a great way to get nourishing bone broth into the kids without having to think about what vegetable to make. Add a simple egg or tuna salad wrap and lunch is done…for my older kids.

Egg Salad Pinwheels :: Perfect For Little Hands & An Easy Lunchbox Addition!Wraps are tough for toddler hands!

I started making little Mexican pinwheel wraps for her when she turned 2 this year, and I noticed how easy they made lunchbox packing too, so they are becoming quite popular here with my older kids too!

Egg Salad Pinwheels :: Perfect For Little Hands & An Easy Lunchbox Addition!My first grader handles a wrap pretty good – but the days I have made it more of a pinwheel style she is quick to mention how much she loves her wraps that way and how much easier it is to eat too.

This is a pretty flexible recipe – if you have a favorite way of making egg salad go for it!

Egg Salad Pinwheels :: Perfect For Little Hands & An Easy Lunchbox Addition!

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Egg Salad Pinwheels

Simple and quick egg salad pinwheels perfect for little hands and easy lunchtime!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: egg salad pinwheels, egg salad recipe
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Renee Kohley - www.raisinggenerationnourished.com

Ingredients

  • 6 pastured eggs hard boiled and peeled
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise Homemade preferable to avoid rancid oils. This homemade, egg free mayo recipe blends up in less than 5 minutes! Super quick!
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • 5 stalks of green onion sliced
  • 1/4 red bell pepper diced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 3-4 to rtillas of choice I like to use the Food For Life Rice Wraps and the Sami's Bakery Millet Lavish. They should be in the freezer section of most health food stores - sometimes our regular grocery store even carries the rice wraps.

Instructions

  • Put the hard boiled eggs in a small mixing bowl, and using the back of a fork smash the eggs into small pieces.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients except the tortillas and use the fork to combine well until smooth. Make sure to taste it for salt and pepper.
  • Spread some of the egg salad mixture onto the entire surface of one tortilla, roll up *tightly* and then cut into 1 inch sections. Continue with the rest of the egg salad onto the other tortillas - I usually get about 3 or 4 out of this amount of egg salad.
  • **Gluten Free tortilla rolling tip! Yes I will be the first to admit gluten free tortillas can be...dry! My solution to getting the perfect roll on a GF tortilla is to get it a bit wet and then warm them up to steam them - they get soft and pliable and then you can put your egg salad on and roll them right up. Just do one at a time and you'll be fine!

For more lunch ideas you can follow my Lunch Ideas board on Pinterest!

More real food recipes you might like:
Tuna Salad For All Ages!

plate
Fresh Tomato Soup

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Nourishing Broccoli Soup


6 School Lunch Ideas Besides PB & J

6 School Lunch Ideas *Besides* Peanut Butter & Jelly :: Plus a PlanetBox Review!

Uncategorized

Pizza Muffins :: Perfect For “Pizza Day” At School!

September 8, 2014

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site! Please know I would never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Pizza Muffins :: Perfect For "Pizza Day" At School!
Ahhh…school lunch pizza day.

Brings back memories, doesn’t it?!

That school pizza could look a hundred years old, but I would always still go for it because, well, it’s pizza!

I was thinking I was going to get away with not having to deal with pizza day since my daughter’s Montessori school does not have a school lunch program, but I just found out last week that they do have a fundraiser once a month selling pizza at lunchtime from a local shop.

While I completely support the fundraiser cause, I am not a huge fan of the pizza source, not to mention my daughter has to be gluten free.

My original thought was to ensure we had gluten free pizza night sometime within the week before this pizza day so that my daughter didn’t have to feel left out. I could send her along to school with some pizza leftovers, and I would still donate money to the fundraiser cause since I believe in its support.

Pizza Muffins :: Perfect For "Pizza Day" At School!
I will probably still do that here and there, but pizza night is usually saved for special days or weekends with Daddy. A friend of mine had mentioned the idea of a pizza muffin at one point and I was intrigued.

Pizza Muffins :: Perfect For "Pizza Day" At School!
I ended up playing around with the idea last week and was very pleasantly surprised at the outcome! It made a fun dinner that evening with side Caesar salads, and leftovers were packed away for the end of this month on pizza day.

Pizza Muffins :: Perfect For "Pizza Day" At School!

Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Pizza Muffins :: Perfect For "Pizza Day" At School!

Perfectly portioned pizza. Kids will love to dip these in sauce. Perfect to pack for lunches, too.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: gluten-free pizza muffin recipe, gluten-free pizza muffins, individual pizza muffins
Servings: 12 muffins
Author: Renee - www.raisinggenerationnourished.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1-2 TB organic pure cane sugar coconut sugar, or sucanat
  • 3/4 cup organic pizza sauce Homemade or just watch those ingredients!
  • 1/4 cup whole milk or coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter or coconut oil. Or olive or avocado oil would work.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TB Italian seasoning
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup shredded or chopped veggies of choice onion, peppers, zucchini, carrot, etc
  • Heaping 1/2 cup chopped pepperoni Could do cooked sausage or ham too!
  • Heaping 1/2 cup shredded raw/organic cheese of choice See Tips section if you are dairy free

Instructions

  • Everything but the veggies, pepperoni, and cheese into a large mixing bowl and beat with hand beaters until well combined.
  • Fold in the veggies, pepperoni, and cheese.
  • Bake in silicone muffin cups (or buttered muffin tin) at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Tips:

  • This batch makes 1 dozen muffins. Individually wrap, and then into a freezer bag for freezer storage. You could put the frozen muffin right into the lunchbox and it will be thaw by lunchtime!
  • If you are egg free I do still think this will work! What I would do is use 2 flax eggs or 2 gelatin eggs. This will help with the bind. To make the rise of the eggs I would add 2TB of apple cider vinegar and a tsp of baking soda. This really does the rise trick!
  • If you are dairy free just leave out the cheese all together. You could add a bit more sea salt to create the salty bite of cheese if you want. Some people that are off cow dairy can tolerate sheep or goat milk so those cheeses are an option if that works for you.
  • Start to finish getting the muffins into the cups took me 15 minutes including clean up. This is really a time saver since making actual pizza is a little more hands on time.
  • Here is where I buy and save money on all of my tapioca flour, white rice flour, sorghum flour, and brown rice flour. It seems like a lot to have 4 different flours around but you don’t use much in each recipe and when you blend the flour this way it mimics all purpose “regular” flour better.
  • If you haven’t already gathered, I am a huge fan of the silicone muffin cups. Not only is clean up easier, but I really feel like the muffins come out with a better rise. Here are the flower silicone cups I have, and here are some plain color muffin cups.
  • Looking for a great pizza night pizza?! Try The BEST Gluten Free Pizza Crust you have ever had – it is our favorite!
Lunch Ideas school lunches

How I Am Packing My Kindergartener’s Lunch This Year :: Gear, Packing Tips, & Lunch Ideas

August 25, 2014

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site! Please know I would never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

How I Am Packing My Kindergartener's Lunch This Year :: Gear, Packing Tips, & Lunch Ideas
I am super (super!) excited to start talking about school lunches!

Anyone that knows me personally knows I am not just saying that. One of the biggest reasons I started Raising Generation Nourished was to show parents that it is do-able to feed kids in a fun, nourished, real food way. And that these kids are worth feeding nutrient dense, real food that will fuel them for their busy day of learning.

I think we would all agree at this point that what goes into our kids’ bodies for meal time affects how well they can concentrate at school.

I hope to show you that lunch packing can compete with the otherwise junk your kids might see around the lunch table at school. When you pack just as yummy lunches in super cool lunch gear, they will be on board. LET THEM HELP YOU. It doesn’t matter how old they are. If they are old enough to be in school, they are old enough to help pick out a piece of fruit for their lunch, wash up a thermos, pick what they want out of the cut up veggie bag, grab a frozen soup out of the freezer to thaw. You get the idea. Make them a part of it.

So this is what I am planning on for lunch gear and packing routine for my kindergartener this year. There are so many great lunch gear options out there – this is what fits for my family and how we do lunch. If you follow my #toddlerlunch #preschoollunch series on Instagram or Facebook at all, you know that about half the week the girls get some sort of soup and/or dinner leftovers, and the other half of the week they will get odds and ends of what some might call a “cold lunch”.

LUNCH GEAR:
For our style of lunches I needed a couple “hot container” options for soups and leftover dinners – that were also leakproof! I also needed containers that could neatly hold random cold lunch items and also be leak proof (ie – yogurt). I wanted stainless steel and durable – I don’t want to be buying new lunch equipment every year.

And, most importantly, my daughter needs to be able to manipulate all of the lunch gear herself!

    • Kid Basix Safe Sporter Stainless Steel Water Bottle :: My main seller on this one was easy to clean. No little parts to take off and wash separate. Easy to use spout, leak proof, and fun colors to choose from. We have actually been using these for travel water for a while and I really like them. I let Chloe pick out a couple new colors so I make sure we have enough to go around since the baby is starting to use them too.

How I Am Packing My Kindergartener's Lunch This Year :: Gear, Packing Tips, & Lunch Ideas

    • Steeltainer Stainless Steel Leakproof Deep Container :: This container is big enough to fit quite a few “odds and ends” together but not so big that it doesn’t fit in her lunch bag. She will eat a salad well and it is spacious enough for that topped with chicken and enough room left for her to mix in her dressing without spilling. I got 2 of these because I can see it being used daily and coming home messy and me not getting to the dishes always right away! Leak proof tested by me! And my 5 year old can manipulate the top herself.

How I Am Packing My Kindergartener's Lunch This Year :: Gear, Packing Tips, & Lunch Ideas

    • Steeltainer Stainless Steel Snack Container Set (3) :: This is a set of 3 containers that will be used for yogurt or yogurt and granola, or for smaller “odds and ends” that might go with her soup like a piece of cheese and some dried fruit, or a muffin and butter. Leak proof tested by me, and my 5 year old can manipulate the top herself.

How I Am Packing My Kindergartener's Lunch This Year :: Gear, Packing Tips, & Lunch Ideas

    • Thermos Brand Stainless Steel Funtainer Thermos (12oz) :: This is the container I plan on for soup or smaller warm portion like homemade mac and cheese or refried beans. It holds about a cup with some room to spare the spilling. Leak proof tested by me and kept a cup of soup warm for about a day! Fun colors and some popular charector images too! My 5 year old can manipulate the top on this one too.

How I Am Packing My Kindergartener's Lunch This Year :: Gear, Packing Tips, & Lunch Ideas

    • Thermos Brand Stainless Steel Food Container (16oz) :: This is a bigger food thermos for dinner leftovers like a stir fry with rice, or veggie rice bowls, spaghetti, meatballs and gravy, etc. There will probably be a piece of fruit to go with the dinner leftovers so the bigger container helps hold a bigger portion since that is pretty much the whole lunch. It holds a cup and a half of food with enough room to spare to stir. Leak proof tested by me and kept my dinner warm for about a day! There are a few fun colors to pick from too! My 5 year old can manipulate the top on this one too.

How I Am Packing My Kindergartener's Lunch This Year :: Gear, Packing Tips, & Lunch Ideas

    • Stainless Steel Condiment Set (3) :: This will be for dips like peanut butter, guacamole, sour cream, or dressings like Ranch for veggie dipping, or Ceasar for a salad. I will probably be packing some plain chicken here and there and will send along some BBQ sauce, mustard, or ketchup with that. Leakproof tested by me and my 5 year old can manipulate the top.

How I Am Packing My Kindergartener's Lunch This Year :: Gear, Packing Tips, & Lunch Ideas

  • LAND’S END LUNCH BAG :: I really wanted a lunch bag that didn’t overwhelm my daughter’s whole backpack, but also one big enough to hold both her morning snack and her lunch. I was pretty impressed with how much I could fit in the bag comfortably including room for her water bottle.

How I Am Packing My Kindergartener's Lunch This Year :: Gear, Packing Tips, & Lunch Ideas

PACKING TIPS:
Here’s the deal. I am *not* a morning person. It is bad enough that I have to have her (and her sisters!) in the car by 8:00 (eek!). I don’t want to be packing lunches in the morning.

My plan is to pack her lunch when I’m doing my husband’s meal packing for the next day. Usually right after dinner (or sometimes this happens after the girls go to bed – can we say baby witching hours?!), I pack leftovers for my husband’s work meals (breakfast, lunch, & dinner) for the next day in his travel CrockPot that he can warm at work himself. I have double of most of the containers mentioned above for my daughter, so I can just pull clean ones out and pack Chloe’s lunch right there, and she can help along the way. That way if I haven’t gotten to cleaning her lunch gear from that day, we don’t have to do that extra step if the evening is busy. Anything that needs to be warmed up for a thermos will get a quick warm through in a pot on the stove while I’m getting breakfast ready the next morning. The thermoses keep stuff hot for almost an entire day!

Frozen muffins, energy bars, dried fruit and crispy nuts will be thawed easily by lunchtime. Other “odds & ends” can just be packed up right there while I’m cleaning up dinner – and she can help with those too.

LUNCH IDEAS:
If you aren’t already following, hop on my Instagram or my Facebook page and you will literally see the plates my girls are eating almost daily. Hashtag #raisinggenerationnourished and there are so many ideas there. I will be snapping pictures of Chloe’s lunches in the evening when I pack her stuff up and will most likely be starting a new school lunch packing series with that.

This most definitely isn’t all inclusive. And, unfortunately, for your viewing pleasure, I am not the mom that cuts everything into super cute shapes or designs everyday. I might use a pumpkin cutter on hallween or something but that’s even cutting it close for me! If you like to do that – go for it though! And if this isn’t your style lunch, that’s ok! Find what fits for your family!

    • Dinner Leftovers :: Ok, so if you are going to go through the steps of making a real dinner, why not just double it while you have the kitchen a mess already, and then pack leftovers for lunch the next day. Zero thought! It takes a little mind switcheroo to make more at first, but you will get the hang of it fast.
    • Crockpot Chickens :: Takes a few minutes to get a couple whole chickens in the crockpot and the meat can be shredded and frozen to quickly pull out for sandwiches, salads, wraps, soups etc. Make chicken nuggets for dinner one night and pack the rest for lunch with some BBQ sauce– to dip at school the next day!
    • Salads :: Get some hard boiled eggs in there, raw cheeses, the shredded chicken from above…and most importantly YUMMY DRESSINGS! This post has 5 popular dressings most kids will absolutely devour, and this post has an amazing Caesar dressing that both of my big girls eat right off the spoon.
    • Leftovers from pizza night!
    • Soup :: So many options here, and most of these soups are so fast to make – you can make a double batch on the weekend and freeze or can the rest.
      1. Fresh Tomato Soup
      2. Kid Friend Creamy Veggie Soup
      3. Veggie Beef Soup
      4. Spinach Lasagna Soup
      5. Chicken Noodle Soup
      6. Broccoli Soup
      7. Fiesta Soup
    • “Odds & Ends” ::
        1. Fruit. I usually get a piece of fruit into my girls lunches everyday – between the soups or salads or dinner leftovers they get plenty of veg. I am planning on packing any variety of fruit and just keeping that a pretty simple, no prep sort of thing. Throw an apple or banana in, thaw out some applesauce we make, take out some dried fruit from our summer picking.
        2. Sandwiches or wraps. Just watch the ingredients. Since we are a gluten free house and GF bread is not in our budget, I use pancakes for “bread” a LOT and use natural peanut or almond butter and jam, cream cheese and jam, or honey and sunbutter.
        3. Whole, plain yogurt or raw cheese – if you are dairy free you can do coconut milk yogurt.
        4. Trail mixes with crispy nuts and dried fruit
        5. Cut up veg sticks with Ranch dip or hummus.
        6. Hard boiled eggs
        7. Guacamole with either safe store bought chips or take a rice tortilla and quick cook it in butter – just like chips!
        8. Refried beans and sour cream
        9. Energy bars, Lara Bars or homemade Lara Bars, KIND bars or similar homemade ones
        10. Banana bread
        11. Sweet potato muffins

I can’t wait for you to experience how worth it this is.

To know your kids are nourished and fueled for a jam packed rest of the day of learning.

To know you are teaching them the importance of it all…

Because you know…they are watching. They are learning. Teaching them that it matters what they put in their bodies is invaluable.

Talk to me! Tell me your school lunch packing plans! I am obviously in a season of little ones – those of you seasoned real food parents with older kids tell us how the lunch packing routine goes for you!

How I Am Packing My Kindergartener's Lunch This Year :: Gear, Packing Tips, & Lunch Ideas
 

This post was shared at Fat Tuesday!

Dinner Ideas Healthy Kids and Teens Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

September 2, 2020

Skip the fussy prep and make skillet stuffed peppers with the most rich, delicious flavor, sure to make the whole family happy!

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Back to school and fall routines!

To say we were pumped for school to start this week is an understatement! This crew (and this momma!) thrive on routine, and while we absolutely enjoyed every ounce of our summer beach time over the last few months, the first day of school brought some of the biggest smiles I’ve seen in months! The promise of seeing favorite teachers and reuniting with friends was almost too much to handle!

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

Long school days call for easy, comforting skillet dinners!

Re-thinking stuffed peppers into an easy weeknight prep skillet was born on a particularly long remote schooling day this late spring. The kids were capital D.O.N.E. and this momma had literally forgotten every ounce of 5th grade math from her youth, so a comforting, easy dinner was in store for all! Instead of actually stuffing the peppers, this fast deconstructed version is weeknight friendly, and *oh so* satisfying!

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

One pan dinner – veggies included!

Because one pan was about all I had the time and energy for that day, I decided to stuff this stuffed pepper skillet with enough veggies to be able to say the whole thing was a full meal so that I didn’t have to make extra sides! Not only are the super sweet, kid friendly bell peppers scattered throughout, I also added a whole box of chopped baby spinach. The baby spinach wilts into the skillet meal, and the kids will never taste it. This is truly one of my secret weapons in getting greens into so many of my meals.

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

The method

The secret to the rich, savory sauce for this skillet dinner lies in getting a good caramelization of the onion and garlic, and then using the seasoning combination with the coconut aminos to flavor the beef. Once this important skillet work is done, all you have to do is dump in veggies, rice, marinara sauce, and broth, and sit back and let it cook until the rice is tender. Of course adding the cheese at the end and sliding the whole skillet under the broiler is what takes this dinner over the top!

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

Leftovers ideas

I’ve made these stuffed pepper skillets a hand-full of times during this summer, even though it screams fall and winter food! Every time I make it, the girls ask if I can put it in their thermoses for school lunches this fall. I’m a huge fan of “cook once eat twice,” so I’m all about that! The recipe as written makes a large skillet full, and my family of 5 usually has at least a couple of kid portions leftover for the next day. If you are a smaller family or have smaller kids, you’re sure to get 2 meals out of this!

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 ½ – 2 tbsp coconut aminos this is like a soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 – 5oz box baby spinach chopped
  • 1 ½ large or 2 small/medium bell peppers large dice
  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 1 – 32 oz jar marinara sauce
  • 1 cup water or bone broth I do like to make about ¼ cup of this liquid a really dry red wine but that is completely optional. I think it makes the sauce even richer – totally up to you though!
  • 1 cup cheese of choice to top shredded

Instructions

  • Melt the butter and olive oil over medium high heat in a large, oven safe skillet (I use my 14-inch cast iron skillet. A dutch oven would work too). Add the onion and cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes until lightly golden and fragrant.
  • Add the garlic, cook for a minute, and then add the beef, Italian seasoning, coconut aminos, sea salt, cumin, and smoked paprika. Stir everything together, and cook until the beef is browned and cooked through.
  • Add the spinach and bell peppers, and stir to combine. Then add the rice, marinara, and water and stir until everything is combined well. Bring the skillet to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer with a lid on the pan until the rice is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  • Once the rice is cooked through, turn the heat off and give the skillet stuffed peppers a stir, tasting for salt to your taste.
  • Turn the broiler on in your oven to “HI.” Top your skillet stuffed peppers with shredded cheese and place the skillet under the broiler for 2-5 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden to your liking. Every oven broiler runs differently, so check the cheese around 2-3 minutes in case yours runs hot. Mine takes about 5 minutes.

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Summer Broccoli Salad

August 2, 2020

This light and fresh broccoli salad is perfect for hot summer days!

Summer Broccoli Salad

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Summer 2020…

It sure wasn’t what we thought it was going to be, eh? (See there’s that northern accent coming out in me!) While summer 2020 wasn’t what many of us dreamed it would be, we *did* decide to make the best of what we could actually do, and as it turns out, it was a pretty amazing summer! Hiking, waterfalls, cold and rocky Lake Superior shorelines, and hot powdery sand beaches along Lake Michigan…the outdoors wasn’t canceled and we were totally here for it!

Summer Broccoli Salad
Summer Broccoli Salad
Summer Broccoli Salad
Summer Broccoli Salad

A new summer staple!

I know we are inching our way toward the start of another school year, but there is still plenty of warm weather ahead, and I thought I’d share a new salad obsession of mine! I’ve perfected it this summer and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Summer Broccoli Salad

The busy momma kind of food prep…

My gracious has the last few months been a bit…extra…on us mommas! I made this salad up on a particularly busy week. I wanted to be able to pull a veggie side out of the fridge for myself without any prepping, and this salad has become a staple for me this summer! A shake up in the jar dressing and just 4 veggies to chop, this summer broccoli salad is something everyone has time for.

Summer Broccoli Salad

But will the kids eat it?!

Bonus! This broccoli has been a big hit with the kids as well! The super fun colors, and kid friendly dressing makes this broccoli salad easy on young taste buds. I can see packing this broccoli salad in school lunchboxes as veggie side this fall! I would recommend chopping the salad pieces quite small if you plan on your kids eating it. If the pieces of veggie are too big, it will make it harder to manage for kids. So as much as I love a big strip of onion in my salad, diced will work better for littles. And that extra chop of the broccoli and cabbage will make it easier for kids to eat.

Summer Broccoli Salad

The Method :: The Salad

Just chop and toss – it really is that simple! You can add or subtract veg based on your preferences. I have added sunflower seeds before, and even a hard boiled egg to my bowl.

Summer Broccoli Salad

The Method :: The Honey Mustard Dressing

I use a small 8 ounce jelly jar to measure and shake up my dressing. It is so fast and at this point in the summer I have it memorized because the ingredients are so simple! The dressing is sweet and tangy – perfect for everyone on the family. And instead of the heavier creamy broccoli salad dressings we are all used to (nothing wrong with those!), this light and crisp dressing is perfect for hot summer days.

Summer Broccoli Salad

Storage and serving

The broccoli salad is ready to eat as soon as it is tossed, and it keeps so well for about 5 days. This makes a great prep day item so that you can ensure that you have some veggie side to go with your lunch or dinner every day. I love that this salad doesn’t get soggy even with the dressing on it! If you prefer, you could just add the dressing when you are ready to eat it. The dressing will keep in the fridge for weeks.

Summer Broccoli Salad

Summer Broccoli Salad

Ingredients

FOR THE BROCCOLI SALAD

  • 4-5 cups of chopped broccoli florets
  • ¼ head of cabbage sliced into strips
  • 1 large carrot shredded
  • ¼ red onion sliced into strips (or diced if you like smaller pieces)
  • ½ cup manchego cheese Or whatever cheese you have on hand. You can leave this out if you are dairy free!

FOR THE HONEY MUSTARD VINEGARETTE

  • 3-4 tbsp raw honey
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 – 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar I liked more bite of vinegar, but my younger girls ate this happier with 1 tbsp
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp sea salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Put all of the broccoli salad ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Put all of the dressing ingredients into a jar with a lid and shake vigorously to combine. You could use an immersion blender if you wish. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Start with ½ of the dressing and add more to your liking. It really depends on how much dressing you like on your salad. I use the whole jar most of the time. Any leftovers taste great on any salad you make and will keep in the fridge for weeks.
  • This broccoli salad will keep in the fridge for about 5 days. Make some on the weekend and use it as your weekday lunch veggie each day!

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Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancake Mini Muffins With Berry Dipping Sauce :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free

April 16, 2019

A healthy buckwheat pancake, in the perfect “little hand sized” package – mini muffins!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Birthday girl!

I’m pretty sure I get more excited about the girls’ birthdays than they do 🙂 I love remembering being pregnant with them and experiencing their birth stories, and telling them about how they were when they were babies! This sweet and spunky middle kiddo of mine turns 8 next week, and we started celebrating a little early with a fun breakfast idea that is totally up her ally…

On. The. Go.

If you look up busy bee in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure Claire’s picture would be right next to it. From the day I felt her strong, *non-stop* kicking in utero, to her blazing fast, “sunny-side up” delivery, never-ending toddler years, and now these smart as a whip school age years, we are definitely kept on our toes with this one, and on-the-go breakfasts have become a specialty of mine in her honor.

Pancake…muffins?

Absolutely! While we love a slow start Saturday filled with a fluffy stack of pancakes, in reality, busy weekday mornings just don’t have room for that. Last year we created *the* pancake mini muffin – a perfect, portable substitute for that fluffy pancake stack. I hear from you guys all. the. time. about how much your kids love them, so I’m giving you another option to add to your rotation to get some new ingredients into the mix!

A new ingredient line-up…

So many of you have messaged me asking how to make my original pancake muffins egg free and/or grain free, so this version is dedicated to you. But wait! If you don’t happen to be a “free” anything household, these delicious buckwheat pancake muffins are still for you too! Food rotation is so important to get a variety of nutrients into your family. Eating the same thing over and over again can wear on the gut, and can create imbalance in your nutrient levels.

What is buckwheat?

Despite the sound of it’s name, buckwheat flour is ground up buckwheat seed – it’s a seed, not a grain! Many people that cannot tolerate gluten or grains can tolerate buckwheat, and it has a host of nutritional benefits. Buckwheat has an impressive protein content and is packed with essential minerals our bodies need to function at it’s best. Even if you can tolerate gluten/grains, it is a good idea to rotate your food around. Using the same flour day in and day out in your baking will wear on the gut. Change things up a little! The buckwheat gives these muffins a mildly sweet, nutty flavor, and the vanilla and warm coconut sugar make them taste like pancakes!

Allergen friendly!

It is pretty tough to get a muffin to look like a muffin without eggs, my friends. Let alone feel like a muffin and taste like a muffin! But for some reason, I have found that buckwheat batters have some “stick” to them almost like a chia seed, so the egg binding isn’t always needed. And add in a bit of baking powder to react with an acid, and you’ve got yourself a nice puffy muffin top without the egg rise!

Little kids love to dip!

That is no secret to you, I’m sure, dear momma! So instead of dipping these little pancakes in a load of sugary maple syrup, we’re going to cut the sugar down and use some fruit, and then mix it with some fat to keep blood sugars balanced. Use whatever berries are in season near you, or thaw out some frozen berries to use if it is wintertime. The sauce takes no time at all to make, and you can customize it to your kids’ taste for sweet. If you have really littles in the house, I’d skip the added honey all together. If you have teens in the house used to sweeter foods, that touch of honey will really bring out the berry’s sweetness, and it will still be less sugar than dousing them in maple syrup before a school day.

Not just for breakfast!

This recipe as written fills my 48 cup mini muffin pan! That, my friends, is the epitome if the whole “cook once, eat twice” mantra so many of us try to live by on busy schedules. The girls enjoyed taking the leftovers from breakfast in their school lunch the next day topped with butter, and with a thermos of soup. They freeze fantastic too, so if you don’t have a need for the extras right away, just pop them in a freezer bag for another time.

A note on the soaking

If you are newer to the more traditional real foods movement, this whole soaking process is probably new to you. In a nutshell, soaking grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds is an ancient practice that helps reduce gut disturbing phytic acid, making digestion more sound over time. It takes only minutes to prepare, though remembering to get the flour soaking the night before is part of the process! And because I totally, and utterly understand that, I’m going to step out and be a little taboo for a minute…if you are a hardcore traditional foodist, you’ll want to cover your eyes for this part… Skip the soaking if that means you’ll make these instead of opening a box of cereal, dear momma. I’d rather have you make this healthy, nutrient dense breakfast for your kids without the soaking versus not making them at all. If you are totally into the soaking, go for it! I actually love it because it means most of the recipe is made the night before.

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5 from 11 votes

Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancake Mini Muffins With Berry Dipping Sauce :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free

Ingredients

FOR THE BUCKWHEAT PANCAKE MINI MUFFINS ::

FOR THE BERRY DIPPING SAUCE ::

  • 1 cup berry of choice quartered if large like strawberries
  • 2-4 tsp raw honey or coconut sugar depending on how sweet your berries are
  • 1-2 tbsp butter optional if you don’t tolerate dairy

Instructions

FOR THE BUCKWHEAT PANCAKE MINI MUFFINS ::

  • The night before you want to make the muffins, put the buckwheat flour, milk, vinegar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Cover with a lid and let the mixture soak overnight 7-10 hours. This soaking process helps break down the phytic acid in the buckwheat seed making it easier on digestion over time.
  • The next morning, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees, and spray a mini muffin tin with avocado oil spray or use mini muffin liners
  • Stir in the rest of the ingredients to the soaked batter, and spoon the batter into your prepared muffin tin.
  • Bake the mini buckwheat pancakes at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (if you are making regular sized muffins, bake for more like 25-30 minutes). Let the muffins cool for a couple minutes, and then turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. You can keep the muffins in an airtight container for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for months. 

FOR THE BERRY DIPPING SAUCE ::

  • Everything into a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally, letting the sauce simmer and break down for about 3-4 minutes. A potato masher helps this along well.
  • Taste the sauce for sweetness, and then blend until smooth. The berry sauce will keep up to a week, chilled in the refrigerator. 

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Instant Pot Spring Leek & Asparagus Soup :: Gluten and Dairy Free!

March 7, 2019

Instant Pot leek & asparagus soup pulls the best flavors of spring with a quick pressure cook prep time!

Snow Day number 7,458…

Another lake effect snow storm, polar vortex, whatever you want it call it…is in the books! In March. It’s Michigan…I get that. By March I’m definitely over it, and I’m so ready to bring you some bright, fresh spring recipes! Since it is so cold here, we’ll start with spring produce in soup form to keep us warm, m’kay?!

Whatever state is sending us spring produce…THANK YOU!

We adore you. No really we do. Because we won’t see fresh Michigan asparagus until almost May, and I just can’t go that long without some spring in my life! When I saw the first asparagus sale from at the store a couple weeks ago, I snagged what I could and to the girls’ complete delight we had roasted asparagus with dinner that night – something other than winter veggies! They were in heaven! Leeks and lemons are such a bright and fun spring addition to this smooth and creamy soup too – it’s like spring in a bowl!

Flavors that will blow you away

It is just so good. This soup – you will want cup after cup after cupful. The mild leeky onion allows the rest of the veggies to really shine through, and that tangy bright lemon and yogurt put it over the top. Once you try the little hit of lemon in your asparagus soup, you’ll never go back. This soup would be a great appetizer or soup course item for Easter brunch or dinner. Your guests will be wondering what it is that is making the flavor so amazing, and it is really that combination of the perfect balance of sweet veggies, tangy finishes, and delicious herbs. It will vanish before their eyes!

Instant Pot quick!

I cannot wait to make this soup all spring long! If you happen to snag a great in season deal on asparagus this spring, you can really stock up your freezer with asparagus soup. Shopping veggies in season is defintely how to keep your real food budget in check. And since we can make the soup easily in our Instant Pot, the though of making it all season long doesn’t sound daunting! If you have the 8 quart, I bet you could double this recipe!

The perfect, kid friendly (and not so veggie loving person friendly) soup!

I made this soup on the “soup-ier” side so I could drink it from a mug easily, and so my younger girls could easily use a straw for their school lunch thermos. When my girls were older baby and toddler ages, they really loved eating soups like this with a straw. Between the pressuring cooking time and the blending of the soup, I promise there are no asparagus “strings” left and it is super kid friendly in texture. While I absolutely believe in making sure kids are exposed to every food texture, I understand how those bigger asparagus spears can be kind of stringy. The texture of this soup is soup smooth and creamy – perfect for kids and adults alike!

Freezer Friendly!

Absolutely fill your freezer with at least a couple quarts of leftover soup when you make it! When late fall and middle of winter hit your home, it is SO nice to pull out a jar of spring flavors to change up your menu! To freeze the soup, I like to cool it to room temp, and then fill BPA free freezer quart containers. If you freeze in glass jars, just be sure to leave the lid off for 24 hours in the freezer so it has room to expand and not break your jar. You can put the lid on once it freezes completely.

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5 from 21 votes

Spring Leek & Asparagus Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tbsp friendly fat to cook in I prefer the flavor of a combo of butter and olive oil. Ghee is lovely too.
  • 2 large leeks ends and green tips removed, sliced into rounds and rinsed of sand (Use the white and light green part. If you don’t have leeks 1 medium onion or a couple shallots would work well.)
  • 3 cloves of garlic peeled (no need to chop – it will all get blended up in the end)
  • 2 bunches of asparagus woody ends removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small/medium yellow potato cubed
  • 1 ½ quarts bone broth
  • 1 tsp dried dill if you have access fresh use about 2-3 tbsp
  • ¼ cup full fat coconut yogurt regular yogurt, crème fraiche, or sour cream (you can use raw milk or coconut milk if you don’t have these, but the tang of the fermented creams is lovely)
  • Juice of ½ lemon use about 1 tbsp
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Turn the Instant Pot to “Saute,” and melt the butter/oil. Add the leeks and saute for 5 minutes until fragrant, soft, and sweet. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, and then turn the Instant Pot “Off.”
  • Add the asparagus, potato, bone broth, and dill, stir to combine, and put the lid on the Instant Pot. Be sure the valve is closed, and turn your Instant Pot on to “Soup.” Bring the time down to 10 minutes. (The IP will start automatically from here. It will take about 5-10 minutes to come to pressure depending on how cold your broth was, and then will start counting down the 10 minute pressure cooking time.)
  • When the 10 minutes of pressure cooking is done, release the valve and take the lid off. Blend up the soup using your immersion blender or regular blender until it is smooth.
  • Stir in the yogurt and lemon juice, and then taste for salt and pepper. You can sea salt and pepper the soup to your taste, and serve.

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Instant Pot Cauliflower and Kale Soup :: Stovetop Directions Included! :: Gluten and Dairy Free!

January 4, 2019

Make super smooth and creamy cauliflower and kale soup in a fraction of the time with your Instant Pot!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Winter hikes, and warm bowls…

At this point in the year, my little Michigander children expect snow…and lots of it! Every once and a while we experience a “barely white” Christmas, and this year was one of them. With the last 2 weeks off from school, they’ve been less than impressed with the lack of fresh powder, but thankfully that leaves roads clear enough to visit some of our favorite hiking places to move around. We warmed up with warm bowls of this super smooth and creamy cauliflower and baby kale soup after a hike this weekend, and the rest will be saved for school lunchbox thermoses, and momma’s breakfast.

A mind-blowing breakfast revelation….

Those of you that follow my Instagram much in the last few years know that soup is on my breakfast plate most days of the week – especially in the cooler months of fall, winter, and early spring. Years ago a nutritional therapist that I was working with opened my eyes to just how many more vegetable minerals and vegetable fiber our bodies need on a daily basis, and one of the ways I have figured out to get veggies into this not-so-smoothie-loving girl’s plate is to use soup.

A new breakfast favorite!

Ever grab a head of cauliflower at the market only to forget about and find it a few days later with the beginnings of those little brown spots on it? Just me?! Well, it happened to me a couple months back in the thick of the beginning of the holiday season, and I decided to use the whole head up in one shot so it didn’t go to waste. I used what I had in-house, and this delicious soup was the result – and became my breakfast for the rest of the week! It has been a nice change up from my typical breakfast soups, which also means veggie nutrient variety for my body, and that is always a win.

What I eat with my soup for breakfast

When I eat soup for breakfast, I like to have it with sides of just about anything! That keeps things interesting, so you don’t get bored. Fried eggs or sausage, a healthy muffin or breakfast cookie…even dinner leftovers will work. Leftover soup warms up quickly, and can go with you in a to-go mug too.

Ok, breakfast soup for mom, but will the kids eat it?!

Well devour it is more like it in my house, but yes, this soup is super kid friendly. If your kids aren’t big soup for breakfast eaters, pack it along in their school lunchbox thermos, or serve it with dinner. It’s a great way to get in more veggie variety with an easy to eat, flavorful soup. The texture is super smooth which most kids prefer, and the flavors are pure and delicious versus super complex. Your toddlers/babies can use a straw if they want to do it themselves. Veggie soup purees were some of my girls’ very favorite first foods, and because we started out young, they crave these mineral rich soups!

Kale? But why?!

The baby kale (or baby spinach if that is what you have) just adds more nutrients to the soup without changing the flavor. Baby kale/spinach is super mild and wilts right into hot soup – I add it to many of my soups because it is an easy way to get those dark green leafies in! It obviously changes the color, but its nice to add more nutrients without any fuss to the flavor. You can certainly leave this ingredient out if you don’t have it around, or if the kids are going to complain about the soup being “green” 🙂

The key to amazing flavor from the Instant Pot

Get those veggie basics down into some flavorful fat on the “saute” feature first. You’ll be so glad you did because the difference in flavor is very different than if you were to just toss everything in and go. Pulling the sweetness out of the carrot and onion builds the flavor in the soup which is why it is so tasty without a bunch of complex seasonings.

Chop and GO!

One of my favorite parts about soup purees, is that the veggie prep is really carefree. You don’t need a fine, perfect dice on your veggies. It all ends up getting pureed in the end, so just a quick, coarse chop will do.

Some for now, and some for later

This cauliflower and kale soup freezes great. This batch was eaten for lunch after our hike, I packed a serving away to have for my breakfast the next day, and I packed a quart away into the freezer for another time. That is probably the only true meal planning tip you’ll ever hear from my end! Whenever I make veggie soups, I always pack a quart away into the freezer for another time. I pack thermoses for the girls twice a week, and having soup in the freezer helps with that!

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5 from 17 votes

Instant Pot Cauliflower & Kale Soup

Ingredients

Instructions

INSTANT POT METHOD:

  • Turn the Instant Pot on, and press “Saute.”. Put the ghee into the pot to melt, and add the onion and carrot with a big pinch of sea salt. Cook the onion and carrot on the “Saute” function for 5-7 minutes until they are soft and sweet. Add the garlic, stir in, and then turn the “Saute” feature “Off.”
  • Once you turn the “Saute” feature off, add the cauliflower and bone broth, and put the Instant Pot lid on. Turn the valve to closed, and press the “Soup” button. Bring the time down to 10 minutes. The Instant Pot will automatically turn on, taking about 10 minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 10 minutes of pressure cooking time.
  • When the Instant Pot is done pressure cooking, release the valve to let the pressure out, and take the lid off the Instant Pot. Add the coconut milk and baby kale, and use your immersion blender to puree the soup until it is smooth. Add sea salt and pepper to your taste after you puree the soup.

STOVETOP METHOD:

  • Melt the ghee in a large soup pot, and add the onion and carrot with a big pinch of sea salt. Saute the veg until it is soft and sweet.
  • Add the cauliflower and bone broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes until the cauliflower is soft, and then turn the heat off.
  • Add the coconut milk and baby kale, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until it is smooth. Add sea salt and pepper to your taste after you puree the soup.

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10 Minute Gluten Free Ramen Noodle Bowls

April 6, 2018

You are just 8 simple ingredients away from 10 minute gluten free ramen noodle bowls perfect for dinner and then leftovers for lunch the next day!

Simple, real life…

It’s what I love the most about you guys. I’m being totally and completely serious. Every time that I hesitate to post something to Instagram because it might be “too boring” or “too simple” you all are all over it asking for a method or a recipe…and I love that about you. You are totally my people…simple, real moms just trying to make this thing work with some real food on the table that won’t keep you in the kitchen all day.

A humble staple

My husband found these safe ingredient ramen noodles last summer, and I have to tell you, they have become somewhat of a once a weekly staple in my house. A meal I don’t have to think about. A simple, budget friendly, filling lunch or dinner that the girls completely devour, and one that can be tailored to veggies that are in season.

Cook once, eat twice

Because I hardly ever cook for just one meal, this ramen dish is no exception! I started making this my Tuesday or Wednesday night dinner menu item, and then bulked it up so that I could fill up school lunchbox thermoses for the next day or later in the week! Seriously, dear momma, make that kitchen work do double time for you – there is no need to be in there all day long every day. You can see an example of how I pack the leftovers for school lunches below, and follow my Instagram with the hashtag #rgnschoollunch for more ideas.

One meal, but oh so many possibilities!

There are so many ways to fancy up this dish. The ingredients laid out in the recipe section is super bare bones minimum – though it really has so much flavor. My kids adore this prep, but they get just as excited about it being seasoned with curry, or coconut aminos (a great alternative to soy sauce). Change it up to keep things interesting, and to broaden the kids’ palates.

Veggie change ups!

My biggest piece of advice when it comes to real food and produce is…keep it in season. If you have a budget to stick to, your wallet will thank you. Swap the veg out for what is in season near you, and not only will your budget stay on track, your palates will appreciate the change up too! I tend to shop the organic produce at Costco and can really save my budget there during the winter months, but when spring, summer, and fall hit, it is so nice to keep it local and seasonal.

Optional added protein

Very often I’ll make this dish for dinner with some leftover chicken or make some quick meatballs. Then I’ll take the leftover veggie stir fry and noodles without the mean to pack for school lunches. You can add protein to this meal in so many ways. In fact, my favorite way is topping the noodle bowls with a drippy duck egg. The girls also enjoy chicken, beef, or crushed walnuts – there are so many options. If you are packing the veggies and noodles for school thermoses, you can always add a side of mixed nuts, or leftover meat from dinner the night before.

Tips for leftovers and school lunch thermos packing

I’ve had the same thermoses for hot lunches since my 3rd grader was in Kindergarten – they have served us very well! And the girls love having a hot lunch a couple times per week – wouldn’t you?! It is so easy to warm it up in the morning before school. Just fill up your empty thermoses with hot water from your tap water to “temper” the thermos – otherwise the cold thermos will cool off the hot food too easily. I let the thermoses temper while I’m fixing breakfast or while I’m in the shower. They only need 10 minutes, tops, to be effectively tempered. Warm up your ramen noodle meal, adding a splash of water or bone broth while you warm it up. This loosens up the noodles, helping them warm up easier. Dump the hot water out of the thermoses, and fill them up with the ramen meal and you’re good to go!

Quick portioning tip! This recipe feeds my family for one meal. When I want to have more left for lunches the next day, I bulk this up a bit more!

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4.95 from 19 votes

10 Minute Gluten Free Ramen Noodle Bowls

You are just 8 simple ingredients away from 10 minute gluten-free ramen noodle bowls perfect for dinner and then leftovers for lunch the next day!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: gluten-free ramen bowls, gluten-free ramen noodle bowls, ramen noodle bowl recipe
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Renee - www.raisinggenerationnourished.com

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tbsp ghee to cook in plus another 2 tbsp to finish the ramen (Butter or olive oil works too. I love the flavor of the ghee for this dish though)
  • ½ small onion diced
  • 1 head broccoli cut into small/thin florets (sugar peas, asparagus, or sliced cabbage work well here too)
  • 1 medium orange red, or yellow bell pepper, cut into strips (if you have real little guys at home, you can dice this for them to manage it easier. Mushrooms give a nice flavor here to if you don’t have peppers.)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped
  • Heaping handful of baby spinach chopped (baby kale works here too)
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
  • 4 gluten free rice ramen noodles
  • Optional sliced green onion to garnish

Instructions

  • Get your water boiling for the ramen while you chop and cook the vegetables.
  • Melt the ghee in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the onion, broccoli, and peppers with a big pinch of sea salt. Stir to combine and add a splash of water or bone broth to help the veggies cook quick and keep them tender (just a couple tbsp of water is good). Cook the veggies until they are the texture you like (I cook for about 7 minutes to keep a little bit of a bite to the veggies. If you want the veggies softer, you can cook them longer.)
  • When your pot of water comes to a boil, add a few tbsp of avocado or olive oil to water to help the ramen from sticking, and then add the ramen noodle squares to the pot. After a minute, break apart the noodles, and cook another 2-3 minutes to keep an al dente, bite tender texture. If you like your ramen noodles softer, you can cook further to your liking.
  • Scoop the ramen noodles with a slotted noodle spoon, and add them to the cooked veggies. I don’t let every drip of water drain off because the extra little bit of starchy liquid helps keep the noodles from sticking. You can use some of the liquid to make the stir fry saucy if you have added a curry seasoning or coconut aminos to dress yours up.

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Paleo Mini Banana Muffins :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Kid Friendly & Easy Prep!

January 27, 2018

Head out the door with fast prep Paleo mini banana muffins, packed with filling, nutritious ingredients to fuel your little ones for the day!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Third kid in, and I’m still learning…!

I am definitely not one to pretend that I have this motherhood thing all figured out. How could you when each child is so individually different and beautiful? Certain lessons pass from one kid to the next, making little aspects of subsequent kiddos added to the mix run a bit smoother, but for the most part, I still take one day at a time figuring this thing out just like everyone else!

My how my mornings have changed!

One routine that looks quite different from my first born in the toddler/preschooler years to my third born is breakfast. Sure, the nutrition is still there, and my standards for quality, nutrient dense meals still remains my number 1 priority, but the mornings themselves just look different. With that first and even the second kid, there was time to help with getting those last few bites down by helping feed them a little if there was an appointment or work to attend. I dare say our mornings were pretty laid back. Even though I worked outside the home during those days, overall there were just fewer distractions and it made for easier meals.

Little hands, little bellies…and busy mornings

The youngest in my house has had to tag along for school drop offs, appointments, and after school activities and play dates since the day she was born. She basically was groomed to go with the flow, but we still struggle with this age that can be pokey at the breakfast table – especially when the big sisters have to be to school by 8:15. There are mornings she sleeps in, and I’m literally popping her from bed to the car seat in her jammies, and other mornings where she has it in her head she is going to play instead of eat when she gets up in the morning – and darn it I’m going to let her do that because she’s 4!

It never fails on those mornings though…she will remind me how hungry she was right as we are loading up the van for school 😉

Mini muffins to the rescue!

One of the reasons breakfast cookies are such a popular and abundant recipe selection on my blog, is because they were my go-to for my youngest for on the go breakfast. I recently saw some mini muffin pans for sale, however, and I thought I might mix things up a little and try some muffins. Larger muffins tend to get pretty messy, or in those smaller ages, sometimes they eat half of a large muffin and don’t need the rest. I never thought to try mini muffins – and it has been on of those lessons learned on this third kid that has really been a life saver!

Priorities…

Because of our busier schedule, my kitchen routine has also evolved a bit with more kids. When babies are home and you are pretty “stuck” at home, it is really easy to have kitchen time almost daily. I really don’t have that privilege anymore, and so prep days are vital, and I need food that can be made in big batches to eat throughout the week or freeze to pull out easy on a busy morning. With that said, here are the goals I had for the development of these muffins!

  • Nourishing ingredients
  • *Minimal* ingredient list (less than 10 ingredients)
  • No fuss prep (batter is done and in the muffin tin in the time it takes the oven to pre-heat!)
  • Keep well on the counter for a few days
  • Freeze-able
  • Pack well in school lunchboxes (because I might as well make these bad boys do double time as not only an option for a school morning, but as a quick add-in for lunchboxes!)
  • Taste good!

But what about filling up the older kids?

I’m all about making each meal fit for every kid in the house – you don’t need to be in the kitchen all day, dear momma.

I am also finding that as the kiddos get older, they ebb and flow in and out of times of what feels like you can never keep them full! Bottomless pits if you will! During times like these (that can also happen with toddlers by the way!), just be sure to have other options around to add to their bowl or plate of food. The muffins are part of the meal. Easy sides like hard boiled eggs, breakfasts meats (bacon, sausage, jerky, or even meat from dinner last night), yogurt, smoothies, etc are just as easy to add to the meal and will fill growth spurting kids up easily.

Mini muffin breakfast side items {that are fast!}

These little muffins are a great source of fiber (coconut flour) and fat (coconut flour, healthy oil, and eggs), but unless you want the whole pan gone in one shot, here are some fast side items to balance out the plate.

  • Eggs (hard boiled eggs can be made ahead of time on a prep day – I make a dozen at a time for easy pull out snacks or breakfast)
  • Raw milk or coconut milk tonics (this is a fatty blend of nourishing ingredients – the recipe I use is in my cookbook Nourished Beginnings)
  • Yogurt or coconut yogurt
  • Breakfast meat (sausage, bacon, jerky, or even whatever meat was served for dinner last night)
  • Green smoothies

Batching & Freezing Tips

I am loving my 48-cup mini muffin tin! This recipe fills between 36 and 40 of the mini muffin cups, so if you have 2 of these muffin trays, you could definitely double up and put them in at the same time. To freeze the muffins, let them cool completely, and put them into a freezer bag to freeze. They can pull out to the lunchboxes and thaw by lunchtime, or you can leave them out the night before to be ready to go in the morning.

Print Recipe
5 from 14 votes

Paleo Mini Banana Muffins

Head out the door with fast prep Paleo mini banana muffins, packed with filling, nutritious ingredients to fuel your little ones for the day!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time12 mins
Total Time17 mins
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: gluten-free banana muffin recipe, gluten-free banana muffins, Paleo banana muffins
Servings: 48 mini muffins
Author: Renee - www.raisinggenerationnourished.com

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Put the bananas in a medium mixing bowl and mash them with the back of a fork until smooth. Add the rest of the wet ingredients (eggs, oil, coconut sugar, & vanilla) and blend with hand beaters for 1 minute until smooth and creamy.
  • Add the flours, baking soda, and salt and blend to combine until smooth.
  • Scoop the batter into a mini muffin pan. I like to use this safe avocado oil spray to lightly grease the tin before scooping. You could use mini muffin liners or butter - I find the spray faster for so many little muffins. I get about 36 mini muffins out of this batter.
  • Bake the mini muffins at 375 degrees for 12 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Let the mini muffins cool for a couple minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack. The muffins hold up really nice and are ready to eat in a just a few minutes of cooling! To freeze the muffins, let them cool completely and then toss them in a freezer bag to freeze.

More real food fast breakfasts you might like ::

 

Batch Up Meals Dinner Ideas Instant Pot Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips Soup

Instant Pot Chipotle Chili :: Stove Top & Slow Cooker Directions Included! Bean free & Paleo friendly too!

November 4, 2017

Slow cooked chili flavor with a special smoked twist, all in record time! 

Snow dusted roof-tops…

…the last week of October. Yup. We woke up to our first light covering of snow this week, as if October just wanted to nudge us a little reminder of what’s to come in the next month. We already had the heavier coats, hats, and mittens dug out of the basement in preparation, and I can’t tell you how my little Michiganders are excitedly anticipating measurable snow in the coming weeks!

So I’m rolling with it…

Chilly fall evenings definitely call for chili! My slow cooker sprouted chili is a family favorite, but this week set ahead of me just happened to be a bit more packed in schedule than my usual, and I just didn’t have time to get beans sprouting. In fact, I decided one morning that chili just had to be on the menu that night, and that figuring out Instant Pot chili was going to happen! I am so glad I pushed myself to figure it out, because this chili is probably going to take over the family favorite status!

Instant Pot versus Slow Cooker versus Stovetop

It’s a hot debate. And I get it. I’m coming from more of an old school, “love my stove-top cooking” type feeling, and I did have a really hard time adjusting to my Instant Pot. I love the flavor that comes from getting veggie down in fat to sweeten and soften, and the slow simmered flavor that comes from the time and patience that stove-top cooking brings. And slow cookers and chili just go hand in hand because that all day low bubble just makes for amazing flavor.

But man, I’m here as a stove-top cooking lover to admit to you that using the pressure cooker Instant Pot the right way gave JUST as amazing depth of flavor as a slow stove top simmer – and gets it done in record time for the busy family.

Weeknight dinner game changer!

Typically chili is something I save for weekend meals since the prep and cook time take a bit longer, but with the Instant Pot, I was able to have this meal done in record time, and it was so satisfying to serve on a Tuesday night!

One of my favorite features of the Instant Pot pressure cooker is the Saute setting. It allows me to get the caramelized flavor out of the veggies that stove-top cooking gives before pressure cooking. While you definitely could just dump all the veggies in and pressure cook it, trust me, the extra 10 minutes of cooking that veg down in some fat makes the flavor SO worthwhile.

Tips for making this chili all YOUR own, and on a weeknight in record time!

I know many people are very passionate about what makes a good chili. I have my list, and yours may look different! If you love a thicker chili, leave out the bone broth. I like a bit more liquid to mine so I can dunk my cornbread or crackers. If you have a certain spice blend that is all yours, do it up! If you prefer beans in your chili, add more liquid/broth and add those beans in there! I don’t tolerate even sprouted beans like I wish I did, and so I’ve learned over the last few years how to enjoy chili without the beans.

While this chili dinner is not a quite 15 minute meal, it definitely is do-able in 30 minutes with an Instant Pot, or right around an hour-ish stove-top so long as you do a few things in prep the night before or on a prep day!

  • Chop the veggies the night before or on your prep day – this saves you a good 10 minutes between all the veg washing and chopping.
  • Cook the squash for dinner the night before and save the cup you need for the chili so you just have to dump it in. Or save some extra time and use canned pumpkin/squash.
  • Cook the beef and bacon the night before or on your prep day. Just be sure to save the fat to cook the veggies in – that flavor is unmatched!
  • Always have bone broth on your prep day plans. I never let my freezer bone broth stash get below 2 quarts so I’m always ready for making dinners like this.
  • You can also always make the chili on your prep day and then warm it through in a slow cooker or stove-top during the week. If you are serving to a crowd at a gathering, a slow cooker will keep the chili warm all day on the warm/low setting. The chili freezes up great too. My kiddos LOVED taking this chili to school in their school lunch thermos, and my husband took leftovers in his travel crockpot he warms at his desk at work!

Toppers and Sides!

Here are some weeknight fast toppers and sides for your chili meal!

  • Avocado slices with chives and parsley
  • Sour cream or raw cheese and chives
  • Crackers (I grew up with “oyster” crackers in my chili, and these GF blender batter crackers taste and feel JUST like those! If you are grain free, try these easy blender batter plantain crackers, or we like the Simple Mills grain free crackers – even Costco carries them now!)
  • Cornbread (This version is gluten free – if you want to make it dairy free too, swap the butter for ghee or palm shortening, and swap coconut milk for the milk and sour cream. The corn bread pictured in this post is done with ghee and coconut milk! If you do not tolerate corn,  you could try swapping the cornmeal for almond flour – I actually think this would work ok!)
  • Grain Free Herb Butter Biscuits (This is a super fast blender batter and they are so good! If you do not tolerate butter, you can use palm shortening or ghee.)
  • Squash Drop Biscuits (This is another good one to swap if you can’t have corn and need dairy and gluten free too.)
  • Salads with any of these popular kid friendly dressings, or my personal favorite with this chili is the Olive Garden Copycat dressing.
  • Big veggie platters with clean ingredient Ranch to dip. It doesn’t get any easier than just making a family style platter of veggie sticks to share around, and you can make either this egg free Ranch or my Paleo egg free Ranch dip if you are dairy free. If you can tolerate eggs, we also love this squeaky clean ingredient store bought Ranch from Primal Kitchen.

Notes for my Slow Cooker & Stove-Top friends!

Unless it’s worked into your budget, or coming on a birthday or holiday wishlist, there is no need to rush out and grab and Instant Pot just for this recipe. One of my mantras has always been…don’t go broke trying to eat healthy! I spent quite literally the first 9 years of my real food journey with just a stock pot and soup pot at my stove while I learned how to cook, and you can definitely do this thing without an Instant Pot. If it fits in the budget and you are a super busy family that would benefit from the ease and fast cook times, I think you will be so happy with your purchase!

I left both stove-top and slow cooker directions in the Instructions, and you can comment below if you have further questions – I am happy to help! 

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4.94 from 16 votes

Instant Pot Chipotle Chili

Slow cooked chili flavor with a special smoked twist, all in record time! 
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Instant Pot chili recipe, Instant Pot chipotle chili
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Renee - www.raisinggenerationnourished.com

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp friendly fat to cook in divided (Ghee, butter, tallow, lard, coconut oil, or avocado oil)
  • 1 lb grass-fed ground beef
  • 4 strips of bacon diced (you can use more if you wish but we found this to be plenty of flavor and texture!)
  • 2 medium onions diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper diced
  • 8 cloves of garlic minced
  • 3 small zucchini cubed or diced depending on your size preference
  • 3 jalapeños de-ribbed/seeds & ribs scraped out, diced
  • 1 cup cooked & pureed squash acorn, butternut, or koboucha work well. I think canned pumpkin would be fine too.
  • 15 oz can organic diced tomatos
  • 15 oz can organic tomato sauce
  • 1-2 cups beef bone broth depending on how thick/thin you like your chili chicken bone broth would be fine too
  • 3-4 tsp sea salt start out small and you can always add more when it’s done to your taste
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp chipotle powder

Instructions

  • Brown the beef and cook the bacon in 1 tablespoon of ghee or other friendly cooking fat. If you are using an Instant Pot using the “Saute” feature to do this. If you are using your soup pot, cook over medium heat until cooked through. Scoop the meat out with a slotted spoon so the fat stays behind for cooking in.
  • Add the rest of the cooking fat to your IP or soup pot and sauté the onion and peppers with a pinch of sea salt for about 10 minutes until soft and sweet.
  • Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
  • Return the meat to your IP or soup pot along with the rest of the ingredients. Give the chili a stir to combine. IF YOU ARE USING THE INSTANT POT, put the lid on, close the valve, press “Manual,” and bring the time to 15 minutes. The IP will take about 5 minutes to come to pressure, and then will pressure cook for 15 minutes. When the pressure cooker beeps that it is done, turn it off and let the pressure release naturally about 5 minutes before opening the lid. IF YOU ARE USING THE SOUP POT, put the lid on and bring to a low simmer for about 1 hour. You could alternatively use a slow cooker from this step cooking on low for 6-8 hours.

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