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Nutritious and Easy School Lunches

Northwest has taken many precautions surrounding the return to school, one of them being temporarily not providing school-made lunches. Dismissal for in-person hybrid school will be before lunch to limit the possibility of students and teachers getting sick. When students return home there will still be classes and homework to complete, so the school day remains the same amount of hours. Over the pandemic many people have resorted to fast (often microwavable) lunches during the school day. And there’s no judgement coming from me on that front, it’s what’s easiest. I’m definitely guilty of substituting a protein-filled sandwich with Cup O’ Noodles on multiple occasions. But we all need more energy than that to make it through a whole day of school. Making time to prepare a nutritious lunch may seem like it’ll take more time than you want to invest, but it doesn’t have to. Here’s a list of 7 easy-to-prepare lunches that you can take to school with you or eat at home. 

Let’s start with a classic: sandwiches. You probably knew this was going to be on the list somewhere. Sandwiches are quick, tasty, and easy to transport, all the things we’re looking for in a school lunch. Having a couple different kinds of sandwiches you can make and wrap up for later will ensure you always have a good lunch. Of course, you have classics like PB&J (you’ll have to substitute peanut butter for something equally as delicious like sun butter if you’re taking it to school) and ham and cheese sandwiches. Then there’s more interesting but just as easy options: caprese, tuna, and pesto sandwiches. If you’re really looking to make a creative sandwich you could go with a club sandwich (substitute bacon for ham for faster preparation) or a smoked salmon sandwich. Any of these options paired with fruits/vegetables or mixed nuts on the side would be perfect. 

Next, we have something similar to a sandwich but gives you more flexibility and variations. Wraps can be made with almost anything you would put inside a sandwich but there are even more options. Any kind of meat/cheese/lettuce combo is extremely quick and healthy. You can also add in tomato or avocado to make it more interesting. Sun butter and banana wraps are also very delicious. Paired with veggies on the side it’ll give you all the protein and vitamins you need to make it through the rest of the school day.  

Seattle is known for its amazing seafood, and some of the best is only a couple blocks away from Northwest at Pike Place Market. Some kinds of seafood can be hard to pack up into a lunch, but smoked salmon will stay good in a lunch bag for a while. You can eat it plain with something else on the side, put it on top of a cracker, or cut it up and eat it in a salad. You want to make sure to pack something like rice so you’re balancing out your diet. 

Salads are another quick and versatile option for your lunch. You can build your own salad at home or pack a variety of toppings in your lunch bag and add what you feel in the mood for that day. Raw veggies, fruit or berries, nuts and seeds, shredded cheese, and chopped meat are all good salad toppings. Add a good dressing and some croutons and you’ve got yourself a delicious lunch with almost all the nutrition you need in one bowl (or Tupperware). 

Similar to salads are bowls. There are hundreds of bowls you can make and customize to your liking. They range from an assortment of veggies to grilled and seasoned chicken. While they may take a little more prep time than some of these other options, they are totally worth it. You can essentially just pull delicious looking things from your fridge and make a smorgasbord of ingredients to pair together for a nutritious and tasty lunch. 

Pasta can be harder because it isn’t always good cold, but there are some kinds that are perfect for a casual lunch on a school day . If you make a pot of pasta at the beginning of the week you can store it in the fridge and divide it up for the week to take with you to school. You could even make a pasta salad on Sunday night and be set for the entire week. But if you want more variation day to day you could leave your pasta plain and add cheese, pesto, vegetables, etc. throughout the week. This is a much more protein-filled option instead of microwave mac n cheese, which can leave you full for not enough time. 

The last thing on this list is leftovers. I know, that might not seem helpful but there are plenty of ways to prepare leftovers so it doesn’t just feel like you’re eating your stale dinner for lunch. Adding leftover meat to a sandwich with different condiments is a good choice because it’s easy to make and pack. You can also use leftover meat in a soup partnered with vegetables and legumes. Use a thermos to keep it warm. Heating up something that you had for dinner and keeping it in an insulated container is always a good option as well if you’re really struggling to find something to make. 

The definition of healthy looks different for everyone, and everyone  needs different kinds and amounts of food to best sustain them. Listen to your body when you’re trying to create a balanced meal for yourself. Healthy eating is relative and unique to every single person. Having a delicious lunch to look forward to in your locker can make your whole day better. Packing snacks and a water bottle every day is also so important. Keeping yourself well fed is just as important to your mental and physical health as getting enough sleep at night. Preparing food can be a hassle, so try and make it easier for yourself by using some of these ideas! You can play with different recipes and personalize them to make them perfect for you. Enjoy! 

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