Looking for Healthy School Lunch Ideas? Start with Apples!

Student Eating Healthy SnackGiving one’s teacher a polished red apple on the first day of school is a charming custom that dates back to previous centuries when families who were living on the frontier were often called upon to house and feed teachers. An apple was just one way to show appreciation for the dedicated teachers who taught multiple grades in one-room schoolhouses. You can create your own back-to-school tradition by including apples as part of a healthy school lunch.

Why Apples?

Apples, a very healthy food, contain key vitamins and minerals as well as fiber, all of which are essential for proper growth and development in children. Apples also are a staple of the fall harvest, making back-to-school time particularly perfect for purchasing this healthy favorite.

Incorporating Apples into Back-to-School Lunches

What’s a good way to encourage your child to eat more apples? According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the key is to make apples more available and accessible, and to model healthy habits for your kids. If all else fails, sneak an apple in with other foods your child likes.

Here are some ideas for incorporating apples into healthy school lunches:

Apple and cheese quesadilla: This healthy recipe combines the cheesy taste that kids love and the crisp sweetness of apples. It’s also really simple to make.

Ingredients:

  • 2 8-inch whole-wheat tortillas
  • 1/2 apple, sliced thin
  • 2 slices American Cheese

Directions:

Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Place one tortilla in the skillet and then top with American cheese slices, thin apple slices and the second tortilla. Press gently on the tortilla with a spatula. Lower the heat to medium.

When the cheese inside the quesadilla begins to melt, flip the quesadilla over, grill for another minute to crisp the outside of the tortilla, and remove from the pan onto a cutting board.

Slice the quesadilla into six triangles for bite-size pieces. Pack quesadilla triangles into a sandwich container, then inside an insulated lunch box. (You could assemble your quesadilla the night before and quickly grill it in the morning.)

Apple quiche: Kids who like eggs may enjoy this dish as a cold lunch. Eggs contain lots of protein, vitamins and minerals, and are good for kids, nutritionists say. For this recipe, use an apple that will hold its shape when baked, such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious or Rome apples. Avoid McIntosh and Red Delicious apples.

Ingredients:

  • 5 to 6 large apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
  • 1 cup shredded white Cheddar or Swiss cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of cinnamon

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the apples in the pie shell. Sprinkle the cheese over the apples. In a small bowl, mix the eggs, milk, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour the mixture over the apples. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes, after which you can serve warm or cold, and then chill and pack for your child’s lunch box.

Chocolate-granola apple wedges: Can’t get your child to eat a whole apple or even apple slices? Try this recipe for apple wedges dipped in antioxidant-rich chocolate.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup low-fat granola without raisins
  • 1 large apple (Braeburn, Gala and Fuji varieties are good) cut into wedges
  • ¼ cup lemon juice

Directions: Soak apple wedges in a medium-size bowl filled with water and ¼ cup lemon juice. This will help keep the apple flesh from oxidizing (turning brown). Dry with paper towels.

Melt the chocolate by placing in a medium, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for one minute, stirring every 15 seconds, or until chocolate melts.

Next, place granola in a shallow dish. Dip apple wedges, skin side up, in the chocolate. Allow excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Cover the wedges with granola.

Place wedges, chocolate side up, on a large plate. Refrigerate 5 minutes or until set. Pack wedges in a zipper-top bag with all the air squeezed out. Place in your child’s insulated lunch box and refrigerate. Tell your child to make sure that the slices stay refrigerated at school until ready to eat.

What are your go-to healthy school lunches? Tell us on Facebook.

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