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Healthy, easy-to-make lunches are a back-to-school must this fall

Michelle Martin, for Busch’s Fresh Food Market
Tasty lunches like lasagna rolls (pictured) can play an important role in a student’s academic achievement.

Whether it’s in a classroom or online, students will be heading back to school soon. And although learning will be different for everyone this year, there is one thing that will be the same — all kids need to eat lunch.

For parents, especially those who are working from home while their children are learning online, finding the time to make a healthy lunch can be challenging. But it’s important that children have a well-balanced meal. Providing access to healthy foods plays an important role in a student’s academic achievement, according to the CDC. Eating healthy meals helps students focus on their studies and leads to higher grades and test scores.

Looking for lunch ideas to serve at home or pack into a lunch box? Here are some easy, healthy meals that can be made the night before — and that are sure to earn an A+ from kids this fall.

5-ingredient pantry chili

This chili, which is as easy to make as its name suggests, is perfect for reheating for lunch the next day. Best of all, you can customize it with your choice of meat, beans and broth — whatever you have in your kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef, turkey or chicken
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 can black, kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can Mexican-style diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup beef, chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  • A few saltine crackers (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large pot, add the beef (or turkey or chicken) and chili powder. Cook over medium-high heat for 8 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in beans, tomatoes and broth and heat to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 10 minutes.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste, and top with sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, cheddar cheese or crackers.

Lunch tip: Kids enjoy adding their own toppings. Package each topping individually in snack-size bags for lunch boxes, or arrange on a plate at home.

Italian grinder

An Italian grinder is so easy to customize for even the pickiest eaters!

An Italian grinder is sure to please every child in your family because you can leave off items that you know your kids won’t eat. Here’s a recipe that serves six people — including the adults who are working from home.

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces pitted Kalamata or green olives
  • 3/4 cup mild banana pepper rings
  • 3 tablespoons Italian salad dressing
  • 6 hoagie buns
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 12 slices Genoa salami
  • 6 slices prosciutto
  • 6 slices provolone, cut in half
  • 6 slices ham, cut thin
  • 6 slices mozzarella cheese, cut in half
  • 3 medium on-the-vine tomatoes, cut into 6 slices
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 medium head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
  • 6 toothpicks (optional)

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine olives, banana peppers and dressing (this is your olive mixture).
  2. Slice buns in half. On the bottom of each bun, spread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise.
  3. Then layer on top of it two slices of salami, one slice of prosciutto, two pieces of provolone, one slice of ham, two pieces of mozzarella, three slices of tomato, onion, olive mixture and lettuce. Hold everything together with a toothpick.

Lunch tip: When preparing these the night before, leave off the olive mixture and mayonnaise, saving them to pack into separate snack bags to be added later.

Lasagna rolls

Kid-friendly lasagna rolls are easy for them to pick up, don’t require a fork and can be enjoyed heated up or served cold. They don’t take much time to put together, and kids love to dip them in a side of marinara sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese (15 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 package pepperoni slices (3 slices per roll)
  • 1 cup marinara sauce

Directions

  1. Follow the instructions on the lasagna noodles and bring to a boil. Drain and allow to cool.
  2. Mix the ricotta and Parmesan in a bowl.
  3. Lay each noodle flat and spread the ricotta mixture on top lengthwise. Add pepperoni slices and roll up.
  4. Cut each roll in half and serve with a cup of marinara sauce for dipping.

Lunch tip: Lasagna rolls are even more fun to eat when they are served with the noodles’ ruffle side up –– they resemble flowers!

If you or someone you know is in need of food for kids’ lunches, contact your local school district for free lunch information. Or contact No Kid Hungry, Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan or 2-1-1 Michigan.

To get more healthy, delicious recipe ideas for kids that will help them excel in school, visit www.buschslocal.com/home/.

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.
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