It's that time of year again! School lunch planning is in full swing in kitchens around the world. If you've been working on incorporating more cultured and fermented foods into your kids' diets over the summer months, there's no reason to stop now. There is a huge assortment of options for incorporating tasty fermented foods and beverages into your kids lunches--many of them closely resembling conventional versions to make them even more kid friendly.
Snacks & Sides
Whether a quick snack during the day or part of a bigger lunch, cultured foods can come in small packages. Cultured Fruit Leather is simple to pack, doesn't spoil easily and doesn't make a mess. Other easy to eat snacks include a slice of Sourdough Bread spread with Cultured Butter (and even some Lacto-Fermented Jam if you prefer), a chunk of cheese - always a favorite around here - or even some Cultured Carrot Sticks. If your kids enjoy dips, try Soft Kefir Cheese, Lebneh (Yogurt Cheese), or a soft cheese such as Fromage Blanc or Chevre as a dip for vegetables or crackers. Sweetened Kefir Dip or Yogurt Dip are perfect for slices of fresh fruit. We love using the small half-pint wide mouth canning jars for creating individual servings of Lacto-Fermented Applesauce, Vegetables (such as carrots, sauerkraut, etc.) and even Fruit Chutneys (such as five-spice apple, peach and more). Yogurt is also easy to make in those same half-pint jars if you are using a low-temperature oven or a cube-shaped food dehydrator such as the Excalibur. For extra fun, try creating a fruit-on-the-bottom variety yogurt by spooning a small amount of jam or preserves into each jar prior to adding the yogurt.
It may be cliché but a sandwich can be a great way to get cultured and fermented foods into your kids. Start with Sourdough Bread (or for more fun, try a Sourdough Pita or Sourdough Tortilla to make a wrap). Top with Lacto-fermented Condiments like mayonnaise, mustard, etc. Don't forget the cheese! Cheese is so delicious sometimes it's easy for kids to forget it's a nutrient-dense cultured food. Hard cheeses such as cheddar aren't the only option either. Pitas and wraps in particular can benefit from a spread of cream cheese or a sprinkling of feta or blue cheese.
Older kids may appreciate break from the traditional sandwich so try putting it all in a bowl. A colorful salad full of a variety of veggies, cheeses such as feta or blue cheese and topped with cultured salad dressing (try Kombucha Vinaigrette, Piima Ranch Dressing, Tarragon Kefir Dressing, etc.) makes a filling and probiotic rich meal. Extra tip: Try adding a small amount of Lacto-fermented vegetables such as radishes or sauerkraut. It will add a different texture and an extra punch to a salad.
A fast way to get a heavy dose of beneficial bacteria into our kids is by switching out their regular beverages for some cultured ones. Not to negate the importance of water but if your kids are begging for some flavored options try Water Kefir. We've heard of very few kids who didn't love water kefir, particularly when it was well flavored (click here for 10 Easy and Delicious Ways to Flavor Water Kefir). Another option is to flavor up Kombucha using fruit or juice. If you make Sauerkraut, Lacto-fermented Beets, Carrots, etc. at home, try reserving the juice from your ferments as a wonderful probiotic rich beverage. These juices can be rather concentrated and strong (salty) tasting so most kids will appreciate having them watered down a bit. Last but not least, don't forget smoothies! By using yogurt, milk kefir, cultured buttermilk or water kefir as the base, smoothies are a great way to get your kids drinking their meal - just be sure to keep them cold in an insulated thermos. Smoothies are also a great way to sneak in vegetables, coconut oil, nutritional yeast or anything else you've been trying to get them to eat.
What school lunch would be complete without dessert? While most kids will likely be thrilled with the Spicy Applesauce or Fruit and Sweetened Yogurt Dip, if cookies are required we've got some ideas for that too. Try our Chocolate Chip Sourdough Cookies or Soft Sourdough Cookies recipes.
Best wishes for a safe and healthy new school year with these nutrient-dense school lunch ideas!