Getting your kid out the door every day with a reasonably quick, healthy school lunch—one that they’ll actually eat—can occasionally be a somewhat Herculean task, especially when school begins and the crush of work commitments, homework, and extracurriculars begin to pile up. We figured no one is better at churning out creative meal ideas under a time crunch than professional chefs, so we asked a few: how do you manage it?
Their answers all centered on a few key points: spending a little time planning and prepping ahead—as much as you’re able to, even if it’s only to lay out a few things the night before—makes the process much easier; picky eaters are more likely to be appeased when they’re part of the shopping and preparation process; and for kids in the “but-my-friends-don’t-eat-that” phase, it’s all about compromise—and taking the long view. As Richmond-based chef Lee Gregory points out, “at least it’s not a bag of Doritos and a can of Coke.”
Read on to see how seven chefs from around the country approach school lunches, plus their favorite dishes to make, from noodle salads to picnic lunches to sushi burritos. (Then check out our favorite plastic-free ways to pack lunch).
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