Recipe: Chicken poppy seed salad gets a healthy A+ for school lunches

This chicken salad gets an A+ in health and flavor. Image/ Amelia Ames

PROVO, April 22, 2014—The school year has hit the homestretch with only a couple of months left before summer vacation. That only leaves you with 40-60 more lunches to plan for your little darlings this school year. This doesn’t even include figuring out what to feed them on Saturdays or Sundays in case you were feeling a tad overwhelmed.

Would you be interested in a simple lunch item you can stir up in a few minutes, fling into a plastic tub and toss into a lunchbox that is loved by kids and adults alike, and covers all five food groups? Of course you would. As an added bonus, those food items have health promoting properties you may not even have thought about.

The nutritional breakdown of this salad is actually rather impressive. It is packed with healthy lean protein to balance out the carbs in the pasta which together will leave tummies feeling full with plenty of energy for brain power. Cheese is an important part of a healthy diet of a child and contains calcium which we all know is vital to growing bones. Did you know that it also plays a critical role in muscle function? Muscles won’t move without calcium. Cheese also contains phosphorous which has been shown in studies to help ward off cavities.

You probably don’t want to give your kids red wine, but they can get those same antioxidants in dark colored grapes. Celery does more than just crunch. Scientists are only now discovering the many healthy compounds found in this oft overlooked and under-appreciated vegetable. And, in case you just had to know, poppy seeds are chock full of fiber and minerals. Think about it. A seed gives rise to a whole new, independent organism; of course it is going to be brimming with the building blocks of life.

When you do the math, it is elementary. This A+ salad is going to work a lot harder for your sweeties than some cold chicken nuggets or a slice of cafeteria pizza.

Chicken Poppy Seed Salad


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into bite-sized pieces (about 2 cups)

10 ounces twisty pasta such as gemelli or campanelli, cooked, rinsed, and cooled

1 (12 ounce) bottle of poppy seed salad dressing

1 cup diced celery

2 cups red grape halves

1 cup small cheddar cheese cubes

Stir all ingredients together. Chill, eat, enjoy.

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