If you want your child to eat their lunch with minimal push-back, being creative with a variety of healthy foods will go a long way. A few schools out there serve healthy food, but many outsource their meal plans to fast food restaurants to save money. Even if there are healthy options, some kids will choose pizza over salad when they reach the lunch line.
These 10 healthy school lunch ideas are easy to make and guaranteed that kids will love them. When making these meals, keep in mind that whole wheat bread, whole wheat small tortillas, carrots and apples, peanut butter, dried fruit and string cheese are pantry staples for healthy lunches for kids.
1. PBJ with Jam
Peanut butter on whole wheat bread is a classic that will never go out of style. Hopefully your kids are used to whole grain breads; if not, you can wean them off by starting with whole grain brands like Dave’s Bread that are palatable and fiber-rich. Check out peanut butter options because almost all major brands have added sugar. Instead of jelly, use jam or preserves as both tend to have more fruit and less sugar. Pair with a few pretzels for saltiness and mini-carrots for sweetness.
2. Cold Cuts in Romaine lettuce.
To give your kids a break from bread and carbs, assemble two romaine lettuce wraps with a slice of meat, a slice of cheese and spread of choice (mustard, etc.). Add apples or a small piece of dark chocolate as a reward for eating lettuce!
3. Cheese board a la carte.
Cheese, especially part-skim, is a healthy protein that is also portable. It pairs nicely with fruits, particularly apricots and apples as well as a variety of nuts. For a compact lunch, two pieces of string cheese, a portion of dried apricots, and choice of baked chips (potato, sweet potato, etc.) or nuts like almonds or cashews.
Presentation goes a long way with kids. Start with a favorite sandwich, and cut into four triangles. Pair with another triangular favorite, a handful of tortilla chips.
5. Red, White and Blue.
Working with a little color can distract from the ‘healthy’ pall that may discourage your child. Go patriotic with blue corn chips, cup of salsa, a few cherries, and the star of the show: plain yogurt and a dollop of raspberry or strawberry jam.
6. Why stop at triangles; circles work just as well!
Use whole wheat burger buns, stuff with sandwich favorites. Pair with 2 healthy cookies and throw in carrot chips to bring some fiber.
7. Cracker Barrel.
Put a dozen water crackers in a bag and add a small tub of hummus and reward your child for eating a plant-based protein with fruit cup of choice.
8. Ants on a log.
This lunch can be a bit messy, so we advise to make it self-assembly style by showing your child how to fill celery sticks with peanut of almond butter and add raisins. It’s fun to teach them and is a good conversation starter at school.
9. Veggie Sandwich
Put your child’s favorite meat or cheese, avocado, and lettuce or spinach in a whole wheat flour tortilla or whole wheat bread with fruit or treat of choice.
10. Chicken, Tuna or Egg salad
These are all healthy options. Keep mayo to a minimum and add a little onion, green pepper or celery to the mix. Find the bread or tortilla that your kid will eat, and pack this up for self-assembly or ready to go. Include whole or sliced apple.
BONUS: Liquid I.V., of course!
School can be tough. Between gym class, moving from room to room, and vigorous activity at recess, most kids move around a lot. Liquid I.V. is the perfect afternoon reset. Put a stick in your child's lunch box so they can pour it into their water bottle at lunchtime!