9 Healthy Tips and Ideas for Your Kid’s Lunchbox
It’s the end of September. Are you already running into a wall dreaming up healthy school lunch ideas? Here are some tips to take you to the rest of the school year (or at least until winter break!).
1. Take them shopping. Research shows that kids who help make their own food are more likely to eat it. Take your child grocery shopping with you and let them help you choose the ingredients. Ask them what they would like to eat, and pique their interest with new foods they might want to try.
2. Keep it balanced. Teach kids to include a protein, a fruit, a veggie and a grain in their lunches when possible.
- Protein: roasted chicken or turkey, hummus, hard boiled eggs, beans, seeds
- Fruit: apples, oranges, berries, applesauce, dried fruit
- Veggie: carrots, cucumbers, whatever is easy and familiar
- Grain: whole grain bread, pasta, pretzels, pitas, rice
3. Make a DIY bento box. Wash and slice different fruits and vegetables, then pack them into large containers in the fridge. Let your child choose their own items for their lunch, including at least one fruit and one vegetable (the type and quantity is their decision).
4. Be saucy. Add hummus or tomato salsa to carrots or cucumber sticks for a bit of variety. Seed butters are great with apple slices, providing a extra hit of protein for the day.
5. Keep it cold. Many schools don’t provide microwaves. But you can still create a delicious cold lunch such as pasta salad, lettuce wraps or pizza kabobs with cooked tortellini, bell peppers and cheese cubes.
6. Dinner for lunch. Leftovers are always fair game (just remember the Thermos). Leftover soup, quesadillas, spaghetti and meat sauce, taco meat and fixings, pizza, and pulled chicken or pork on a whole wheat bun are easy and delicious the next day.
7. Breakfast for lunch. Leftovers aren’t just limited to dinner. Try leftover French toast with Greek yogurt dip, waffle strips, whole grain pancakes or breakfast muffins.
8. Finger foods. Many kids are grazers, and grazers love finger foods. Satisfy them with these ideas:
- Protein: cheddar cheese cubes, leftover burger cut into bite-sized pieces, sliced hard-boiled egg, turkey pepperoni sticks
- Fruit: sliced grapes, raspberries, apple or watermelon sticks
- Veggies: snap peas, baby tomatoes, carrots and cucumber coins
- Grains: whole grain crackers, mini muffins, “sushi” made from tortillas and seed butter/cream cheese
9. Give them a treat. It’s okay to include a cookie or granola bar in their lunch as a little treat during the day.
Although the meal itself should include a variety of foods and nutrients, kids don’t need a huge variety of lunches throughout the week. Lunch is often “comfort food” for kids, who like the routine of knowing what they will have for lunch. It also makes meal-prepping easier for parents.