As a former teacher, I remember the variety of snacks and lunches I saw each day at school. I couldn’t fully appreciate the time it took for the parents (or even sometimes the kids) to carefully choose food for school. You have to balance healthy foods with things your kid will ACTUALLY eat AND in the allotted amount of time to eat. Don’t forget about figuring out ways to keep things hot or cold. AND of course you don’t want anything TOO messy or that might spill and ruin the rest of the lunch. SOO many factors to keep in mind… just to nourish your child!
If you are already in a rut packing lunches or are just looking for fresh ideas, here are some foods to send with your child!
Apple, Cutie, Grapes, Berries, Pineapple, Banana, Watermelon, Cherry/Grape Tomatoes, Avocado, Pear, Peach, Raisins, Melon, Mango, Kiwi, Dried Fruit, Coconut Flakes, etc. Add Nut Butter, Sunflower Butter (peanut & tree nut free), or Cream Cheese for an extra special treat to dip the fruit in.
Carrots, Celery, Cucumbers, Peas, Colored Bell Peppers (My kids love red & orange), Snap Peas, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Pickles, Salad, etc. Add hummus, guacamole, salsa, ranch, etc. for kids to dip veggies in to change things up.
Popcorn, Crackers, Pretzel Crisps, Rice Cake, Cold Pasta, Mini Bagels, Nut Thins, Graham Crackers, Rice, Quinoa, Granola, Oatmeal, English Muffin
Protein (other than the usual lunch meat or peanut butter)
String cheese, Cut up Cheese, Cheese Curds, Cheese Slices, Cottage Cheese, Hard Boiled Eggs (Find an easy way to cook them here), Jerky (I like Simply Snackin’ for one with less ingredients), Last Night’s Leftovers, Protein Pancakes, Hummus
Easiest to send a small container or tube of yogurt. If looking for an option with less sugar, my kids love plain (not vanilla) Greek yogurt mixed with a little maple syrup and a few other mix-ins like flax seed, berries, cinnamon, etc. Yogurt can go into the lunch frozen and will be ready to eat at lunch.
Some even come with veggies added. Of course, there’s also the traditional applesauce cup too.
Any “mix” you make will do. It doesn’t have to be made with nuts as the base. Other mix-ins – sunflower seeds, raisins, pretzels, crackers, dried fruit, cereal, etc. The possibilities are endless.
Make Your Own “Lunchable”
Crackers, Cheese, Ham, Turkey, Salami, Pizza makings, Taco makings, etc. You can decide if there will be a treat or not (and what it is)! You can feel good about the ingredients and save some money this way. You may even want to eat this for lunch yourself too!
Veggie Chips, Veggie Sticks/Straws, Chips made from actual veggies like Taro brand, Cheese Crisps (crunch like a chip but are made of cheese), Bare Organic Apple Chips (can be pricey, but the best deal I have found is at Costco – my kids LOVE these), Tortilla Chips
Granola Bar Alternatives
KIND Pressed Bars – My kids LOVE these! I don’t really care for them, but my kids ask for these and devour them. They are simply fruits and veggies OR fruit and chia seeds (depending on the flavor you choose). Larabars are another option.
Fruit Snack Alternatives
KIND Fruit Bites – Made with ONLY fruit! Similar to fruit snacks, but without the additives. They don’t look as pretty as fruit snacks do, but they are tasty. Fruit leather or Fruit Twists – bonus if you find ones with less sugar added.
Instead of bread, use a tortilla. You could even cut them like pinwheels/sushi! Roll up lunch meat, cheese, etc. and keep it together with a toothpick. Ham roll ups are always a hit at my house! Your kids don’t like crust?? Use a cookie cutter or a special sandwich cutter to cut the crust off. Actually, you can use a cookie cutter to change up the shape of many foods – bread, tortilla, cheese, watermelon, etc. Use a rice cake, and top it with a nut butter, jelly, cream cheese, honey, etc. It could be open faced or a sandwich. Or throw your sandwich makings into a pita.
If you haven’t noticed, I generally lean towards healthier foods. I know there are many more options too! What are your favorite items to pack?? Here’s to feeling a little better about packing your child’s lunch each day. Happy Eating (and packing)!