School is starting today here, and that means I have to think about what my kids will eat for lunch at school again. They aren’t much on cafeteria lunches – unless it’s Friday, which is pizza day. Overall, however, I prefer that they bring lunch so I know they’re getting good food they like. Our school isn’t too bad on that front; they have a small salad bar in the cafeteria, but I like providing healthy options myself.
Not all these suggestions are entire lunches on their own. Think about what it takes to make a balanced lunch that your child will eat. There’s little point to pushing foods your kids won’t eat – it’s all too easy for children to throw out foods that don’t appeal to them or their friends. Also remember that some ingredients are healthier than others, such as whole grain versus white breads.
1. Homemade pizza
Homemade pizza can be about as healthy as you choose to make it. A tortilla makes a quick, thin crust, and from there it’s up to you to make it good.
2. Vegetables with hummus
Fresh vegetables with hummus can be very satisfying in a lunchbox. A little feta cheese is a nice addition if your kids like it.
3. Peanut butter apples or celery
Peanut butter with apples or celery is something of a classic. It makes a nice switch from your standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
4. Copycat Lunchables
Take a look at any Lunchables or similar that your child loves. Can you make something similar but a bit healthier? Do it well and your kids will love it.
5. Homemade soup
Homemade soup is wonderful when the weather cools off. Pick one your kids love and put it in a thermos. One of my kids loves homemade soups, but the other is demands the canned stuff.
6. Hard boiled egg
A hard boiled egg is a simple way to get protein into your child’s lunch.
7. Couscous salad
Combine cooked couscous with some vegetables, maybe some dried fruit or feta, and you have a nice couscous salad. You can use quinoa rather than couscous if you prefer.
A wrap with a good quality lunch meat, some cheese, spinach or whatever else your child will enjoy makes a good lunch. Look for something better than the standard processed lunch meats.
Skip the yogurts aimed at kids, especially the ones in those plastic tubes. They usually have far too much sugar and artificial colorings. Look for Greek yogurt or other live culture yogurts with real fruit for flavoring. Make a parfait with some granola and fruit to make it more interesting.
10. Frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
For those mornings you’re running a little behind, you can always count on the classics. Pick a healthy bread if your kids will eat it. You may want to consider using a fruit spread rather than jelly to cut down on sugar too. But the real beauty of this is that you can make several ahead of time and freeze until you need them in a lunchbox.
11. Quinoa and black beans
An improvement, in my opinion, on rice and beans, but made much the same way.
12. Fresh fruit
Not a lunch in itself, but a wonderful addition to satisfy that urge to have something sweet at lunchtime.
13. Whole grain waffles
Give your kids a surprise with waffles for breakfast. A nut butter spread will help make it more filling, along with some jelly or a fruit topping.
You can have a salad be a side dish or bring it up to a main dish with some chicken or other protein. Watch how much salad dressing you include, as it’s easy to go overboard. Feta and dried cranberries go well in many salads.
15. Pita sandwiches
If your kids are bored with regular sandwiches, switch to pita bread. Many love pita bread, and you can make most of your regular sandwiches in it.
You may have to check school rules on this one, as nut allergies have led some schools to ban certain nuts.
17. Sliced vegetables
What veggies do your kids like. My youngest has a big thing for bell pepper, and all my kids love carrots. Slice up your kids’ favorite vegetables for a great addition to their lunch.
Use muffin pans to make these frittatas the right size for school lunches. Line your muffin pan if you want to make things simple, or use a cooking spray so these come out easily after cooking. Lightly saute whatever vegetables you want to add. Beat the eggs and add in the vegetables and maybe some cheese. Scoop into muffin pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until done.
Make burritos with beans and cheese, or add other ingredients to delight your children. A mild salsa can really bring out the flavor.
What did you have for dinner last night? Will it make a good lunch as is, or could it be made into sandwiches?