School is starting back up and it is time to start preparing for the new routine and the rush of activities that can come with the change in schedules. It is a great idea to go ahead and get some healthy lunchbox ideas for kids so you don’t find yourself compromising later. Here is what to pack for lunch and some of my best tips for packing lunchbox meals you and your kids will love. This lunch box menu list is full of new ideas to switch things up.
Easy And Healthy Lunchbox Ideas
Every day, I pack lunch for my kiddos and they love it! I love packing their homemade lunches because I know exactly what they are eating each day and how much of it. I can make sure I pack fresh, high quality ingredients, and balance their food groups. When they bring their lunchboxes home, I can see if they ate everything or if they have a lot of leftovers. I like being able to ensure they have healthy lunch box menu options they enjoy. My kids enjoy that I make it for them! They like that I give them choices and they like that it is fresh.
What To Pack For Lunch
Sometimes, you can start to run out of ideas for packing healthy school lunches. I have made a list of some healthy things to pack for lunch. I hope these lunchbox menu suggestions help keep your lunchboxes stocked with healthy variety.
Healthy Lunchbox Snacks
- veggie sticks (such as carrots, sliced bell peppers, broccoli, cucumber slices, etc.)
- cooked veggies (baked sweet potatoes, boiled new potatoes, roasted squashes, edamame, green beans)
- dips (hummus, bean dip, guacamole, nut butters, buttermilk ranch dressing, etc.)
- fresh fruit, whole or in fruit slices (remember to change it up and try a variety of fruits)
- fruit salads
- dried fruits
- apple sauce, pear sauce
- fruit squeeze pouches
- homemade fruit roll ups
- healthy cookies
- granola bars
- trail mix or granola
- protein balls
- whole grain crackers
- whole grain pretzels
- rice crackers or rice cakes
- cheese slices (switch it up with cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, Monterey Jack, provolone, etc.)
- healthier chips (plain tortilla chips, veggie chips, kettle chips, lentil chips, etc)
Healthy Sandwich Ideas
Make your own healthy lunch box menu combinations from below:
- whole grain breads
- rice crackers
- sliced deli meats
- cheese slices (you might include unusual options like feta, goat cheese, or fresh mozzarella)
- cream cheese
- peanut butter or other nut butters
- tuna salad or chicken salad
- roasted veggies
- bean cakes
- burgers (meat or vegetarian patties)
Healthy Sandwich Alternatives
For sandwich alternatives, I usually rely on leftovers or do lunch meal planning on the weekend to make this easier. A thermos is helpful for keeping things warm or cool as the need may be. Make your own healthy combinations from below:
- rice, quinoa, couscous, or other grain
- cheese chunks
- tuna salad or chicken salad
- tofu, diced with soy sauce and sesame seeds
- baked egg cups
- pasta salad
- a variety of nuts
Tips For Packing A Healthy Lunchbox
Chefs prep their meals to prepare for busy restaurant services, and any busy parent will find greater lunchbox success when they put in place the fresh ingredients of their kids’ favorite midday meals ahead of time. Before the alarm rings on Monday morning, pack single serving portions of snack foods to grab and go during the week. Baked goods like muffins or cookies can be made ahead and packed in the freezer in plastic bags. When healthy options are at the ready, it’s easier to avoid preservative, fat and sodium laden convenience foods.
Keep some fresh veggies on hand that have a longer shelf life and are easy to grab and drop into their lunchboxes. Peeled baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and snap peas all work well for this. Wash and cut up veggie sticks and pack portable portions of dip ahead of time. Keep some fresh fruit on hand that doesn’t get squished easily and that won’t turn brown quickly like small whole apples, tangerines, and grapes.
Some times it is all in the way you prepare it. You can waffle a sandwich for a fun twist on lunch.
If you find yourself too rushed in the morning, pack your lunchboxes at night and stick them in the refrigerator over night. You can also make lunchbox packing a family job. Give each kid a responsibility and get it all done together. Teamwork can be very rewarding. If you find it helpful, you can even use the ideas in the article to prepare a lunch box menu for the week. That is one more easy lunchbox idea!
Use An Insulated Lunchbox
The environment and your kids will thank you for keeping their lunch cool with a reusable, insulated lunch box. Reusable is a green choice and insulated with an ice pack helps keep food at healthy temperatures. An added benefit of insulated lunchboxes is that you have more flexibility to give kids that need to stay cold like almond milk, yogurt, smoothies, cheese, and mayo. At lunch they’ll enjoy finding a slushy treat along with their fresh, chilled healthy lunchbox meal.
When Preparing Healthy Lunchbox Meals, Think outside The Loaf
Don’t be a square when it comes to sandwiches. Bagels, pitas, tortillas and other bread add variety to eating pb&j every day. Sandwiches are great vehicles for a bounty of healthy ingredients, like reduced fat veggie cream cheese and cucumbers on a bagel or hummus and grated carrots in a tortilla. Add variety to your sandwich lineup to avoid the lure of lunchroom pizza.
Roam Beyond The Ranch
Ranch dressing can certainly make a carrot stick more kid friendly, but store bought ranch can pack a lot of empty calories as well. Pick a more nutritionally dense dip like hummus or nut butter for veggies. Try substituting probiotic kefir for mayonnaise, or buttermilk for mayo in any ranch dressing recipe.
Make Some Noise
Crunchy snacks are popular for a reason. Hearing that crunch sends a signal of satisfying hunger to the brain, but you don’t need fried potato chips to make it happen. Fresh snap peas, baked crackers or brown rice crisps will give a sack lunch some satisfying texture along with filling fiber and essential nutrients to make healthy lunchbox meals.
Get Your Kids To Help Make Healthy Lunchbox Meals
Skip supermarket prepared food treats that can be full of artificial ingredients and unhealthy additives and get your kids to help make their own. Use wholesome ingredients like whole wheat flour to make muffins. Or have your kids pick their favorite trail mix themselves by providing them with options for nuts, dried fruits, and some healthy cereals. Kids deserve something sweet, too! Homemade cookies can be packed with dried fruits and nuts instead of hydrogenated oils and refined sweeteners. Letting your kids have a hand at creating their lunch box menu will make trying healthy new things easier.
Add A Little Culture
Multicultural menus are a great way to add variety that keeps lunch interesting and provides diverse nutrients when creating healthy lunchbox meals. Spanish tortillas ares packed with protein rich eggs. Fried rice can be a great vehicle for your kids’ favorite veggies. Or have your kids pick their favorite veggies to make lunchbox friendly veggie sushi with brown rice and nutrient rich nori.
Pack A Healthy Beverage
Get a reusable water bottle and pack a healthy drink like water. Every once and awhile mix it up with some organic drinks, smoothie drinks, milk, nut milks, or other healthy hydrating options.
Fun Tidbits from a 2015 Rock the Lunchbox Survey:
- 51 percent of parents say they struggle with variety and coming up with new ideas to make lunch healthy and tasty.
- 72 percent of kids say it’s “cool” to have healthy food in their lunchboxes.
- 61 percent of kids prefer bringing lunch from home versus buying lunch at school.
- 53 percent of kids say the items in their lunch are the same every day
- 83 percent of parents say that it’s important to prepare their children’s lunch for school
- 95 percent of parents say it’s important to provide healthy options in their children’s lunches
Lunchbox Ideas Free Printable
Print the image below to keep on the fridge for handy lunchbox ideas in the moment. Or if you prefer the pdf format, you can get that here.
Healthy lunchbox ideas don’t have to be hard to execute. They can be super easy. With just a bit of forethought when shopping and a bit of preparation on the weekends, it is easy to not only come up with lots of healthy lunchbox ideas for kids but also to keep them varied and fresh while still including their favorites. I hope you find this helpful! Tag us on social media @familyfocusblog with your photos or other healthy lunch box ideas!
Freshen up your lunchboxes with these lunch box menu ideas. What are some of your suggestions for what to pack for lunch?
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Great tips! I almost always get my daughter to help make lunches, it certainly encourages her to want more healthy options!
KIM Vancouver says
Wow! Finally I will stop eating a boring sandwich at work 🙂 Thank you very much for such original recipes
I love all the ideas for fresh ingredients. You have shared some wonderful tips.
Gaurang Joe says
As we are seeing a shift in trend towards healthy food habits, these are the great list of items. I can surely utilize many of the items for packing lunch for my son.
Paul Grimmond says
I love your ideas on what to pack for lunch. You write great articles on useful subjects. Keep them coming!