We barely made it across the finish line last year when it came to healthy school lunch ideas!
That last month was rough and even the kids couldn’t come up with lunch ideas! We wandered aimlessly through the Costco aisles hoping for inspiration, but mainly ended up eating samples.
Needless to say, we made it through on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
B this year is going to be different. The kids know that they are going to be packing their own lunches this year, so I have simplified the process!
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Quick Healthy Lunch Ideas
Because the kids are going to be in charge of packing lunches, I needed to come up with a list of quick, but healthy, options for them to choose from.
If we try to come up with ideas the night before, we won’t be able to think of much! My kids are 9 and 6, so the younger one is going to need some really simple ideas. He can make a PB&J but he barely puts and PB and ha adds a lot of J! So…he needs supervision!
We eat clean, but my son is also avoiding wheat. So, we do have to substitute gluten free products, which aren’t always 100% clean. But I still consider the ones we buy to be healthy.
Both kids avoid dairy too, so these all need to be dairy free lunch ideas…trust me, it’s tough sometimes! But it means that these lunch ideas won’t be smothered in cheese, like I tend to see in kid recipes!
What Should Be In A Healthy Lunch Box?
This is a subjective question, but I have an answer that would cover most everyone! A healthy lunch box should contain at least one of the following:
Easy enough, right? Don’t worry, I have some sample lunch ideas below!
What Is A Snack Cabinet And Why You NEED One
Well, technically, we have a snack drawer. As any parent knows, the moment you sit down to relax, the kids are suddenly hungry.
I ask “what do you want to eat?” and they continue on with “I don’t know” or “anything but xyz”.
Afternoons like these were the reason the snack drawer was created in our house. We put a bunch of healthy snacks in the drawer and let the kids help themselves. For the most part, they know they can only have one or two items, but we don’t have candy in the drawer, so that’s not an issue!
Here is a quick video we made, so you can get a peek of what’s in our snack drawer!
The snack drawer has also proven to be invaluable when it comes to packing lunches! I let the kids grab one thing from the snack drawer to add to their lunches.
They don’t get to eat snacks at recess, or I would let them grab an additional snack!
What To Pack For Lunches
As you look through the list I have provided for lunches, keep in mind that it may vary with your childs age and eating habits.
For example, my daughter is a social eater – meaning she would rather talk that eat! Therefore, I don’t let her take small foods like popcorn or nuts because it will take her 10 minutes to eat it.
Instead, she needs to have protein packed snacks like the Paleo bars. She can eat it while talking and it will still fill her up.
Our school only gives the kids 15 minutes for lunch, so when they are young, they can’t have anything that is difficult to open, like applesauce containers, or very tight storage containers. That just takes away time from eating!
Also remember to include napkins and utensils. It may be tough for young kids to stand in line to grab these items and still have enough time to eat their food.
Zero Waste Lunch Ideas
We have been trying to join the zero waste movement, and packing lunches has proven to be a great place to start! I stopped using plastic containers when I started learning about the side effects on children, so we naturally went zero waste when it came to packing lunches.
The problem with zero waste is that it can be expensive to start. The lunchbots stainless steel containers that I bought can range from $20-$45 each, and I have to buy enough for 2 kids!
Because of the cost, we have learned to pack smarter and we can actually get through a whole week of lunches just using the items above. I buy 2 of everything – one for each kid – and we wash the items every night.
It can be a pain, but the positive is that we don’t have a stack of dirty lunch containers at the end of the week. Not included in the picture are reusable sandwich bags. These are good to have on hand if the kids forget their lunchboxes at school…which happens more often that I would like to admit!
Below are all the items in the picture above.
Healthy Lunch Ideas For Kids
So, here we go…finally! These are just a few of our favorties. I keep the menu choices limited so there is less decision making to be done!
Spaghetti or Leftovers
The kids love spaghetti and they can eat it cold if we don’t have time to heat it up in the morning. We use chickpea noodles which have more protein than regular noodles and are super filling! They are also gluten free.
You could also substitue the spaghetti for any leftovers you have. Unfortunately, my kids aren’t big on leftovers for lunch, so we need to be more intentional!
Add a fruit or veggie and it is a complete meal!
Homemade Corn Dogs
This one requires planning ahead! But it will pay off because you could make enough to last at least 3-4 days! I like to make these Gluten Free Corn Dogs on Sunday then use them throughout the week.
Just remember to add ketchup!
Hummus and Crackers or Vegetables
We buy the Costco hummus packets becuase they are only about $7 for the whole box! That is the same price as buying a tub of hummus and still having to portion it out each night….I know it’s not zero waste but I did say we were TRYING 😉
I have heard of the elusive kids that eat bell peppers, but unfortunatley, that is not my child. Instead, they both like cucumers and carrots, so that is what they get. I like to give them some Miltons gluten free crackers too becuase it can be more filling than just eating veggies.
In my option, kids need carbs since they run like crazy at recess and need energy to get through 7 hours of school!
Snack Pack Lunch
I think the most popular lunch around here is a compilation of snacks. When the kids want to make a “Snack pack”, I watch over them to make sure they are packing enough. Sometimes they will pack a little of everything but it won’t be enough to fill them up.
Some favorites in the snack pack are beef jerkey, grapes, berries, hummus and veggies. If your kids can eat cheese, it would be a great addition here!
Let the kids get creative with this one!
Healthy Egg McMuffin Copy Cat
We love egg mcmuffins here, but I just can’t believe that they are healthy…even though they appear to be!
They are so easy to duplicate. For the egg, I use a crumpet cutter. Just grease it, place it in a pan and crack an egg into it. I cover it and cook it about 3 minutes, then place it on a toasted english muffin with turkey bacon!
It’s a favorite around here. The kids will need help making this one!
Berry Yogurt Parfait – Dairy Free Version
By far, a favorite around here is the berry yogurt parfait! It is easy to make and the kids love it. But as a mom, beware that it isn’t completely filling. They will still need several filling snacks.
We like to use plain Forager Dairy free Yogurt, blueberries, a drizzle of honey and some Forever Beautiful powder from Your Super. When they aren’t looking, I also sprinkle a little ground flax over the top!
Remind them to pack napkins and a spoon for this one!
Healthy Lunch Ideas
So there you go! A bunch of healthy lunches! Be sure to download the printable HERE and put it up where the kids can see it!
This will be the year the kids pack their own lunches! 🙂