Packing a school lunch for your kids everyday is not always an easy task. I want my kids to eat a healthy school lunch with foods that contain protein and vitamins but also taste yummy and have some variety. It drives me nuts when they get home from school and empty out their lunch bag and there’s a half eaten sandwich or wrap and veggies and fruit that were hardly touched because they’re “sick of it”. What a waste of good food! I have looked online and collaborated with other parents that are wanting new variations of the “classic” school lunch, and these are some of my kids favorites:
Beans and Rice
Filled with protein, beans and rice can be made the night before with any kind of beans that you have in your pantry. I switch it up and use kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lentils (actually a legume but amazingly healthy), navy beans etc… I mix the beans together with the rice and put it in a thermos so its warm when lunchtime comes. Sometimes I’ll put shredded cheese in a container so they can pour it over the beans and rice to add an additional tasty flavor to the mix.
Chicken salad is another yummy protein packed lunch idea that you can make in a batch. I make a big tupperware full in the beginning of the week and pack it in a container with a side of gluten free crackers. If there are any leftovers the next day, I’ll put it in a Gluten Free wrap with some spinach, and some healthy chips on the side, and there is typically nothing left but crumbs after school!
String Cheese and Salami
I know this may sound weird, but with a picky eater, this lunch idea makes it easier to get protein AND vitamins into her belly. Cheese contains protein, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12, among others, and it sufficiently fills the belly. I wrap the salami (I only get deli meat that contains no nitrates and is from a company that raises their animals in a humane way) around the string cheese and hold it together with toothpicks. This is a fun way for your kids to eat their lunch.
Hummus and Cucumber Wrap
Just spread the hummus on a tortilla and cut up cucumbers and spread them around on top of the hummus. I add a tiny bit of salt and wrap it up. We eat A LOT of hummus in our house. Hummus has a high content of essential minerals as well as vitamins C, B6, E, folate and protein too. Easy and nutritious and hummus is diverse and can be eaten for lunch in many different variations.
Yogurt, Granola, and Fruit
Pack your kids favorite flavor of yogurt in a container. (Be sure to look at the amount of sugar in the yogurt that you buy and look for the organic varieties to avoid growth hormones and preservatives.) In a separate container pack some granola and in another dish, add cut up fresh fruit. Then they can put everything together at lunch and enjoy a healthy parfait!
My kids love chili so I make a big pot every so often with ground turkey (which has less saturated fat than ground beef) and an array of beans and veggies. I put it in a thermos for their lunch and pack a side of shredded cheese for them to pour over it. Sometimes I’ll add some tortilla chips in a separate container to be used as a fork!
Nut Butter and Jelly (or Honey)
Nut butters can be chock full of sugar and hydrogenated oils, so look for brands that have very few ingredients aside from the nuts. I spread the nut butter (almond or peanut in my house) on gluten-free bread and add a bit of organic strawberry jelly or raw honey, and it’s simple and straightforward. Nuts contain protein, fiber and, if your choice is almond butter, (healthier than peanut butter) it’s full of heart healthy fats. Nut butters are great in a small container in the lunch bag, along with sliced apples or celery and a plastic knife for spreading.
Simple and satisfying. Romaine lettuce, a slice of cheese, and a slice or 2 of turkey. I usually make a few to put in lunches because without the bread or tortilla, more turkey is needed to fill the belly. Adding carrot or pepper slices to the wrap adds some additional nutrients to the mix.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Not much to explain here. Eggs have potassium, iron, zinc, as well as close to 7 grams of protein in one egg. Great fuel for a growing body.
Fruit and Coconut Yogurt Smoothie
This may seem like an odd choice for a lunch box, but my kids will ask for this if it has been too long since I have packed it. Having a bullet blender makes it fast and easy to clean up. This has three ingredients: Organic frozen berry medley, 1/2 of a banana, 1/2 a cup of unsweetened coconut yogurt topped off (just covering the top of the concoction) with almond milk, coconut milk or cow’s milk. I put it in a small jelly ball jar. The lids have not failed me yet. I also include a fun straw to go with it,
Many parents struggle trying to find nutritious food choices that their kids will actually enjoy eating. There are so many wonderful foods that can be fun, tasty and healthful and that offer kids what they need nutritionally to get through a long day at school. School lunch doesn’t have to be boring or mundane. These suggestions can make packing your kids lunches easier and less stressful and it’s a great feeling to look at their lunch bag at the end of the day and find nothing but empty containers!