It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for...School is back in session!
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I remember waiting in the cafeteria line at school just to be served a soggy slice of pizza or a tasteless burger with a dry bun and undercooked french fries. While school lunches have come a long way since then, we still have a lot of improvements to make.
Let’s face it, cafeteria food is not very appetizing and sometimes lacks the nutrition needed to keep your child focused on their school day. According to choiceUSA.net, lunch makes up one third to one half of a child’s nutritional intake for an entire day. UC Davis says Schools also have a limited budget when it comes to feeding students. That means that school food needs to be lower cost and not require much preparation, which means foods are often higher in sugar, fat, and salt.
Packing your child’s lunch can give you control over what they are eating, but finding appetizing and nutritious meals they will want to eat can be a struggle. So what can you pack your child for lunch? Here are a few healthy and delicious ideas to help make this year a little easier!
Let’s start with what to pack your child’s lunch in. We like to use the Bentgo Chill Box because it comes with a removable ice pack and these EasyLunchboxes containers. The Bentgo Box can be used by itself if you prefer and The EasyLunchBoxes can easily fit into your kids favorite lunch box. We really like the Artic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Lunch Box because it is insulated and comes with 2 ‘Ice Walls’ that keeps the food fridge cold for up to 6 hours. It also expands to double capacity when you need the extra space.
I also like to add an inspirational note to his lunch so he knows I’m thinking about him. I was using joke cards that came with the sandwich cutters, but figured I would get these Positive Affirmation cards as they were more age appropriate for him. He can’t read yet, but his teachers always tell me they love to see my notes every day.
10 Healthy And Delicious School Lunch Ideas Your Child Is Sure To Love!
1. Turkey and Avocado Mash. I get a one inch slice of All-Natural Turkey from our local grocery store deli (Food Lion) and cut it into small cubes. Add a package of Good Foods Avocado Mash to be mixed in at lunch time, but you can also make your own. I couple this with sliced Olives, watermelon, cucumber slices, a Stonyfield Organic Kids Yogurt pouch, and a Nature’s Bakery Fig Bar.
2. Turkey and Cheese Roll-Ups. These are super easy to make by just spreading a little cream cheese between the layers and rolling them up. Pack with blueberries, carrot and celery sticks, and hummus dip.
3. Egg Salad. You can find my favorite recipe here. Whole grain crackers on the side can be eaten by themselves or topped with the egg salad. Couple with berries, sliced cherry tomatoes and cucumber, Stonyfield Organic Kids Yogurt pouch, and a cheese stick.
4. Pulled Rotisserie Chicken with BBQ Dipping Sauce. I love this because I can grab a rotisserie chicken from Costco for dinner and pack the left overs for lunch. Add carrot sticks and cucumber slices, ranch for dipping the veggies, a sliced apple, NAAN dippers, and a Babybel cheese.
5. DIY Pizza. One or Two Pita Rounds, your favorite pizza sauce (I like Rao's), cheese of their liking, sliced olives, and turkey pepperoni. Add a side of apples and celery with peanut/almond butter.
6. Bagel and Cream Cheese. This one is super easy. You can add extra protein by topping with sliced salmon. Provide a side of strawberries, carrot sticks and bell pepper slices.
7. DIY Lunchable. Making your own is so much healthier. Whole Grain crackers, ham or turkey, and cheese slices. Boom done! Add a Mandarin Orange (I leave the peel on because he loves to do this himself) and broccoli trees with their favorite veggie dip.
8. Tortellini, Chicken, and Pesto. Couple with a strawberry and blueberry mix, sliced bell peppers, ranch or hummus for dipping, and a few pieces of dark chocolate chips.
9. Deconstructed Tacos. Chicken, beef, or beans, shredded cheese, sliced olives, two tortillas, salsa. Add sliced grapes as a side.
10. Chicken and Cheese Quesadilla. Provide salsa and sour cream for topping/dipping and a sliced kiwi. Super easy and yummy!
Bonus #11. Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, and Tomato Wrap. Couple with a strawberry and melon mix, cheese cubes, and a mini oatmeal cookie.
Try to keep lunches balanced and select something from each of the main food groups. (Additional ideas to mix and match below)
Get your kids involved. Have them help you prep their lunch. They are more likely to eat something they helped create!
Make lunch fun! Cut fruits, veggies, cheese, and/or sandwiches into fun shapes using cutters. Add animal or shaped food sticks and silicone cupcake holders.
Let them decide. Give your chid choices from each group. Would you like eggs or turkey? Blueberries or strawberries? Cucumber or celery? We all know how much they love to make their own decisions.
Pack at least one or two go-to items you know your child will eat.
Prep! I like to lunch prep on Sunday for the entire week so I’m not trying to figure out and pack his lunch the morning of.
Make sure you check your child's school restrictions on allergens like Peanut Butter.
Here is a list of some ideas from each food group, plus some healthy treat ideas. Mix and match based on your kids likes.
There will be days you open your child’s lunch box only to find it untouched. Don’t get discouraged. Keep trying new things.
If you have any fun lunch ideas for the kiddos, share with us in the comments!