What you'll learn in this blog
The time has come when the kids return to school. Moms around the country have the dreaded job of coming up with ideas for kids' lunch boxes that are both healthy and go down a treat with the youngsters.
Lunch is the most important thing in the world. So while what our kids eat might not impact our own waistline, we still want to make sure they get the healthiest start in life and give them the energy they need to focus at school.
But anyone who’s had the job of making up school lunches will know that it can be tricky to create something that’s healthy and gets the kids excited about opening up at lunchtime.
The good news is, there are plenty of options to keep your kid's energy levels up if you’re willing to think a little outside the (lunch) box.
Plus, packing delicious and nutritious meals for the kid's lunch is a prime opportunity to prepare for your own healthy lunch snack.
So, what can you pack that’s quick to make, convenient, and ready to go?
We’re sharing some of our top lunch ideas for kids (that you can steal too).
Why pack school lunches?
It can be tempting to send your kids off to school for lunch. But packing their school food in a lunch box is a great way to keep some control over what they are eating (and how healthy it is).
Plus, if you’re smart about it, you can keep meals cost-effective by packing lunches in advance and batch cooking where possible.
Tip for making kids' lunch ideas
Before we kick things off with unique and delicious ideas, it’s a good idea to get to grips with some tips to make things a little easier.
Making lunch for multiple people (every day) is certainly not an easy task— and when you add yourself into the mix—things can all become a little overwhelming.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Tip 1: Plan ahead
Don’t go into the week and make the lunches off the cuff—this is a recipe for stress and disaster.
Instead, make a plan, and take some time out before the week begins to plan out the ingredients you need. Do a big shop and then batch cook what you can (more on that later).
Not only does thinking ahead keep you organized, but it might also get the kids excited about what is to come later in the month. Yummy tummies all around,
Depending on what you cook and how many kids you have, you could make a monthly menu, rotating ideas throughout the month to keep things fresh, exciting and, most importantly, organized.
Tip 2: Batch cook what you can
Yes, you’ll have to put the bits and pieces together on the morning of, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little prep in advance.
If you know you’re going to be busy and want to cut down the time spent in the morning, you can strategically choose things that you can bulk cook and even freeze for school lunches. Easy peasy.
Tip 3: Use leftovers
You might not have time to cook everything from scratch, but that’s okay— you cook meals every night, so take advantage and use some of the dinner leftovers. If you’re cooking some chicken, roast beef or turkey, stick it in a wrap for the next day, along with some veggies.
Or, if you don’t have any leftovers, you can use the cooking time to prep meals for the next day and take maximum advantage of the time you spend in the kitchen.
Tip 4: Invest in good storage containers
If you’re bulk-cooking food, you’re going to need somewhere to store it. Investing in good quality and varied Tupperware and storage containers will empower you to keep your food fresh the whole week.
Taking this savvy approach will allow you to easily store food and keep it fresh. Doing so will also enable you to batch-cook as much food as you need without the hassle of knowing what to put it in.
Tip 5: Get the right lunch box
Not to be confused with storage containers, choosing the right lunch box is important for kids bringing their own lunch to school.
You’ll need to think about the actual lunchbox that will house your kids’ food for the day. Getting a leak-proof lunch box will keep your kids' meals fresh for the day and stop any messy spills from happening.
And, let’s face it, the right box can make the food look more appealing, adding to the excitement of the day —which is especially important for younger kids.
TOP TIP: Bento-style lunch boxes with compartments allow you to store different types of food separately, which is especially handy if you’ve got a kid who doesn’t like their food touching (or just likes a good bento box).
Easy school lunch ideas for kids
So, now we’ve covered our top tips, let’s get into what you can actually make for your kids to enjoy (that will also inject a little health into their lives).
Remember, most kids are going to be eating cold lunches in school when they bring their own, with no way of heating the food up.
So, you can enjoy all of these lip-smacking foodie suggestions cold—but they would also work as a hot lunch (if facilities allow).
1. Rainbow Wraps
Let’s face it: A wrap can be a little more exciting than your standard PB&J sandwich, and you can get a little more creative with the fillings.
Why not mix in a variety of colorful veggies like carrot sticks, bell peppers, and cucumber to fill them up with nutrients and fiber?
Roll them all up in a tortilla for a visually appealing and delicious lunch option. You can keep them veggie or add in some protein such as chicken or turkey.
2. Mini Fruit Kebabs
Why is food on a stick just more exciting?
Add in an apple, and it might get an unexcited groan. But chop up some bite-sized pieces of their favorite fruits and stick them onto skewers, and suddenly you’ve got a refreshing and easy-to-eat snack that adds a little excitement to your life.
Another win for the busy, go-getting mom.
3. DIY Lunchables
Lunchables are exciting, but the processed versions aren’t the healthiest for your mini-mes.
Ditch the pre-packaged versions and create your own healthier alternatives. Use whole-grain graham crackers, sliced cheese, and nitrate-free deli meats to give your kids a protein-packed lunch with a DIY twist.
4. Bento Box Surprise
Use a bento box to create a lunch full of surprises.
Fill each compartment with a taste bud-tingling mix of:
- Whole grains
- Dairy or dairy alternatives
Placing everything in separate compartments will make your packed lunch creation look epic and keep your kids excited about their meal.
5. Pizza Muffins
Pizza for lunch? Oh yeah.
Give the classic pizza a twist by making pizza muffins.
Use whole wheat flour and load them with veggies, cheese, and lean meat for a lunch that's nutritious and a lot more fun than it actually is (hidden health).
TOP TIP: Get a pizza muffin recipe here.
6. Yogurt Parfait
You can add this indulgent sweet treat as a healthy alternative to a dessert, or use it as a main meal option.
Layer plain Greek yogurt, granola, and fresh berries in a portable container for a tasty and protein-rich lunch option. It’s that simple.
7. Taco Salad Jar
Layer your favorite taco ingredients in a mason jar for a mess-free and satisfying lunch.
Include lean ground turkey, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, avocado, and a dollop of salsa or Greek yogurt. Delicious.
8. Sushi Rolls
Make sushi rolls at home using whole grain rice and fillings like avocado, cucumber, and cooked shrimp.
Slice them into bite-sized pieces for an exciting and healthy addition to your child's lunchbox.
9. Mini Quiches
Whip some mini-quiches as a great way to mix things up. You can cook up a batch to include in school lunch for a few days in a row and alter ingredients as a way to add a little excitement to the kid's lunches.
TOP TIP: Check out this recipe here.
10. Nut butter and jam sandwich
Everyone loves a PB&J, but how can you make it a little healthier?
It’s a firm favorite with a healthy twist, and you can use any nut butter you wish, like nut butter alongside a little jam (even homemade if you fancy and you have the time, of course).
It's a healthy classic if we’ve ever heard of one.
11. Breakfast burrito
It might be a classic for the morning meal, but there’s no reason why you can’t bundle up all the breakfast favorites into a wrap for lunch.
Scrambled eggs, plus some beans, peppers, and cheese, will hit all the main food groups. Plus, they can be prepped and frozen in advance, taking them out the night before so they are ready to go for lunch.
TOP TIP: Get a breakfast burrito recipe here.
12. Cream cheese and salmon bagel
Again, a bagel might be thought of more as a breakfast food, but there’s nothing to stop you from popping it in the lunch box for your kids.
Cream cheese and fish or meat (such as salmon) is a great lunch option that covers all the macro groups—tasty, and it keeps them filled up.
13. Pasta salad
Pasta salad is a great option and can be made really healthy, packed full of veg and protein.
It’s especially great for older kids who are growing and need something more substantial for their lunchtime meal in school.
Add in cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and cheese cubes to boost your kid's energy and keep them fuller for longer.
Lunch box snacks
Remember, it’s not just about the main meal. You’ll probably have to add some snacks to keep them going (or eat after lunch).
The aim is for some easy, healthy snacks that will help keep your kids full, fuel them, and stop them from reaching for the chips or candy.
You can add in rice cakes, pita bread and hummus, string cheese or even some chopped veggies such as cherry tomatoes, peppers or celery. Done and dusted.
Fuel up for the rest of the day…
Lunch is one of the most important meals of the day, but it can also be a pain to make for tiny humans, especially if you’ve got more than one. So it pays (in more ways than one) to be prepared and get school lunches sorted in advance.
These tips will help you make a delicious meal that your kids will be looking forward to all day long— and will help keep them fuelled up.
Before you know it, you’ll be creating the perfect lunch box that has your kids squealing with excitement when lunchtime rolls around.
And hey, you can even double up on some of the portions and save some for yourself to save time and ensure you’re getting a healthy meal. It’s a win-win.
We hope this guide helps you on your quest for lunchtime success, and for more top foodie tips, check out our guide on eating out and staying healthy.