It’s time to pack up school lunches again. I do not hear many parents talking about the joy of packing lunches in the morning – the mornings are crazy and lunch packing is one of the first tasks that need to get checked off of our morning to do list. And I get it – I was thrilled when I did not have to pack lunches during summer. But with some planning, packing lunches can actually be a rewarding process and – best of all – you can take control of ensuring your kids eat a wholesome, nutrient-dense lunch. The best lunches should always have a growing food (protein), a vegetable, a fruit (seasonal is best) and something fun.
Personally, I like to pack my daughter’s lunches in a stainless steel bento box – it’s easy to pack, easy to open and clean, and can make for a visually appealing lunch spread. But use what works for you – there are a lot of great alternatives to plastic and other disposable containers.
Of course, kids have a lot of different preferences and there are always school-specific restrictions – such as allergy rules – that are going to narrow your range of possibilities (which can make keeping lunches interesting a real challenge after a while), but hopefully the lists below will give you some ideas and excite both you and your children this year. Happy packing!
- Hummus with cucumber, carrots, celery and pita
- Tortilla with hummus cut into triangles
- Tortilla with almond butter and jelly, cut into triangles
- Tortilla with mashed pinto beans, salsa and avocado
- Smoked salmon with crackers on the side
- Grilled or baked chicken slices
- Black beans with organic, non GMO corn chips
- Tofu slices sauteed in sesame oil and tamari
- Sauteed Tempeh slices
- Almond butter and apple slices (squeeze a little lemon juice on the apples to keep them from turning brown)
- Organic yogurt with a side of granola, hemp seeds and cut up fruit
- Salad with dressing on the side: romaine lettuce, garbanzo beans (or lentils or black beans), cucumber, carrots, kalamata olives
- Pasta with garbanzo beans, olive oil (or butter) and garlic
- Hard boiled egg
- Sprouted toast with almond butter and organic jam
- Sprouted toast with Sunflower seeds butter and sliced bananas
- Turkey and Avocado Sandwich
- Sprouted toast with almond butter and a small amount of nutella (consider the Justine’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter)
- Cucumber slices (I sprinkle a little himalayan sea salt on top)
- Celery sticks
- Carrot sticks
- Roasted carrots, potatoes and/or brussel sprouts
- Steamed beets
- Baked sweet potato
- Snap peas
- Steam or raw green beans
- Apples with lemon juice squeezed on top (to keep them from browning)
- Watermelon slices
- Pineapple cubes
- Kiwi slices
- Melon slices
- Persimmon slices
- Nectarine slices
Something Fun (optional) Whenever I can, I like to add a little treat. The right treat adds a nice balance and keeps your kiddos from complaining that your lunches are too healthy! Some, like steamed apples, taste great and are very healthy. Other things on this list, like pretzels or chips, not so much. Pick and choose what feels right to you.
- A few chocolate covered goji berries
- Chocolate covered almonds
- Non GMO corn chips, rice chips or veggie chips
- Trail mix with a few pieces of dark chocolate
- Homemade granola bars – lots of healthy recipes available with just nuts, dates and almond butter.
- Pretzels (to dip into the hummus or almond butter)
- Steamed apples
- Apple sauce
Finally, I think it’s great to surprise your child with a short poem, flower, personal note, or even a Shopkin or small crystal in their lunch box. Small gestures that remind your kids how much they are loved have a big impact. Making meals is the perfect way to positively influence what our kids are putting in their bodies and to add a few surprises to their days. I hope you found some new ideas here for you to try with your kids.