*This is an updated article Dr. Ney wrote in 2019 on healthy school lunches.
It’s time to pack up school lunches again! School mornings can be hectic so pack or plan your kids lunch the night before. With some planning, packing lunches can be a rewarding process because you can take control of ensuring your kids eat a wholesome, nutrient-dense lunch. The best lunches should always include a protein, a vegetable, a fruit (seasonal is best), and something fun. This “fun” addition may or may not have significant nutritional value but can keep kids from complaining that your lunches are too healthy.
I like using bento boxes to pack lunches – it is easy to pack, easy to open and clean, and can make for a visually appealing lunch spread. One of my girls uses a stainless-steel bento box while my oldest likes using a glass bento box. But use what works for you.
I hope the list below will give you some ideas and excite both you and your children this year! Happy packing!
- Hummuswith cucumber, carrots, celery and pita
- Tortilla with hummuscut into triangles
- Tortilla with almond butterand jelly, cut into triangles
- Tortilla with mashed pinto beans, salsa and avocado
- Smoked salmonwith crackers on the side
- Grilled or baked chickenslices
- Black beanswith organic, non-GMO corn chips
- Tofuslices sautéed in sesame oil and tamari
- Sautéed Tempehslices
- Almond butterand apple slices (squeeze a little lemon juice on the apples to keep them from turning brown)
- Organic yogurtwith 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 butterand organic jam
- Sprouted toast with Sunflower seed butterand sliced bananas
- Turkeyand Avocado Sandwich
- Sprouted toast with almond butterand a small amount of Nutella (consider the Justine’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter)
- Cucumber slices (I sprinkle a little Himalayan sea salt or “everything but the bagel” seasoning 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):
- 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, or personal note. Small gestures that remind your kids how much they are loved – even if it embarrasses them in the moment. 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.
Maggie Ney, ND is director of the women’s clinic and specializes in female hormone balancing and healthy aging. She is a mom to 3 girls and has packed a lot of lunches! You can schedule an appointment with her by calling 310-451-8880 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.