It’s here- the new school year! Bringing lunch from home is great if it is feasible for your family. It can be tricky coming up with school lunchbox ideas that include variety, foods your kids will eat, and foods that will stay good until lunchtime. I recommend getting a lunchbox that can accommodate a refrigerated pack to keep certain foods cold.
Here are 5 ideas, one for each day of the week, that are dietitian approved:
You can’t go wrong with the tried and true staple.
- Whole grain or 100% whole wheat bread, nitrate- and nitrite-free lunchmeat, real cheese (steer clear of the heavily processed ones that come individually plastic-wrapped), lettuce, tomato, mustard.
- 2 mini oranges
- Whole wheat pretzels
Vegetarian Tortilla Wrap Lunchbox
Although it’s vegetarian, it’s not lacking in protein.
- Use your kid’s favorite tortilla wrap (spinach, whole wheat, etc), and fill it with hummus or pureed black beans or lentils, sliced red and green peppers, and shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese.
- To make a bean puree: Saute ½ of a white or yellow onion in olive oil in a small skillet. Add pre-cooked lentils, beans, or canned beans and season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Cool after cooking, and stir in chopped cilantro and a little of your favorite salsa. Puree or fork mash the mixture.
- Tortilla chips
Lettuce Wrap Lunchbox
Kids like assembling their own foods, and although this might seem outside of the norm in terms of “kid food”, they are delicious.
- 3 pieces of whole romaine lettuce leaves (approx 6” long ), 3 strips of baked, grilled, or otherwise cooked chicken or steak, thinly sliced carrots, and a mini Tupperware container of Asian salad dressing (be aware that many Asian dressings contain peanuts. If your school is 100% peanut-free, try French or Catalina dressing instead).
- Clif Z bar or Larabar
- Dried cranberries
Bagel, Nut Butter, and Jelly Lunchbox
Again, you can’t go wrong with this kid favorite.
- Use a whole grain bagel or a whole wheat English muffin. If your school is peanut-free, instead of peanut butter, try sunflower seed butter, almond butter or cashew butter. Add your kid’s favorite jelly (I recommend organic preserves that have less sugar- check at the farmers market too), and even a little drizzle of honey.
- Carrot sticks
- Whole grain Goldfish crackers
Cracker and Cheese Assortment
With the right sides, this does make a good meal.
- Whole grain woven wheat crackers (i.e. Triscuits)
- Brown rice cake or rice crackers
- Whole grain round crackers
- Two types of cheeses, sliced into 2”x2” squares, such as cheddar, swiss, muenster, or whatever you have in the house.
- Shelled edamame
Each of the above meals includes (at minimum) a source of protein, a whole grain, a fruit, a vegetable, and a dairy serving. Give your child’s lunch experience a special touch by including a little note from you or dad, or put a sticker on one of the baggies or containers. And remember, fueling your child’s body and brain with healthy foods before and during school promotes better learning and school performance.
*Tip to encourage your child to eat the above lunchbox meals: Share these meal ideas with your child’s friends’ parents. Kids tend to eat better in social settings where they see other kids eating and trying different things.