Growing up, my school lunches definitely left something to be desired. I dreaded opening up my lunchbox only to find two sorry pieces of bread that had become soggy and limp with the weight of grape jelly and the oil from all natural peanut butter that had hardened since it’s assembly the night before. In an effort to create healthy school lunches, my mom would send me along with a plain bag of baby carrots. Oh how I longed for the “cup o noodles” and pizza lunchables that my friends brought. While they weren’t very nutrient dense, they were way more interesting than my lame PB & J.
As a Dietitian, I’m frequently asked for ideas for healthy school lunches that kids will actually eat. To come up with my answers for those healthy school lunches, I thought about what I would have wanted as a kid. Then, I did some tweaks to ensure that they packed brain-powering nutrients and would keep kids energized for the day.
5 Healthy School Lunches:
Store-bought pizza lunchables are full of chemicals and preservatives and lack essential nutrients and fiber. Choose all natural and organic ingredients when possible.
– 1 Whole grain pita or tortilla
– 1/4th cup marinara sauce (homemade or store bought both work well)
– 1/4th cup mozzarella cheese
– nitrate-free turkey pepperoni (such as Applegate farms)
– optional: olives, basil, artichoke hearts (depending on how adventurous your kids are
Pack each item separately and allow your children to assemble it themselves!
Serve with sliced bell peppers or mini baby peppers and garlic hummus!
DIY Protein Box
This knock-off Starbucks protein box allows your kids to pick and chose what they want! It’s easy to assemble and you probably already have most of these ingredients on hand. Mix and match with whatever your kids like! Be sure to throw in a fruit, veggie, protein, and healthy fat to make a well-rounded meal.
– 1oz almonds, cashews, or walnuts
– 1 string cheese or babybell
– 1 hardboiled egg
– ½ cup blueberries or strawberries
– sliced veggies (carrot sticks, snap peas, celery)
– 1/4th cup guacamole for dipping
Pulled Pork Wrap
When school starts and life gets crazy, a crockpot can soon become your best friend. Use it to make an easy pulled pork or chicken dish and use the meat in various ways throughout the week. Your kids will thank you!
– 1 whole grain tortilla
– ½ cup leftover pulled pork or chicken
– 2 tbsp barbeque sauce
– ½ cup sliced jicama and cucumber (send along salsa or 505 green chili to dip in)
Fruit Parfait & Turkey Roll Ups
Greek Yogurt is packed with protein. With some healthy additions, it can be transformed from a healthy snack into a satisfying lunch along with easy-to-assemble turkey roll ups!
– 3/4th cup full fat plain Greek yogurt
– ½ cup blueberries, strawberries, peaches (whatever fruit you’d like!)
– Add ins (pick whatever you’d like!) : 2 tbsp nuts, 1 tbsp unsweetened coconut, 1 tbsp dried fruit, 1 tsp honey
The yogurt and berries can be pre-assembled the night before. Layer the yogurt and berries in a BPA free container or mix all together. Send the add-ins in separate bags.
Turkey Roll Up Ingredients:
– 2 oz all natural, nitrate free turkey
– 1 oz cheese
– Butter lettuce leaves
– Condiment of choice: mustard, hummus, guacamole
– Roll turkey and cheese and let your kids wrap them in the lettuce with their desired condiment!
Packing healthy school lunches can be much more daunting than it needs to be. Think outside of the box and put together combinations of foods for healthy school lunches that your kids will love.
Who doesn’t like to play with their food? Hummus, guacamole, yogurt dips and salsa are great ways to make fruit and veggies more exciting and create healthy school lunches. Take these ideas and run with them! Let your kids assemble tacos or send them with a variety of deli meats, cheeses, and fruits making your own fruit and cheese plate, hearty soups sent in a thermos work well too!
Just be sure that your child’s lunchbox has an adequate ice pack to keep perishables cool.
Let me know what you decide to use and send along your own creative ideas for healthy school lunches!