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Packing a Healthy Lunch Box…easier than you think!

Anne Kolker • MS, Registered Dietitian • Aug 06, 2009
Do you pack a healthy lunch box for your child? Do you give them money to buy their lunch at school and cross your fingers they select a healthy lunch? Do you buy some pre-packaged, grab and go meals that cost more, and are these even healthy? This article will provide you with some specific ideas that make it easy to create healthy and tasty school lunches that get your child eating healthy.


This is one reason some parents opt for pre-packed lunches that can contain too much fat and sodium. Or maybe you toss in a bag of potato chips – because it feels better knowing your son got something into his tummy. Oh yes, getting your child to eat a nutritious lunch can seem like a battle. But does it have to be? Really? With some easy, quick lunch ideas you can get your child eating a nutritious meal without all the headaches!


The Easy, Fun and Healthy Lunch Box

Get your kids to help you so that healthy lunches are a family affair. It starts by looking to include healthy foods from the five food groups.
Here is a list of healthy lunch ideas for kids:
  • Get out the cookie cutters – no not for cookies, but for sandwiches. Kids love food in shapes. You can make a star-shaped sandwiches or even one shaped like a pumpkin. Surprise them with different shapes over the week. Serve sliced ham, chicken, tuna or egg salad sandwiches. Some kids love mustard and mayo but some kids may just want a pickle with it. Go with what your child likes. Similarly, some kids don’t like peanut butter but will enjoy cashew or almond butter as a spread.
  • Serve sliced meat rolled up into tubes and offer the bread separate (some kids just aren’t into sandwiches). Similarly, tuna salad can be offered with crackers. Remember, bread doesn’t have to be sliced bread; offer bagels or tortillas. Even just plain sticky rice or couscous can be a hit.
  • Toothpicks can add some fun too – kids love bite-sized food. So make a mini-sandwich and place a toothpick in it. You can get toothpicks with fun designs at party stores.
  • Other bite-sized food includes cucumber and avocado rolls (many grocery stores now have a section of Japanese food). Or make your own roll: Use Korean roasted seaweed (this has a nice sesame flavor to it) and sticky rice (these are simple versions of kimbap”. Just roll up the rice like into a mini-cylinder shape. Have your sons help you make it the night before.
  • Tea sandwiches: These are bite-sized sandwiches. Although adult versions usually have spices and onions, you can make your child a cream cheese tea sandwich with very thin cucumber slices. If you want more ideas on tea sandwiches check out:,1-0,finger_sandwich_ideas,FF.html
  • Use leftovers for school lunch. If your child ate the beef stew last night for dinner, serve it up for lunch. Either use a thermos after heating it up in the morning or just serve it cold (place an ice pack in the lunch box though to prevent food illness).



Easy, Fun Kids Lunch Box Ideas

Of course, some kids are on a sandwich strike. Here are some other healthy lunchbox ideas:
  • Pasta: Use mini-penne or bow tie pasta. Just throw on some pasta sauce. If you make it the night before, add a tsp of olive oil to prevent sticking. Explore other noodles, particularly some of the Asian soba or rice noodles. You could even use the Top Ramen® noodles (just skip on the flavoring packet because the sodium level is quite high). Use these thin, curly noodles and serve with peanut sauce or just plain. During winter months, use a thermos to serve up warm noodles (boil them in vegetable broth and use about 1/3 of the liquid for added flavor).
  • Burritos: Just use mini-tortillas and serve with beans and cheese. Many kids don’t need to have their foods warmed up to enjoy. Similarly, offer baked beans and a tortilla separate; many kids like to enjoy food separately and may not enjoy pinto or black beans. Although if they do like beans, try a garbanzo and kidney bean salad.
  • Breakfast for lunch? Make pancakes on Sunday and freeze the leftovers. You can warm them up and pack them up for a fun lunch. Scrambled eggs or a sliced boiled egg can be a hit too (remember the ice pack though).
  • Fruits and veggies are always a part of a nutritious lunch. To make it more fun, include a dip, even if this means ketchup. Serve mini-carrots or jicama with ranch dressing, slightly steamed broccoli with light mayo, sliced apples (use lemon juice to keep them from browning) with peanut butter. Try frozen peas and corn, usually favorites of kids. Offer half of a sweet potato with a sprinkle of brown sugar or even slice it into circular shapes, Take advantage of tropical fruits such as mango slices or kiwi (easy to scoop out with a spoon).
Interested in more healthy kids lunch ideas? This month we have a new printable: healthy school lunch ideas pdf.
Have a great school year, one that is full of healthy, nutritious school lunches!










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Written by Anne KolkerWritten on Aug 06, 2009Last updated on Nov 01, 2015




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