Looking for easy ideas for lunch boxes? These healthy lunch ideas will make your kids smile and you will feel good about what they are eating! Plus grab your free Lunch Box Planner to mix and match ingredients to make over 50 wholesome lunch combinations that kids are sure to enjoy and are easy enough for your kids to pack themselves!
I absolutely love Back-to-School shopping. The smell of the sharpened pencils, the crisp notebooks, and the excitement of the new year puts a huge smile on my face. I get giddy for the new box of crayons and organizing pencil boxes. I guess it is the former teacher in me.
But even while having great choices on hand, I do not get giddy about packing school lunches.
I bet many of you parents understand!
You want your child to eat a balanced lunch, but you don’t want to take the time to pack one. Or you fear you will go to the effort of packing a homemade school lunch, only for your child not to eat the lunch.
I hear ya. And I used to dread packing lunches as much as my kids dread homework. But I have learned how to make packing lunches easier for myself through the years and I want to share those tips with you.
Tips for Packing School Lunches
Pack Lunch the Night Before
First of all, I enlist the kids’ help to pack their own lunches for the following day as we clean up from dinner the night before. Packing lunch immediately after dinner is key for several reasons.
- We eliminate the morning rush.
- We can utilize leftovers.
- Allowing the kids to help pack their lunches ensures that will actually eat their lunch!
Let Kids Choose their Lunch
I know, I know, you are fearful that if you let your child pack their school lunch, they may end up with a brownie and some potato chips.
Eliminate that fear by having your children mix and match ingredients from a Lunch Box Planner.
This Lunch Box Planner, gives your children wholesome options to choose from so they can have a balanced meal!
Print the Lunch Box Planner HERE, to hang on your refrigerator or place in your pantry for easy reference.
This Lunch Box Graphic helps my children learn that all meals, including lunches must be balanced with protein, carbs, fruits and vegetables. They know they must have at least one source of protein, one whole grain carbohydrate, a fruit, and a vegetable for mom to give it a go.
This list is limited in options, but it give the kids great guidance to start packing a balanced lunch. And feel free to add your favorites to the list!
Keys to a Balanced Lunch
In my book, a healthy and balanced school lunch means a protein, fruit, veggie and whole grain carbohydrate. It is not rocket science to say the least, but this helps me (and my kids) first fill their lunch box with the essentials before we add in the treats!
The Lunch Box Planner provided, gives general suggestions for each category, but let’s break these options down a bit further.
Healthy Protein Options for School Lunches
- Nuts and nut butter
- Meat (deli slices, sausage, leftover chicken, beef, or pork)
- Cottage Cheese
- Yogurt (Greek Yogurt has highest amount of protein)
- Hard Boiled Eggs
Fruit and Veggie Options for School Lunches
Including a fruit and vegetable in each school lunch is so important. Be sure to let your child choose their favorites so you know they will eat them. Even serve up Peanut Butter Chocolate Dip for the fruit or Homemade Ranch Dip to encourage that produce to disappear!
- Freeze Dried Fruit
- Pepper Slices
- Baby Tomatoes
- Snap Peas
- Snap Pea Crisps
Carbohydrate Options for School Lunches
Carbs always seem to be an easy choice for kids (and adults). Try to encourage as many whole wheat/whole grain carbs as possible. Feel free to use gluten-free substitutes if needed.
- Whole Wheat Bread
- Whole Grain Crackers
- Tortilla Chips
- Whole Wheat Pitas
- Whole Wheat Bagels
- Whole Wheat English Muffins
- Whole Grain Pretzels
- Brown Rice
Treats for School Lunches
And while including a treat is NOT necessary, it certainly is fun and will bring a smile to your child!
- A homemade cookie, like a Peanut Butter Cookie or at Cut-Out Cookie.
- Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bar
- Homemade Rice Krispie Treat
- Homemade Granola Bar
- Apple Pie Larabar
- DIY Fruit Roll-Up
- A piece of dark chocolate or a Hershey Kiss
- Mini Chocolate Chips in a trail mix
Healthy Lunch Box Ideas for Kids
Here are a few of my favorite kid-friendly recipes that pack well in lunch boxes–and things kids will actually eat!
This is tostada is like a mini Mexican Pizza and is so fun for kids to make and eat! Serve with a side of fruit for a lunch is perfectly balanced!
These little PB&J Muffins are SO fun for school lunch. They are made with whole grains (oats), fruit (banana and all fruit jelly) and loaded with protein from the eggs, milk and peanut butter. I love making a huge batch and freezing. These muffins defrost in the lunchbox and are ready for lunch.
Save money and make yogurt tubes that actually feature real FRUIT, not just fruit flavoring. These simple treats are a great way to get a huge dose of protein as well.
These simple homemade fruit and nut bars are a great way to get in a serving of fruit and protein–not to mention the homemade version is SO much cheaper!
I took my daughter’s favorite Macaroni and Cheese recipe and turned it into a portable muffin that is loaded with veggies and packs well in school lunches. These muffins have carbohydrates, veggies, and protein.
Bean burritos are SUPER easy to make and freeze well. I also show you a trick on how to get in a few extra veggies into your kids!
Make a large batch to meal prep for school lunches, or put an English muffin, container of pizza sauce, and shredded cheese in your child’s lunch and they have their own Pizza Lunchable!
Full of whole grains, veggies, fruit, and chocolate–these decadent muffins taste like dessert but are super healthy!
Not only are these Snack Bags fun, they are customizable. I like to pack them with fruit and peanut butter crackers.
Another great muffin option for getting in whole grains, fruits and veggies!
Serve chips and guacamole on the side and this becomes a healthier version on a lunchable that kids will flip for! Add in a fruit on the side and this salad checks all the boxes needed for a healthier lunch.
What kid does not like to dip their veggies into ranch dressing? This easy wrap puts the veggies and ranch right into a hand held wrap.
These homemade hot pockets make a great option for a school lunch box, and they are easy to prep in bulk and freeze to use for lunches.
Naturally sweetened and made with whole grains, I love to pack these muffins in place of a traditional sandwich at times.
Loaded with fiber, protein, and veggies–these burritos are also tasty and kid-approved!
Everyone know kids love food on sticks, so why not serve up salad on a stick?
Turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomato all wrapped up for a delicious lunch!
The naturally sweet salad dressing does a great job convincing kids to dive right into their veggies!
Veggies in a cheese quesadilla? Trust me, it works!
Super easy to make and super fun to eat, these homemade fruit roll-ups are a great way to enjoy fruit!
If your kids love tuna fish, wrap up some of this avocado tuna salad for a wrap filled with protein and healthy fats.
So much better than what you get in a box!
When mom willingly serves you up hot dogs for lunch, you know it is going to be a good day! These corn dog muffins are FUN, yet wholesome when made with whole grains and good quality hot dogs.
Remember to Print the Lunch Box Planner HERE, to hang on your refrigerator or place in your pantry for easy reference.