Healthy Back-to-School Lunchbox IdeasPosted: Updated:
Here we go packing lunches for our kids again since school is back in session. Finding healthy and tasty food ideas that both you and your kids can agree on can be tricky, so here are some lunch box items that I tried with my family...and I was successful! So read on and let me know in the comments section what lunch ideas you have that work for your family!
Unique Lunch Food Ideas:
*Mini Sammies -- I don't know why, but my kids always like it when I pack mini sandwiches. Maybe because it is different from the usual-sized sandwich that they are used to getting. I found a terrific pack of nutritious dinner rolls that come from a local farm called Sunizona Family Farms and I get the bread from their Farmbox Program that delivers their fresh produce, bread, fruit and more to a variety of local restaurants in Tucson and in Phoenix for easy pick-up. I make the sandwiches on the farm's Heritage Grain Bread that is made with organic whole sprouted khorasan wheat flour, organic flax, sea salt, organic agave nectar and other wholesome ingredients. So find a healthy dinner roll like I use and make two mini sandwiches instead of the usual size. Fill with turkey, cheese, mustard, lettuce and tomato. Yum! To learn more about the Farmbox Program visit www.sunizonafamilyfarms.com. I also like to pack fresh fruit and veggies that I receive directly in my Farmbox.
*Chicken Caesar Salad -- When I pack my girl her favorite chicken Caesar salad, her friends always tell her that seeing her open that salad is a good idea, so try this if you have a kid that loves a certain salad. Salads aren't just for grown-ups!
*Turkey & Cream Cheese Roll Up -- Ask your kids what they want in their lunch, but tell them that it has to be a nutritious food that you agree on. When I did this, my girl told me that she wanted to make her own roll ups the night before! I was thrilled, especially when I watched her fill it with organic turkey, cream cheese and romaine lettuce. I did try to get her to make it on a whole wheat tortilla, but she wouldn't budge on that, so we compromised and I am happy with this idea.
*Banana, peanut butter & honey sandwich -- Just like my Mom used to make me, this sandwich is made on 100% whole wheat bread is a good and tasty option! If your kids frown at 100% whole wheat bread, try the Sara Lee’s 100% smooth brand. That is the one type of wheat bread that they will eat and you always want to make sure that the package says 100% whole wheat.
*Make your own uncrustable -- My girl loves those uncrustables sandwiches and they tempt me, too because they are so easy to throw in the lunch box to thaw out for her just in time for lunch! So again, we compromise and I let her have one once a week, but I also make my own healthier version on 100% whole wheat bread, with an all natural peanut butter and a jam that has lower sugar. Then I take a round cookie-cutter and make it into a circle, just like the store-bought version.
*Hot Foods -- Make fresh mac and cheese or a healthy soup in the morning and pour into the Aladdin Hybrid Kiddo Vacuum Food Jar. This cool BPA free container also keeps cold foods cold and hot foods hot for 6 hours. I bought mine at The Container Store for $13.49.
Not Your Typical Lunch Box…
*Bento Box fun – Even if you don’t pack a Japanese lunch in the bento box, this type of lunch box is fun and different for kids to dive into and you can load the compartments with healthy foods. I stuffed my daughter’s bento box with a hard-boiled egg, turkey sandwich, carrot sticks, strawberries and Annie’s Organic Pizza Snack Mix. The snack mix consists of baked cheddar crackers, crackers and pretzels that contain no artificial preservatives or ingredients. I found the Bento Boxes at The Container Store in Scottsdale and also at Whole Foods stores. Fun and different.
Another variation of the Bento box style is the Décor Fresh LunchBox that has four different compartments, along with a beverage bottle which sells for $13.49.
I also love the Mom Invented Good Bites Sandwich Box which has space for a snack, a sandwich and a sticky note can be attached on top of the box. I have found that my 5th grader still loves to receive a note from me when she opens her lunch! Plus the boxes are BPA free and can be washed in the dishwasher. This cool contraption sells at stores like Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond and at www.ginsey.com.
*Breakfast for Lunch – Why not? If your child likes a healthy cereal, use the EZ Freeze Cereal on the Go container to pack the milk and cereal separately and the milk stays cold in the non-toxic freeze cup. This is also great for breakfast on the run on the crazy mornings when you have to feed your kids in the car. I have had a few of those through the years, I hate to admit. I also found this at The Container Store for $4.99.
Make Food Fun
Get them to eat healthy food by making food in fun shapes. Use star cookie cutters to make star-shaped watermelon pieces or heart-shaped cantaloupe. I found a fun shaped sandwich cutter called the Butterfly Bytes at Office Max that my girl loves. Use an apple wedge to make perfect apple slices and sprinkle the slices with healthy cinnamon. The Mom Invented Puzzle Bites and the Mini Bites Crustless Sandwich Cutter also make sandwiches more interesting to kids. Both are sold at www.ginsey.com and stores like Target and The Container Store.
My kids ask for potato chips, sugary cookies and other unhealthy snacks to complement their lunch, so I have had to be creative and have them taste-test alternative ideas. Here is what they like and what we can agree on…
*Mediterranean Snacks Hint of Sea Salt & Olive Oil All Natural Popcorn and the line’s Original Veggie Medley Straws. Both are sold at Fresh & Easy and Whole Foods Stores. This brand is all natural with no trans fat and is gmo-free. I approve!
*Late July Organic Mini Cheddar Cheese White Cheddar Bite Sized Crackers sold at Whole Foods.
*Mt. Olive Picklepak Kosher Dill Petites portable pickles sold at Safeway.
*Edamame, hard-boiled eggs, sliced veggies from Safeway’s fresh veggie tray, blueberries, strawberries, banana and whatever fruits are in season.
*Hummus & pita crackers.
My kids want a treat in their lunch box, but I don't want to pack extra sugars, so I have come with up with a list of goodies that aren't as bad and actually even include some healthy ingredients. They are:
*Heritage Grains Breads Coconut Almond Macaroons - again from Sunizona Family Farms, these cookies will satisfy the sweet tooth with only good ingredients like unsweetened coconut, almond meal, organic agave nectar, sunflower seed oil and several other Mom-approved foods.
*SunMaid Vanilla Yogurt Raisins – These little packs do have 18 grams of sugar per serving, so I only list this as a healthy alternative to a sugary candy bar or junky cookie.
*Laura’s Wholesome Junk Food Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites – I found this line at Whole Foods and I love that her cookies contain no hydrogenated oils, trans fats or cholesterol and also have no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. As the label says, the ingredients are foods that you can pronounce! I like that!
*Kashi Peanut Butter Chewy Granola Bars – My mom has been a health food nut before it was cool to eat clean, organic and super healthy. Although I hated it when I was a kid, I am so grateful now that she always filled our bellies with good and wholesome foods, so when she tells me that Kashi is a good brand, I believe it! These tasty bars are loaded with 7 whole grains, 4 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein, with only 5 grams of sugar, so try packing this bar for your child’s sweet tooth.
*PlumKids Fruit & Veggie Shredz & PlumKids Organic Crunch ‘Ola – Both of these treats are tasty. The Crunch Ola snacks are made with whole grains like quinoa and millet and have no artificial ingredients or trans fats plus they are packaged in BPA-free bags. The Fruit and Veggie Shredz are made with 97% real fruit and the ingredients list foods like organic carrot puree, blueberry, pumpkin puree and more mom-approved ingredients. The PlumKids line is sold at Safeway, Fry’s and Target in the Phoenix area.
*Sometimes for a treat, I will pack my girl the Horizon Organic Chocolate Milk, but I let her know that the milk is her dessert in her lunch because each container has 22 grams of sugar. I like this brand because it is a treat, but is also a good source of calcium, Vitamin D and protein.
*H2O is the most important beverage that you can pack, especially here in the desert. I like the Pura Stainless Steel water bottle line that is 100% plastic-free. These earth-friendly BPA-free bottles are sold at www.purastainless.com for $15.99.
*As far as juice boxes go, I like the Honest Kids line that has half the sugar as most other juice box companies. Each pouch contains 10 grams of sugar, while many other juice box drinks have much more than that. My kids like the fruit punch and lemonade varieties that are sold at Safeway and other grocery stores.
And don’t forget to pack some hand sanitizer in the lunch box. That may be your best protection against cold and flu and all of the other school year germs! My family likes the Hog Wash with DermaVine line.
What creative lunch box ideas do you have? Share here in the comments section! For more back-to-school ideas, recipes, beauty news, pet pics and more, be sure to check my website at managedmoms.com. Happy new school year!