Starting to plan out all those packed lunches for the return to school? We've got a great guest blog post written by Jen Evans of the Instagram account @whatmykideats. Stay at home mom to two little ones, she shares simple and wholesome toddler and kid meal ideas and loves talking family friendly recipes.
As summer comes to an end, it’s time to start thinking about back to school! Back to school means back to packing lunches to fuel your busy child’s learning and playing. To start the school year off right and avoid a packed lunch rut, here are five healthy school lunch ideas (that aren’t the traditional sandwich) to help inspire your lunchbox creations.
1. BREAKFAST FOR LUNCH
A lot of breakfast foods are packed with nutrients to boost energy and fill your belly, so why not pack them for lunch? The possibilities are endless!
What to pack:
- Waffles (try a waffle sandwich with cream cheese, nut butter, or jam)
- Hard boiled eggs
- Cereal with a small milk carton
- Yogurt with toppings
- French toast
- Breakfast wrap with bacon, egg, and cheese
- Bagel and cream cheese or a bagel sandwich
- Breakfast sausage
- Toast with mashed avocado
*Make pancakes or waffles mini to fit into lunch boxes.
*Mashed or pureed fruit makes a great dip for breakfast foods.
Before you start laughing and think “my child won’t eat salad”, keep reading! Salads can be anything you throw together and can be really kid friendly.
Pictured is spinach and cheese tortellini salad with peas and corn, mixed berries, veggies and pretzels with hummus for dipping.
What to pack:
- Pasta salad (try different kinds of pasta, mini ravioli)
- Quinoa salad (mix cooked quinoa with roast veggies and a light sauce)
- Cous cous salad
- Kid friendly veggie salad (try a little shredded lettuce with fun toppings and a yummy dressing)
- Taco salad (taco meat over lettuce or rice)
- Egg salad (in a wrap or on tortilla chips)
- Tuna salad (scoop it on crackers)
- Chicken salad (try it in a lettuce cup)
- Fruit salad (what kid can’t resist a gorgeous mix of fruits, serve with yogurt for protein)
*Use frozen fruit or veggies in your child’s lunchbox, they will keep everything cool and thaw by lunch time.
*If your kids are reluctant to eat raw veggies, try cutting them in different shapes or including different types of dips.
3. SNACK LUNCH
Sometimes a simple, quick lunch can be the one your child likes the best. Throw together a bunch of your child’s favorite snacks and call it lunch!
Pictured is hardboiled egg, cottage cheese mixed with chopped cherries, rainbow carrot sticks, pretzel sticks, hummus, wild blueberries, and a snack ball.
What to pack:
- Mini muffins
- Crackers with nut butter
- Steamed or raw veggies with dip
- Hard boiled eggs
- Trail mix
- Shredded meat (leftovers if you have them!)
- Pretzels with hummus
- Sandwich bites (cut a sandwich into small square pieces)
- Snack balls
- Ants on a log
- Anything in your fridge or pantry!
*Use paper or silicon muffin cups to separate snacks or hold messy foods.
*Snack balls are a great way to boost energy. There are tons of recipes for different flavors. Try making your own by adding things like nut butter, oats, dates, and dried fruits to a food processor.
4. SPIRALS, WRAPS, AND ROLL UPS
Sometimes just presenting food differently or in a fun way can make it fun enough to get your child excited about eating healthy or new foods Cue the curly, twisty foods! In a wrap or sliced into spirals, here are some winning combos to spice up your lunch box.
Pictured are spiral bites on a whole wheat tortilla with hummus, spinach, turkey, and cheese, curled carrot and cucumber strips, grapes, veggie crisps.
What to roll:
- Nut butter and fruit (think peanut butter and banana or sunflower seed butter and apple with a sprinkle of cinnamon)
- Hummus and veggies
- Cream cheese and jam
- Guacamole and chicken
- Mashed beans and cheese
- Deli meat, cheese, and spinach
- Pizza rolls (pizza dough, sauce, cheese, toppings, rolled into spirals and baked)
- Roll a piece of bread flat, cover in your favorite toppings and roll
- Broccoli and cheese (add a marinara dipping sauce on the side)
- Peel flat strips of cucumber with a veggie peeler, cover in cream cheese and roll
*Try peeling veggies with a vegetable peeler to make long, flat strips.
*When making spirals, use a dip or spread like hummus, cream cheese, mustard, or salad dressing to hold everything together.
*For a super quick lunch, roll deli meat with cheese.
5. LUNCH ON A STICK
Want to up the chances of your kiddo eating something? Put it on a stick. You can find wooden skewers or cocktail sticks in most grocery stores or online. One of the perks to food on a stick is easy dipping so make sure you pack a fun dip on the side!
Pictured are tropical kabobs with red bell pepper, ham chunks, and pineapple, orange slices, cream cheese and jam on rice cake sticks, and a date.
What to put on a stick:
- Pizza sticks with a cherry tomato, mozzarella ball, pepperoni
- Melon balls
- Mini meatballs
- Deli meat and cheese
- Salad on a stick with chunks of lettuce, cucumbers, croutons
- Sandwich squares
- Chicken tenders
- Strawberries and waffle bites (toast a waffle and cut it into bite sized pieces)
- Chicken on a stick (flat, thin pieces of chicken breast grilled or baked with a tasty sauce or plain for dipping)
- Sliced hot dog or sausage
- Apple and cheese
- Corn on the cob (sliced into small rounds)
- Mini burgers with chunks of bread, pickles, and tomato
- Assorted raw veggies to dip in salad dressing or hummus
*For younger children, use blunt sticks (available online) to avoid injury.
*You can often find cupcake toppers (like the heart pictured above) sold with baking supplies. They make great picks for eating fruit or veggies.
*Rice cakes are a great alternative to bread for sandwiches.
Here’s to a new school year with fun and healthy lunches. When in doubt, keep it simple and try not to stress (easier said than done). Packing lunches doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious or nutritious!
Thank you so much Jen for these yummy ideas! Remember to go check out @whatmykideats for loads more delicious meal ideas for kids.
Creative QT designs quality + innovative toys that declutter homes and inspire creative play. Founded by parents of five, Adam and Dana Sue Hinkle, Creative QT’s vision is to empower parents and encourage a culture of families that Make Time Together. All products are designed to enrich families’ lives through active, creative play and play based learning. Creative QT products are laboratory tested for compliance with CPSC requirements and are free of lead, cadmium and phthalates so you can play with confidence. So, go ahead … today is the day: be your kid’s hero.
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