It’s Lunch Time!
The lunchbox. Every morning parents fill it up. Every afternoon kids return with it empty. Everything that happens in between is a mystery. The better the food, the better the chance that the lunch ended up where it was intended. For some parents the lunchbox is a menacing presence all school year. For others, it is a chance to give their kid some much needed nutrition. If you are lucky enough to have a kid who will eat anything, this article isn’t for you. You won. Stop bragging. For the rest of you, dive into 10 healthy school lunch ideas hand picked for their creativity — and the likelihood your kid will actually enjoy it.
Note: Given all of the special diets out there it is important we iterate that “healthy” is a broad term. What is healthy for a Paleo dieter is very different from a vegan. We tried to gather ideas that offered something for everyone. In order to qualify as “healthy”, the food simply needed to be nutritious, low calorie, low sugar, and not pre-packaged. Bon appetite!
The Roll-Up: Deconstructed sandwiches are all the rage. Since gluten-free and paleo diets have taken center stage, people are looking for any opportunity to lose the bread. Here is a fun way to give your kid some classic sandwich flavors without all the carbs. You simply roll-up some deli meat and cheese, stick in a toothpick, and voila you are done. Some of our favorites include: (1) roast beef, cheddar, with mustard for dipping (2) turkey, provolone, kale (3) salami, swiss, spinach.
Vegetable Chips / Popcorn: We’re giving you 2-for-1 here because these are pretty simple ideas. Yet sometimes the simplest ideas are the most powerful. The potato chip bag has long been a staple of the American lunch box (#doritos), but times have changed. Enter the baked vegetable chip in all of its glory. There are plenty of brands out there, or you can get a mandoline slicer and make your own. Also, popcorn is a fun treat. You can dress things up by adding parmesan cheese, cinnamon and brown sugar (unrefined of course), or whatever seasoning your kiddo prefers.
Lavash Bread Pizza: Lookout parents. Once you pack this incredible thin-crust-style pizza, your kid may never want to eat anything else — just sayin’. Lavash bread is a thin flatbread that can be found in most grocery stores. You can eat it with a nice hummus dip. Or, you can blow your kids mind with an easy-to-make personal pizza! You should definitely go with the latter. Throw on some olive oil, cheese, veggies, and meats, put it in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 350, and a mouth watering pizza is born. It is easy to cut into little squares and pack away into any sized lunch box.
Homemade Popsicle: Most health conscious folk have invested in a smoothie maker of some kind so we will keep this one short. Make smoothie. Freeze Smoothie. Eat popsicle.
Homemade PopTart: PopTarts are genius. But these handheld pastries are packed with too much sugar and preservatives. You can make the same thing at home with minimal hassle. Simply buy some pre-made pie crust, fill it with your kids favorite filling, form into a pocket, and bake. The principle remains the same whether you go sweet or savory (a la Hot Pocket).
DIY Trail Mix: Why bother with store-bought trail mix? Unless they are from another planet, your kid is going to throw out all of the raisins anyways. Certain grocery store chains have a bulk nut and seed section so you can build your own trail mix. This way you can come up with the perfect combo you know your kid will enjoy. If they are good kids, maybe throw in some dark chocolate pieces.
Rice Bowls: Rice bowls are hardly a revelation, but they are so versatile we had to mention them. Also, if you have a rice cooker these are by far the easiest healthy lunch solutions you could find. It is sooo easy. Step one: scoop rice into lunch container. Step two: throw last night’s leftovers on top. We know what you are thinking, but hear us out. If last night’s dinner was BBQ pork, today’s lunch is a BBQ pork rice bowl. If last night’s dinner was roast chicken, today’s lunch is a chicken rice bowl. Get it? It works with almost anything.
Sandwich Sushi: Creatively simple meals are what lunchtime is all about. Sandwich sushi fits the bill (especially if you are down to 1 slice of bread). The finished product looks like a sandwich wrap sliced into little sections. You can make it with sliced bread, though we recommend large slices or a tortilla for better rolling. Just pack the bread/tortilla with your kids favorite sandwich stuff, roll it up, and slice into sushi sized bites. This works best with PB&J, bananas and honey, or sandwiches without a lot of ingredients.
Deconstructed Lasagna: One temptation we had to avoid for this article was listing off dips. Hummus, yogurt, and other scoop-and-serve options were too obvious for consideration. However, this dippable set-up was too fun to omit. Next time you make lasagna, make some extra noodles and set them aside along with some pasta sauce and cheese. Pack your kid’s lunch with separate containers for each one and let them go to town. What… we said “healthy” lunch ideas not “mess-free” lunch ideas. We wouldn’t suggest pairing this lunch with a white outfit.
Energy Balls: This one is for anyone with a food processor. Energy ball recipes have been making the rounds among healthy food communities. There are some made out of dates and coconut that taste like cookie dough. There are some that include dark chocolate morsels. Whatever your preference, your kid will surely thank you. Here is one of our favorites.
BONUS – Homemade Instant Noodles: The “instant” part of this recipe name is purely referential. It may require a little bit of work, but the flavors are spot on. Combine noodles, carrots, peas, and cover with a soy-ginger sauce. Add sesame seeds. Beats styrofoam ramen any day of the week.
[P.S.] Tell us your healthy lunch ideas!