Time to dust off those brown bags or bento boxes. School’s back in session. Are you on the hunt for healthy lunch box ideas? I’m kind of lucky, I guess. My son wants the SAME lunch day after day. But in August, not only do we celebrate back to school, we also celebrate Kids Eat Right Month. SO, as a Registered Dietitian I’m here to help you come up with healthy ideas, but as a mom, I also want to be sure those ideas are easy and convenient. No Pinterest perfection required here.

These 5 fresh healthy lunch box ideas aren’t just “ideas,” but more importantly, they are a “template” you can follow. This allows you to use one or two templates and plug in the foods that you and your child prefer.

Each template includes what I call the 4 P’s:

  1. Protein: to support growing bodies plus fullness
  2. Produce:  for vitamins, minerals and plant-based antioxidants
  3. Power grains: for energy
  4. Pizzazz: for a little fun or fun food presentation.

Watch Jennifer talk healthy lunches on KMOV

Check out our family favorite Bento Box!

 

Here Are The Five Healthy Lunch Box Ideas

The “Snack” Lunch:

Unfortunately, most kids don’t get a lot of time to each lunch. The snack lunch is composed of healthy snack foods that don’t require utensils and are in snack-sized portions. Here are a couple healthy lunch box ideas:

  • Cheese cubes, whole-wheat crackers, raisins, and pistachio nuts + chocolate chips. Our family (and my fingernails) love how you can buy these Wonderful Pistachio no shells which offer healthy fats, plant-based protein, and fiber to help our children stay full after-school pickup.
  • Applesauce pack, turkey jerky, baby carrots, whole-grain granola bar (cut up into bites), animal cookies

The “Parfait” Lunch:

Kids love to be interactive with foods. Incorporating a playful element helps keep them interested. If this lunch idea feels “light,” you could always pair with with 1/2 a whole-grain sandwich.

  • Berry Yogurt Parfait:  1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 cup mixed berries, and 1/4 cup whole grain granola.
  • Peachy Pie Cottage Cheese Parfait: 1 cup cottage cheese + sliced peaches + pistachios and graham crackers to crumble.

The “Breakfast” Lunch:

It’s always more fun to eat breakfast at any other time than at breakfast. Here are a couple healthy breakfast ideas for lunch:

  • Whole-grain waffles with sun-nut butter, hard-boiled egg and fruit.
  • Whole-grain muffin, yogurt, banana slices, and nut butter for dipping

The “Dippers” Lunch:

Researches have shown kids will eat more produce when it is paired with a dip. While you might more containers to wash, kids will appreciate the variety of dips.

  • Bell peppers/ranch dip, Apple slices/nut butter, whole-crackers/hummus
  • Strawberries/yogurt, Tortilla chips/bean dip, Carrots/Italian dressing

The “I Made It Myself” Lunch:

Of all the healthy lunch box ideas, this is my favorite. An initiative of Kids Eat Right Month is to get our kids in the kitchen.  Perhaps teaching our kids how to make their own lunch is one way to do this. I’ve got a 7-year old, so to start, I’ll assign him one day a week, and then we can graduate it as he gets the hang of it. Once kids are old enough, teaching them how to make their own lunches is a win for both child and parent. Our kids feel empowered, they learn an important life-skill, and they are more likely to eat it! You, well, you know the benefits for you.

Let Them Lead the Way While Providing Guidance

Jack’s lunch box is actually divided into the food groups: fruit, veg, whole-grain, protein, and dairy. This helps guide his food choice.  He chooses chocolate milk at lunch (dairy), so I let that be his “pizzazz” choice.  To start, provide some examples of food choices that fulfill your desired food groups, and then let them decide and help you make it! You might start being a little more flexible in the beginning to start off on a positive note and keep up their level of interest.

mom and her two sons making lunchNo matter who is packing lunch, I recommend doing it at night. There are two things that make me really happy when I get up: a pre-set coffee maker and pre-made lunches.

May your first week of school start well, and may you have some fun in the kitchen with your kiddies in celebration of Kids Eat Right Month!

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.