5 Great Healthy Lunch Box Ideas for Kids Kids are tricky little creatures. For school age children, their lunchtime is a quick break away from learning and a way to reconnect with home when they bring their lunches to school. But, it's a far different experience than it was when we were kids, packing our lunches to school in a plain brown bag or our nifty metal box with our most recently favorite cartoon character on it. The coolest thing about that was the matching thermos -- usually filled with Kool-Aid.
But, lunch is much more serious business than just throwing in an uncrustable PB&J and a sugar-filled juice box. Creating a healthy and appetizing lunch can be a challenge, especially when you must do it daily. Kids are much more likely to eat what you have packed for them if it's fun and a looks interesting. It doesn't have to entail a ton of time, but it may require a little brainstorming as you go along. You can even include them be a part of the preparation process! Consider these five tips when you pack your child's next lunch:
- Pick a theme: Children love themes when they open up their lunches. When everything is the same color, starts with the same letter or resembles another theme, they are excited about chowing down on their options. For instance, a "green" lunch (for St. Patrick's Day, perhaps) might include some of the following options: white grapes, kiwi slices, olives, broccoli, honeydew melon pieces, celery pieces, pea pods, edamame, green beans, lettuce salad, peppers or avocado. You could pack an everything "S" lunch with strawberries, sweet potato chunks, stuffed peppers, string cheese, sweet corn, Swiss cheese, sandwich and other foods that begin with the letter "S." Kids also like themed lunches that coincide with holidays, animals, pirates, prince/princess and things they are learning about in school. The Reusable Squeezie's from Little Mashies are really great for packing foods and kids love them!
2.Cut it out: Fruit, lunch meat, vegetables, cheese, sandwiches, tortillas and other items can be cut to form shapes in the form of stars, animals, letters and other forms. These little cutters can be purchased from various places (including Amazon) and can really increase the chances of your son trying new foods, such as kiwi or melon. And, it makes their lunch a lot more interesting when they eat turkey stars, instead of just plain turkey pieces. Sandwiches take on new life when they are in the shape of a monster truck or a flower. It takes a few extra minutes to cut out these shapes, but knowing your kids will actually eat the food you send, instead of trading it for a pudding cup is worth it!
3 .Keep it separated: When a kid takes his lunch to school it gets tossed around, upside down and thrown all over the place. Keeping it all separated and looking nice, without using a dozen plastic baggies is a challenge. But, you can eliminate that by putting your kid's lunch in a bento box, stashed inside his lunch bag. A bento box has several dividers that keep foods in their own places within various sized spaces. It helps establish the mindset for proper portions and is an eco-friendly alternative to other disposable options. You can create food masterpieces and place them in the lidded box, knowing that they will stay intact when your kid opens them up to eat. And, kids like these, because they are just the right size for them.
4) Keep it warm
- One of the biggest complaints by both moms and kids is that lunch is always cold. And, while many of the items you put in a school lunch are just fine to eat cold (fruits, veggies, etc.), others aren't very yummy at luke-warm room temperature. If your kid loves chicken, but she won't eat it cold, warm it up and send it to school in an insulated container. While it may not be piping hot by the time lunch rolls around, it will be warm enough to still be good. Do this with soups, chicken and rice, spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs or other items that are just better warmed up.
5. Pocket it up
- Foods in a pocket just seem more fun. Put tuna and cheese or chicken and veggies inside a half round of low-carb pita bread for a more exciting alternative to a simple sandwich. Incorporate peas, carrots and other healthy options, too, as they are more likely to eat them mixed in with other foods they like, than alone.
And, while you want to keep it fun for your kids, do keep these basic healthy tips in mind as you select foods for the lunches:
- Pack whole foods -- fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and other products. Try to avoid processed foods, as they are full of ingredients your kids don't need and shouldn't have. Many chemicals (artificial flavors and artificial colors for example) approved in the United States that are banned in most other countries can contribute to lack of focus, fatigue, upset tummy and headaches. Whole clean foods keep your kiddo feeling GREAT at school :-)
- Watch sodium and sugar contents of foods you select for your kid's lunch.
- Pack water for them to drink. You can make it fun for with some of my water recipes!
~ Seay Stanford
Certified Holistic Health Coach