When it comes to finding the right healthy lunch box ideas for kids, did you know that many kids living in the US consume as many as half of their daily calories at school?
About 40% of our kids are buying at least one snack at school, either through the vending machines, student store, or the cafeteria. Even those eating healthy lunches can still consume excess calories from side dishes like chocolate milk, fries, and hamburgers which are served at school. The quality of our kid’s food at school is vital to their overall health.
During the pandemic, we saw a ‘striking’ increase in childhood obesity across the board that jumped substantially by 2%, regardless of race, ethnicity, and/or socioeconomic status.
Not surprisingly, about a third of kids and teens are now overweight or obese, risking their present and future health with diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease, and even some cancers.
Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the past three decades. Despite recent improvements to nutrition standards for school meals, the snack foods and beverages available to students are still largely unhealthy items like sugary drinks, chips, and candy.
What you are packing in your Child’s lunch box is one way to ensure that your child will get healthy and essential nutritious foods that taste good, look good, and that will support your child in establishing healthy eating habits for life.
Be the role model for your children so they can develop better eating habits! Cook for them, eat with them, and make mealtimes special.
So, what do you send your kids in their lunch boxes?
Here are some healthy lunch box ideas for your kids:
- Sandwiches were and still are the most popular choice for school lunch. They are a great way to load your child with nutrients (top all sandwiches with vegetables like: spinach, basil, cucumbers, green beans, avocado, celery, tomatoes, sprouts, protein etc.), that can carry them through the day. When making a sandwich choose whole grain bread, wraps, or pitas. Or gluten-free bread if you are sensitive to gluten.
Sandwich ideas: Goat cheese, cream cheese, hummus/tahini sandwich, hard-boiled eggs, or a scrambled spinach & egg sandwich, avocado sandwiches, kale-pesto sandwich, vegetables garden “latkes”
- Individual serving-sized packages of organic yogurt, cottage cheese, or yogurt smoothies with a small box of raw organic fruits or vegetables
- Finger foods – Young children love finger foods. Chopped raw or steamed vegetables like carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet peas, red bell peppers, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms. Place them in a box with a small container of vegetable dip. Try not to include more than 2 different types of vegetables at a time.
- Dips on the side: Avocado, tuna, hummus, tahini, cottage cheese, goat cheese, tzatziki, spinach dip, black bean avocado dip, cucumber dill dip, smoked salmon dip, pepper dip, baba ghanoush or tofu
- A Homemade muffin
- Vegetable pancakes
- Dinner Leftovers can be used as great lunches. Just make sure the food is heated up to at least 140 degrees before you load it into your child’s lunch box.
- Trail mix made with cereals, nuts, dates, pretzels, dried fruit or raisins. Pack it in a small container so they can enjoy it.
Additional Tips for Healthy Lunch Box Ideas for Kids
- How much your child will eat often depends on how easy you make it for them to eat. Chop it, prepare it, pack it, and put in the effort for them so they will spend their time eating it. Most recesses are time limited so make it easy for them to grab something healthy from their lunch box to snack on.
- Place the food in an easy to reach container. Use small containers for dips to mix with vegetables or fruits (kids love it).
- Pack a variety of healthy foods into their lunch box.
- Personally, I don’t like to send children with commercial crackers, chips and cookies. When given a choice, most children will go for these first and become full before they go for the healthier choices.
- If you send a fresh organic vegetable salad you may want to store it in a small container. Keep the dressing on the side in a separate container so the vegetables will not wilt and spoil.
- Water – you will be surprised to know that your child doesn’t drink enough water during the day. Encourage them to drink water – not the flavored ones, just pure water.
- Surprise them with love notes in their lunch box, this will bring a bigsmile to their face and brighten their day
The key to success is sending your child with a variety of healthy food choices and lunch box ideas. Simply make it a fun, creative, and positive experience!
Healthy Lunch Box Recipe Ideas
Avocado and Cucumber Sandwich
- Mash 1/2 ripe avocado in a bowl.
- Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and season it to taste with salt and pepper.
- Spread the avocado evenly on 2 slices of your bread of choice.
- Add a layer of thinly sliced cucumbers.
- Cover with the other slice of bread and press gently together.
- Fresh organic chopped onion
- 1 Pre-cooked, organic mashed carrot
- ¼ Cup feta cheese (if possible, organic)
- 2 Teaspoons of Kale pesto
- 2 Slices of your bread of choice
Directions for Sandwich:
- Mix the mashed carrots (or any other precooked vegetables) with the kale pesto.
- Spread the new version of the kale pesto on one of the bread slices.
- Add feta cheese on top.
- Cover with the other slice of bread and press gently together.
Kale Pesto Ingredients:
- 1 Bunch of fresh organic kale
- 2 Cups of fresh organic basil
- 2 Fresh organic chopped garlic cloves
- ½ Cup cold pressed virgin olive oil
- ¼ Cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Himalayan salt to taste
Directions for Kale Pesto:
- Cut kale and basil leaves, and place in 2 different bowls.
- Add kale to a large pan of boiled water, keep for 30 seconds (yes, seconds), then rinse in cold water. Squeeze out all liquid.
- Place “washed” kale, garlic, and basil into a food processor bowl.
- Process till finely chopped (here is the place to add any other precooked vegetables).
- Gradually, add olive oil and lemon juice (salt if needed).
*I love to add more garlic to this recipe but kids might find it a bit strong in flavor
Mini Veggie Quiches (4-6 pieces)
- 2-3 Pre-cooked organic mushrooms
- 1 Pre-cooked potato (mash it)
- ½ Cup of pre-cooked organic spinach
- ¼ Cup of pre-cooked organic green peas
- 1 Organic egg (beaten)
- ¼ Cup organic goat cheese
- ½ Cup organic avocado oil (to oil the muffin cups)
- Mix all pre-cooked vegetables in a mid-size bowl.
- Add egg and goat cheese, mix.
- Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared oily muffin cups. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into each cup.
- Bake for about 20-30 minutes (till tops brown) on 375˚F.
- Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Place a rack on top of the pan, flip it over and turn the quiches out onto the rack. Turn upright and let cool completely.
Mini Apple Pies
Ingredients for Pie Crusts:
- 1 1/8 Cups organic almond flour
- 2 Teaspoons sugar
- 8 Teaspoons cold butter (= 1 stick)
- 3 Teaspoons cold water
- ½ Teaspoon salt
- 1 Teaspoon baking powder
Directions for Pie Crust:
- Preheat oven to 400˚F.
- Sift together all ingredients till you get nice round dough.
- Put the dough in the refrigerator for 15min.
Ingredients for Filling:
- 4-5 Fresh organic apples (Granny Smith)
- 1 Tablespoon organic fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon organic cinnamon powder
- 3 Tablespoons organic raisins
- 1/3 Cup organic almond flour
- 1/3 Cup brown sugar
- 1 Teaspoon butter (1/8 of stick)
Directions for Filling:
- Peel and slice apples into thin pieces.
- Toss apple slices in a bowl with lemon juice.
- Add the flour, sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon and mix with the apples.
- Roll out each mini pie crust, spoon in apple filling, add a piece of butter on top of the filling.
- Foldthecrust over the filling and pinch ends to close each pie.
- Bake at 400˚F about 25-35 minutes.
Fresh Organic Tabouli Salad
- 2 Cups cooked organic quinoa
- 2 Fresh organic tomatoes
- 2 Fresh organic cucumbers
- 2 Fresh organic peppers
- 2 Bunches fresh organic parsley
- 1 Bunch fresh organic mint
- 1 Tbs organic olive oil
- Fresh organic lemon juice
- Fresh (or frozen) peas
- Chop all vegetables into a mid-size bowl.
- Add the pre-cooked quinoa to the vegetables bowl.
- Sprinkle with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.
- Mix all ingredients together.
If you have a picky child, you definitely want to use this method of cooking. Kids love pancakes. They’re easy to make and it’s easy to add new foods to the pancake mixture, thus avoiding the battle to upload their nutritional intake. This is a good reason to include it in your healthy lunch box ideas for your kids.
- 1 Cup of organic almond flour
- 1/8 Cup of organic potato starch
- ½ Teaspoon baking powder
- 1 Organic beaten egg
- ¼ Cup organic vanilla almond milk or flax seed milk
- 1 Teaspoon of organic pure vanilla extract
- ½ Cup of mashed: banana, avocado, apple, sweet potato, zucchini or any mixture of the food choices you want your child to eat
- ¼ Cup organic chocolate chips. Optional, this is your choice.
- Organic non-stick oil or coconut oil
- Mix all dry ingredients in a midsized bowl.
- Whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla extract and your preference of mashed fruit or vegetables.
- Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ones until well combined.
- Add chocolate chips (if you wish to).
- Heat skillet, griddle, or pan to medium. Spray with non-stick oil or coconut oil.
- With an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup, scoop pancake mix onto the hot surface. Lightly press down or form with the back of the scooper or measuring cup. Once there’s a few bubbles [about 2 minutes] flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. Remove and continue the process until the batter is gone.