School lunches ideas are, of course, great children’s food for any time of day, not just for a lunch box. They also double as picnic finger food and backpack food when you send your troop of kids out into the back yard for an adventure.
You can easily elaborate on these ideas. If you make your children’s lunches look appetizing, you will greatly increase the likelihood that they will actually eat them. Thanks to Natasha Beery and the Grapevine newsletter for some of the ideas.
Many of these sandwich ideas are predicated on the great flavors of whole grain breads with seeds or fresh, tasty tortilla wraps. Kids quickly adopt the tastes of nutritious breads if that’s what they are consistently served. Our kids scorned white bread by age 3 or 4 because they were served so much great, tasty whole grain bread (in small quantities). Remember Mr. Rogers’ advice: serve kids’ portions to kids!
At home, warm whole grain breads (not toast them to a crisp) and spread a little butter or honey on them for a snack. That’s hard for a kids to resist. Later, they will recognize it in sandwiches and remember how great that first taste was.
For the first twenty lunch ideas, see our page on Kids School Lunch Ideas.
- Cheese balls rolled in nuts. You will need softer cheeses, such as cream cheese, Brie, Camembert, or Havarti, for example. Just roll the cheese into small balls and roll in chopped nuts. Walnuts are usually the most popular.
- Cinnamon raisin bread with thinly sliced apple and cheese makes a great sandwich!
- Toast with hummus tastes great with a seeded whole grain bread and some tasty hummus. Cut into triangles and use as many as your child can eat.
- Toast spread with avocado is great with a light sprinkle of salt. You can also use mini bagels with avocado for variation.
- Buy or make pumpkin bread or muffins. Spread cream cheese inside and it’s ready to go, loaded with vitamin A, carbs, protein, and some, but not too much fat, if you use the low fat cream cheeses!
- Fill Celery sticks (washed and cut into sections) with cream cheese or any nut butter. Put raisins on them to make “Ants on a Log.” Celery is high on the “heavily sprayed with pesticide list from the Environmental Working Group’s annual list, so please use organic celery from the farmers market or a grocery store. If your Costco doesn’t carry organic celery, ask them to. Ours does.
- Fresh flour tortillas spread with cream cheese are fun and delicious. Cut them into little logs and pinch the ends. Vary this one with sun-dried tomato or spinach tortilla wraps. Kids just see red and green logs instead of white!
- Mash a banana and spread it on whole grain bread. Spread a light layer of cottage cheese on top and finish off the sandwich with another slice of bread. Cut into triangles.
- Boxes of raisins, dried cranberries, or cherries make a nice fruity dessert for school lunches.
- Pita pockets with cheddar cheese or goat cheese so well with the dried fruits above.
- Small containers of dried seaweed contain nutritious minerals and trace elements. Costco and Trader Joes have them pretty inexpensively. The kids in our pre-school loved them instantly.
- Make the Projass recipe (crustless quiche with spinach) the night before and cut into squares. Package up 3-4 squares in a small container for great protein and a dark leafy vegetable (spinach providesVitamin K and one vegetable serving).
- Bran Muffins (homemade or purchased) with honey or cream cheese are great fiber and nutrition. Be aware that many of the bran muffin commercial offerings have way too much fat to be healthy, so read labels before buying. Just a few grams of fat are OK, but more than 5 grams per muffins is gross. Put those back on the grocery store shelf and continue searching for something healthier.
- Small containers of applesauce or fruit puree are favorites for kids. Don’t forget to send along a spoon, preferably one that you don’t need again.
- Cucumber cut into “coins” or cubes are fresh and crispy in a school lunch.
- Small corn on the cob, broccoli, baby carrots, sweet pepper strips, or jicama go well with ranch dressing. We’ve never seen a kids pass on ranch dressing but they use the veggies as “spoons.”
- Pita pockets with avocado, a small amount of chopped tomato, and some fresh cilantro have a salsa-like taste that kids love.
- Bake a potato the night before, halve lengthwise, and mash the insides. While still hot, add grated cheddar cheese and a little black pepper. Put into a container and refrigerate. By the time it’s eaten in the lunch, it will be warm enough to eat as is.
- Baby bananas often have more flavor than the typical large banana. Package one in such a way that it won’t get too squished before lunch.
- Small yogurts provide probiotics, protein, and carbohydrates. Watch the sugar content in some of the yogurts to avoid turning a great meal into a sugar wipe-out. Greek yogurts taste like eating cream—incredibly tasty.
- Even though we said it in the first 20 ideas, fresh fruit pieces are the perfect sugar pick-me-up for the afternoon. Some fruits have fructose in them, but all that do also have fiber, slowing down the digestion of the fructose, like a slow-release energy supply. Use Cantaloupe and watermelon pieces, orange sections, pineapple, apricot, and kiwi (organic not necessarily needed) and strawberries, grapes, apple slices, blueberries (always organic, please. These are some of the most heavily sprayed crops. Please keep pesticide residues out of your little ones’ stomachs.).