20 Days of School Lunch Ideas to Try This Month
Most parents have experienced the overly selective eating habits of children. The pickiness usually starts during the toddler years, and luckily, it's most often short lived.
But if you need some ideas on school lunches for your finicky tots (the human ones, not the tater type), we've got you covered.
If your little ones don't enjoy these easy to make, delicious dishes, they should have their taste buds examined.
Three things in life are certain: death, taxes and children who love Lunchables. But since you probably don't want to stockpile actual Lunchables in your refrigerator, you can easily create your own version as needed.
Here are a few food options to use for this homemade adaptation:
- - Cheese slices
- - Crackers (Ritz or What Thins work well)
- - Pepperoni slices
- - Sliced fruit or yogurt covered raisins
- - Nuts (if your child's school is not nut-free)
- - Cookies (unless you don't eat sugar in your home)
Use plastic food containers with dividers to make packing your children's lunches easy.
Take a look at the way mom blogger Lisa from What Lisa Cooks separates her kids' lunch foods. She's got some other great homemade Lunchable ideas too.
Mini Corn Dog Muffins
These might not be the healthiest choice for lunch, but there are a few good reasons to send your child to school with these in their lunchbox.
First, hot dogs in any form are like wine for parents — you really can't go wrong. Second, these can double as dinner! Make them the night before and then set some aside for your child's lunch the next day. And third, they could also be served for breakfast. (Um, muffins, hello!).
And while we don't necessarily recommend eating them for all three meals, we are confident that your kids will not complain about finding them inside their lunch sack.
For the recipe on making these, head over to the Iowa Girl Eats blog. While these muffins might be enough to satisfy your child's appetite, consider packing a small snack with them, like crackers, baby carrots or veggie chips.
Ham and Cheese Apple Wraps
Add a little sweetness to the classic ham and cheese combo by wrapping it around an apple slice.
It's a great way to incorporate a fruit serving into your child's diet. Plus, the cool way the meat wraps around the apple slice makes the food more fun for kids.
Include a few snacks to go along with the wraps. Things like nuts (if they're allowed at the school), crackers, granola bars or even popcorn will offset the sweet flavor with a bit of salty to balance things out.
Nutella and Banana Sushi
Children and sushi don't generally go well together. But Nutella and banana sushi? Kids can't refuse!
Start with a tortilla and cover it with Nutella. (There's a good chance your kids will want to help make these.) Then lay a peeled banana on the edge of the tortilla and roll it up. Cut into slices and they're ready to go. You can garnish with strawberry slices or raspberries too. In fact, these would taste really good with almost any fruit.
Juice boxes will add to the fruity flavor, so consider sending one along. However, if you're concerned about your child's sugar intake, save the juice box for another day.
Sometimes all kids need is a new way to look at things. For whatever reason, a sandwich on a skewer is way more fun that a standard one. And hey, if that works, go for it!
Just take everything you would ordinarily put on your child's sandwich (sans condiments) and stick it on a skewer. Your kids will have a blast eating and you won't have to spend time preparing a sandwich that will likely get pulled apart anyway.
Grab a few "on the go" snacks to pack with the kabobs, like applesauce (don't forget to pack a spoon), string cheese or granola bars.
If you have time in the morning to cook, you might consider making Ramen noodles for your child to bring for lunch.
One mommy blogger, Emmy Mom, makes hers by draining the water and then adding just a bit of the seasoning and a little butter. This isn't ideal if your child has no place to warm the noodles up at school, however, kids are usually not picky when it comes to food temperatures. (Figure that one out.)
It's also possible to put the noodles in a drink thermos with heat sustaining technology to keep them warm until lunchtime.
As for what else to pack with the Ramen noodles, Emmy Mom has great ideas like string cheese, crackers or applesauce.
If your children are under the age of 5, there's a good chance that a full-sized burrito is more than their little tummy can handle. Fortunately, there's a way they can still enjoy burritos and actually finish them!
Mini burritos are the perfect size for smaller kids. You can fill them with the same scrumptious ingredients, but use a pizza slicer to cut the tortilla into small wedges before filling.
Over at The Girl Who Ate Everything, you'll find an appetizing mini burrito recipe that can be frozen, so you can put these in your child's lunch on one of those "we're running so late" mornings when you don't have time to prepare food.
Scoop some salsa or guacamole into a small portable container, throw some tortilla chips in there and you've got a nice little Mexican meal all ready to go.
Almond Butter and Jelly Sandwich
There's nothing like a classic PB & J sandwich. However, using almond butter instead of peanut butter is a healthier alternative and provides an interesting change to the flavor.
This works fine for children who attend schools that don't have anti-nut policies. And to make the sandwich even more fun, try cutting it into a fun shape using a cookie cutter- kids love that!
Along with the sandwich, send a fruit cup, string cheese, trail mix or a granola bar.
Summer Pasta Salad
Older kids might like the idea of bringing a "grown up" pasta salad to school. Mom Christi of Love From The Oven has a great recipe to try.
It's loaded with healthy ingredients like veggies and mixes in cheese, Italian dressing mix and, of course, pasta. This colorful dish will need to be prepared ahead of time, but could definitely double as dinner. One fun and easy way to send it to school with your child is to put it in a plastic to-go cup.
Your kids will love this portable way to enjoy their pasta salad. Just make sure you pack a fork.
And since this meal is full of nutritious vegetables and includes a few standard "sides," you might not need to pack anything else but a drink.
Fruit and Veggie Smoothie
What can your children enjoy for both breakfast and lunch that's healthy and delicious? A fruit and veggie smoothie.
Most kids won't turn down the chance to indulge in the creamy concoction. And a smoothie is a great way to feed your children fruits and veggies without them realizing it.
Plus, it's so simple to toss a bunch of ingredients into a blender and mix. This is a smart choice if you're running late or need to throw something together quickly.
Depending on what ingredients you use to make the smoothie, here are some ideas of what else to pack with it in your child's lunch:
- - Yogurt
- - String cheese
- - Granola bar
- - Trail mix
- - Fruit (double up for extra nutrients)
Bagel and Cream Cheese
With the variety of cream cheese flavors there are, you are sure to find one that your kids will like. And come to think of it, bagels are continually evolving in the flavor department too.
So a tasty combination of the two has the word "homerun" written all over it. Pair the bagel with sides like:
- - A yogurt tube
- - Baby carrots or carrot sticks
- - Crackers
- - Potato chips
- - Veggie straws
Grilled Cheese Roll Ups
You just need three ingredients to make these hard-to-resist roll ups:
- - Bread
- - Cheese slices
- - Butter
Sounds like every child's dream come true. Which is precisely why these are a great choice for their school lunch. Not only are they super delicious and easy to make, kids will love how unique they are.
Rolled up grilled cheese? That's not something you see every day. And while grilled cheese and tomato soup is a marriage made in heaven, try a different side like cherry tomatoes, veggie straws or baby carrots.
To learn how to make these, pop over to Coupon Clipping Cook, where you'll find the recipe.
Mini Salad Pita Pockets
When most kids hear the word "salad," they equate it with all things gross. But a salad they don't know is a salad just might get their attention. Like with these adorable salad pita pockets.
You essentially open a pita pocket and fill it with typical salad ingredients like lettuce, cheese and a meat of choice. You can get very creative here.
Pack a small plastic container with some salad dressing and let your child drizzle it on when it's lunch time. They'll have fun eating the pitas, and you'll feel good knowing you got them to eat salad! (Well, sort of.)
So what should you pair with these cuties? Any of these foods work great:
- - Nuts (you could even put these in the pitas)
- - Potato chips
- - Veggie straws
- - Hardboiled eggs (unless you include these in the salad)
- - Cookies or a small piece of chocolate (a reward for eating salad!)
Is there anything better than pizza? Not in the mind of a child. (Okay, maaaaybe ice cream. It's a tough call.) Yours will be beyond excited to learn they are getting pizza for lunch.
But what's really terrific about these pizza buns is that you can take the opportunity to spend more time with your child while making them. The full from scratch recipe and ingredient list can be found on Simple as That.
These are basically pizzas rolled up, so they aren't the healthiest choice in the world. However, you don't have to serve them to your child all the time, and it's nice to have a special way to bond that creates lifelong memories.
Counteract the grease and carbs by packing more nutritious snacks with the pizza buns, like fresh veggies. Carrots and ranch dressing would be good because your child could also dip the pizza buns in the dressing.
Pasta usually goes over well with kids. However, in the event yours is going through an anti-pasta (as in, against it, not the Italian appetizer) phase, here's one way to get them excited about it — try adding some color.
You can buy pasta that's already "colored," but it's pretty easy to liven it up in bolder colors with food coloring. Here's a great tutorial on how to dye pasta.
Once you've got some dramatically colored noodles, put them in your child's lunchbox. Include any or all of the following to join up with the pasta:
- - Fruits
- - Veggies
- - Turkey slices
- - Applesauce
Whether you make them with only cheese, chicken and cheese or a bunch of different ingredients, quesadillas are a simple, relatively healthy choice for your child's lunch.
Make them the night before to save time in the morning. Even if your child can't heat them up at school, quesadillas don't taste horrible cold. Pack a bit of salsa to go with them, which will give the quesadillas a boost of flavor.
Depending on your child's age and level of food fussiness, there are many different ingredients you can either cook into the quesadilla or include on the side. Consider these:
- - Avocado slices
- - Tortilla chips
- - Beans
- - Chicken slices
- - Fruit
Hummus and Pitas
If your child actually eats hummus, you're in luck. (And what's your secret?) Hummus can easily be packed with pitas for your child to enjoy for lunch at school.
You might be able to find small to-go jars of hummus that fit perfectly in their lunchbox, but if not, just scoop some into a condiment sized plastic container. This is better than putting it in a compartment of a box with dividers because it creates less of a mess.
Foods that mesh well with the flavor of hummus are olives, baby tomatoes, carrot sticks and salami. Because of the intensity of hummus, avoid packing anything too sweet or fruity with it.
PB & J Banana Burritos
You'll almost always earn an A+ by serving your child PB & J. But you can get an A++ by taking the classic creation and giving it a fun twist. (And you don't even need to do extra credit!)
Mission Tortillas has a delicious PB & J Banana Burrito recipe that your kids will find irresistible. It's so easy to make, too. Just spread some peanut butter on the tortilla, add a bit of jelly, put a peeled banana on the edge and roll it up like a burrito!
Include easy, similar flavored snacks to go with it, like:
- - Nuts
- - Applesauce
- - Trail mix
- - Fruit cup
- - Kettle corn
Tuna and Crackers
This meal idea won't work for all kids. Tuna is somewhat of an acquired taste and younger children are generally not fond of it.
But, What Lisa Cooks has a fabulous tip on making tuna more palatable. Lisa adds mayo and a handful of shredded cheese. The word "cheese" is synonymous with heaven to most kiddos. So there's a good chance that this version of tuna will go over well with your child.
Pack some crackers for them to eat with the tuna. This will cover up some of the tuna flavor and give your kids a salty dose of crunch. Just in case they decide they don't like the tuna, even with the addition of cheese, make sure to pack enough sides for them to enjoy.
Lisa suggests foods like fruit (strawberries or raspberries) or cheese (Babybel or string work well). You can also try baby carrots or veggie straws.
Sweet Fruit Wrap
Over at Super Healthy Kids, there's a recipe for sweet fruit wraps. It's one of 10 kid-friendly wrap — we encourage you to check out the rest. Since children generally gravitate towards sweeter flavors, this is likely to be a lunch they will devour with no problem.
The recipe uses cream cheese, pineapple juice and honey for a tortilla spread that is topped with fruits like pineapple, blueberries and raspberries. You just roll it up and munch away.
Since this is a healthy option, it's fine to pack a "goody" in your child's lunch too. Something sweet like chocolate graham crackers, birthday cake flavor Goldfish crackers or mini chocolate chip cookies.
It's all about balance and moderation, right?