50+ Lunchbox Ideas

50+ Lunchbox Ideas

The lunch box struggle. I think we all face it at some point: kids whining that there’s nothing to eat; getting bored with the same old lunch day after monotonous day, begging for Mom to buy the junk food that “the other kids” get to pack in their lunches.

Yes, I’m “one of those” moms; the mom that likes to see her kids eat healthy. The mom that refuses to fill her kid’s lunchboxes with sugary sweets and overly-processed garbage.

I never used to be so strict, but after dealing with my own autoimmune health issues over the years, I have learned so much about the role that food plays in our health. I’m not to the extreme where my kid can never have a treat; they get their fill of them at school, birthday parties and other extra-curricular activities.  I am of the mind set that I do not bring junk food into my home except maybe on rare occasions for birthdays or other parties. I’m not 100% on this (mainly because I have a husband, ha ha), but it’s a good “general” rule.

My kids are getting to the age where they are quite capable of making their own school lunches. I admit that I enjoy preparing healthy lunches and snacks for them though, so I do still help them in the mornings. I try to meal prep things that they can take in their lunches ahead of time, and then let them choose what they want each morning. I am trying to teach my kids the importance of nutrition and also balanced meals. I give them options in different food groups that they know to choose from. For example, they know that they need to have protein in their lunch box. They know they need to have fruit and/or veggies as well. They can choose 1-2 carbs and occasionally I’ll have a little “treat” for them as well. I also like them to have healthy fats somewhere in there, just because healthy fats are essential for brain development! Whether it is sunflower seeds sprinkled over a salad (or eaten plain), whole olives to snack on, or a pack of mixed nuts, I encourage the fats!

They don’t have to pack sandwiches. I was never a big sandwich-in-my-lunchbox kind of gal either, so I’ve created a list of “main dish” and protein snacks that they can pack in place of a sandwich. As long as their food groups are represented and it’s healthy, I don’t care what they pack!

I have a couple of bins in my pantry. One is for fruit cups, nuts, granola bars, etc and the other is a bin that I fill with pretzels and crackers and veggies straws (the “carby” snacks). Occasionally I will buy organic cheese puffs from Trader Joe’s. I don’t like buying the ready-to-go snack bags because I think they are way more expensive and I don’t really enjoy wasting money. Instead, I buy large bags and divide it into small snack size ziplocs. They know they can choose one snack from that bin.

My boys love uncrustable pb&j sandwiches, but in an effort to limit their chemical and preservative intake, I make my own rather than buy them from the store. When I’m on a good meal-prepping streak, I will use an entire loaf of bread and make sandwiches out of the whole loaf at one time. They can easily be frozen and they thaw out quickly, so the boys can grab them from the freezer in the morning and they are ready to go in their lunchbox by lunchtime! If your kids like uncrustables, the uncrustable maker is a must!! I got mine from Pampered Chef, but Amazon sells them as well.

Something that we have found works really well in our house is a thermos. There are so many lunch possibilities with a thermos! We tried the cheap plastic kind but the food doesn’t stay warm/cold for very long. A good stainless steel thermos will keep hot food hot, and cold food cold for a good 5-7 hours. Their food stays warm well into lunch and we’ve even tested it out through dinner time and the contents in the thermos were still warm. This opens up the possibility of so many lunch options: soups, leftovers, pasta salads, smoothies. My son loves chicken, so sometimes I will warm up some leftover chicken and put it in his thermos for him. If you don’t have a thermos I highly recommend getting one! They have kid friendly designs as well. My son loves his shark thermos!

Here is a list of lunch/snack ideas that I came up with. The possibilities are really endless, but these are what I would consider to be some of the staples in our home. I also included a printable version of this in case you want to hang it on your fridge to give you (and your kids) some fresh ideas! I categorized them by the “food group” they best fit under, but many of the items can fall under more than one category.

Main Dish & Protein Snacks

  • Cheese, meat and crackers
  • Deviled eggs
  • Uncrustable pb&j sandwiches (homemade)
  • Chicken salad on bread or crackers
  • Pasta-spaghetti, pasta salad, etc.
  • Protein energy balls
  • Salads with meat, eggs, cheese, etc.
  • Soups
  • Cucumber sandwiches
  • Celery and pb
  • Tortilla wraps
  • Apple sandwiches
  • Homemade pizza lunchables
  • Cheese squares/string cheese
  • Yogurt & granola
  • Dinner leftovers

Fruit/Veggies

  • Berry salad
  • Veggie sticks with hummus or dips
  • Organic go-go squeezies
  • Applesauce
  • Watermelon wedges
  • Grapes
  • Orange wedges/little cuties
  • Smoothies
  • Fruit cups
  • Dried fruit
  • Sautéed veggies (thermos)
  • Salad
  • Mini peppers
  • Salsa & tortilla chips
  • Plantain chips
  • Corn bean salsa & chips

“Carb” Snacks

  • Veggie straws
  • Pretzels
  • Organic cheez-its
  • Crackers
  • Graham crackers
  • Organic cheese puffs
  • Animal crackers

Healthy Fats

  • Olives
  • Nuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Kind bars
  • Larabars
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil based dressing

Treats

Get the printable here!

Happy lunch-making!

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

 

 

 

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