school lunch ideas kids might actually eat

What can be more tedious than packing school lunches? 

You try to be creative. You try to pack healthy lunches.

And then the whole thing comes home the next day uneaten. What can a mom do?

Well plenty, if you get creative and work with the little brown-baggers to choose healthy lunch options, they might actually eat.

These fun school lunch ideas can help you make the midday meal more appealing to your grade-schooler.

Healthy School Lunch Ideas with Kid Appeal

Believe it or not, there are healthy foods your kids will enjoy in their lunch bags. These school lunch ideas can help get you started finding fun - and healthy - alternatives.

Sit down with your child and make a chart of the type of foods that must go into the lunch box each day.

Then write out mutually agreeable choices after each category. Encourage her to pick from at least four categories each day for variety. Your choices might look like this:

  • Beverage: Milk, water, fruit juice. Freeze water or juice, and by lunchtime, it will be cold and ready to drink.
  • Sandwich: Peanut butter, cheese, turkey, tuna salad. Vary the bread choices (English muffin, bagel, pita, tortilla, etc.) to make old favorites seem new.
  • Veggies: Broccoli, carrots, celery, jicama, pepper sticks, radishes, raw squash, zucchini. (These are more likely to be consumed if you pack a little container of ranch dressing for a dip.) 
  • Fruits: Apples, pears, and oranges hold up best. Bananas, plums, grapes, cherries, and peaches may get a bit squished. Be sure to protect them in plastic containers. Cube cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew, and put them in a container on the fridge shelf. Applesauce is another option.
  • Dairy: Yogurt, cheese sticks.
  • Snacks: Granola or fruit bars, dried fruit, raisins, pretzels, goldfish, nuts, pickles, trail mix, cold cooked pasta, popcorn, dry cereal, rice cakes.
  • Dessert: This is a toughie. Some schools don't allow them, but if yours does, there's no harm in including a pudding, cookie, or piece of cake. Don't pack candy.

Make Lunches Quicker and Easier

To make the making of school lunches quicker and easier, create an assembly line of the agreed-upon foods.

Sandwich in container and fresh fruit.

Devote one shelf of the refrigerator to lunch box foods. Make sandwiches the night before, and put them on the shelf alongside approved beverages.

Cut veggies into fun shapes, put them in plastic snack bags, and add them to the refrigerator shelf. Pour ranch dressing into small containers and add that to the mix.

Devote a special shelf of the pantry as well for school snacks and desserts. Make sure everything is packaged in one-serving packets. Be sure to have a good selection. Change it around each week for variety. Now every morning, your child can pack her lunch in five minutes. 

Make Lunch Fun

One way to make lunch fun is to let your child pick out her lunch box. Let her decorate it if she wants.

Make sandwiches fun by cutting them into fun shapes using sandwich cutters for kids or just any cookie cutters you have around the kitchen.

Insert a note in your child's lunch reminding him of some fun activity after school. Use brightly colored plastic utensils and napkins - maybe a crazy straw.

Finally, think beyond lunch. Pack snacks for morning and afternoon recess as well. Many kids cannot face breakfast, so they'll need a bit more nutrition to get through the school day.

Pack a granola bar or dry cereal to munch at morning recess. And if the kids have after-school activities, they'll need some sustenance to get them through that as well.

Don't worry if they don't eat everything. You'd rather have a little food returning home than your child being hungry, right? These school lunch ideas should make that goal a breeze.

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