The Best Kid-Tested Lunchbox Recipes

By , SparkPeople Blogger

My nephew phoned me last week to tell me that his first day of kindergarten was great. He loved his teachers, made some new friends, and got to eat his cookie before he ate his sandwich and vegetables because his mom was not around to tell him that he could not--freedom at last! I had to laugh because it made me think just how many other kids out there do the same. I would guess a lot.

Can't you see them all now sitting at the lunch table together, unpacking their new lunch bags then holding up the after-meal treats as a toast to newfound freedom? Let's just hope the lunch lady does not catch on. I guess the moral of the story is that if you give them a treat you know they will eat it first, so why don't you send them with a healthy treat? Then everyone is happy. I like to pack Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins in my kids' lunch boxes for a sweet treat--one that will add fiber and fruit to the meal.

So besides a healthy treat, what else should you pack? (The SparkPeople Cookbook will have plenty of great ideas!) This is where the kids really need to be involved. As my kids have grown, the lunches I pack have changed considerably. The first thing I have noticed lately is the amount of food I am sending! With three teenagers, it sure is a lot. For a perfect guide to serving sizes according to ages, check out Dietitian Becky Hand's article A Parent's Guide to Nutrition for Kids Part 1 and Part 2.

Take your kids with you to the store and then let them help in the preparation. The more involved they are in the process, the better the chances are that they will enjoy their lunch. For younger children, it is all about shapes. A simple turkey sandwich becomes a lunch table discussion when it is transformed into a shape of a fish or moon. Go with a theme day once a week. I used to love our ocean day. I would cut their sandwiches into the shape of a fish, slices of cheese or fruit into starfish, and carrots or celery into shark's teeth. My kids who are all now teenagers want food with flavor. They loved reworked dinners! If we are having whole wheat pasta for dinner, I cook extra then reheat it the next day with a different sauce and send it along toppings that they can add at lunch time. Transforming meals into wraps is another trick. If we have any leftover pork, I reheat and roll it into a wrap with black bean sauce and bean sprouts for an easy Mu Shoo pork wrap. Soups are great for older kids. Send along healthy toppings such as low-fat cheeses, baked tortilla chips, or beans.
Whether you child is 8 or 18 they will love to dip their foods. Send along some of these healthy fun dip combinations.

  • Low fat yogurt with granola bars or sliced pineapple.

  • Hummus with large pepper strips or baked whole-wheat tortilla chips (like those I use with my Skinny Fiesta Dip with Baked Lime Chips).

  • Nut butter spread with sliced apples. I make mine with equal parts nut butters and light cream cheese.

  • Pumpkin spread with toasted raisin English muffin slices.

Your kids might like some of these recipes, too--and so will you!

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BLOND1E 5/13/2021
ERIN_POSCH 9/10/2020
thanks for sharing Report
What great ideas. My grandkids love to pack their lunches because the food that's served at school goes uneaten. They all say the school lunches are gross. Report
Thanks for sharing a lot of good ideas Report
My 5 yo daughter got tired of sandwiches so I sent grilled chicken pieces. They were available in the grocery store ready-to-serve for salads. She also loves whole-wheat tortillas and whole wheat Ritz crackers. Report
No kids here, but I'm borrowing the leftovers into wraps idea. And the Curried Chicken Pitas! :-) Report
Fresh fruit - I work at a school and I love to look at the lunches kids bring. I have kids that have peppers with a little cup to dip ranch. I have kids who bring grapes, strawberries, and blueberries. More kids are starting to pack whole grain. I've seen several whole wheat PBJ's lately. One can eat healthy on a budget. The best bet is truly to let the kids help pack their lunch! We always encourage kids to eat their "healthy foods 1st!". Report
Great ideas. Report
My teenaged daughter loves tabouli, and I love to put it in her lunch. I use a small leftover container. Healthiest food ever! Report
Gosh, I haven't had deviled eggs in years. My mom used to make those for me for my lunches once in a while.

I think Bananas are the best snack for kids. They come in their own packages. Report
These ideas are good especially for mothers with young children or even grandmothers who have grandchildren living with them. Report
These ideas are useful for people with young children or those who have grandchildren living with them. Report
Great ideas. My trouble is packed lunches for teenagers (and adults). Including an extra snack between school and afterschool activities is also a good idea. They need extra energy for practice. Report
Some good ideas here. I'm more interested in ideas for my own lunches at this point. Report