Think INSIDE the Lunchbox with '4 Ingredients'

By , Kim McCosker, 4 Ingredients
Editor's Note: I recently connected with Kim McCosker, of the Australian best-selling cookbooks and popular websites, 4 Ingredients. Vivacious and passionate, the 4 Ingredients team is run by busy moms who are committed to making healthy cooking easy and fun for the whole family. Today, Kim shares her best tips for getting kids to eat right at lunchtime.
With three active and growing boys ages 9, 6 and 3, lunchboxes are a part of my family’s daily routine! If you are like me, a busy mom intent on giving your kids delicious, nutritious lunches, here are some great ideas to get your children back to school packed with healthy foods.
I like these because they are quick, easy and economical and often help me make use of my leftovers.
Choose a lunchbox with individual compartments, or otherwise use lidded containers, kids loooove little containers of things! Then add some of these...

Apple slices: Served with peanut, cashew, or almond butter or then sprinkled with coconut or raisins. Or add thinly sliced orange and lemon slices with honey to the top.
Cheese cubes: With sliced turkey and grapes--for a lunchbox cheese board!
Crackers: Variety is the spice of life, so buy different crackers each week. Choose whole-grain crackers, of course.
Cottage cheese: Top crackers with cottage cheese, chopped toasted walnuts or raisins.

Fruit Salad: Is the ideal lunch box solution; it’s colorful, easy to eat and bursting with vitamins. Our faves are strawberries, grapes, apple and oranges (the juice of the orange prevents the apple from discoloring too)!
Leftovers: The trick is to think ahead and make a little extra at dinner for lunch the next day. Roast chicken becomes a yummy sandwich when cut and mixed with a finely chopped, dried apricot and mayonnaise, or it can be part of our sensational Chicken Carnival Cones! Turn leftover rice into a yummy fried rice, and Spaghetti Bol Scrolls cleverly uses any leftover spaghetti bolognaise sauce.

Lunchbox Sushi: This is a hit in our household! Instead of rice, we use whole-grain bread.
Pikelets: Oz’s version of a smaller pancake. (Editor's note: Use mini pancakes leftover from breakfast.) Take two, spread with nut butter and strawberry jam and watch them fly!
Yogurts: Add a separate container of wheat germ, granola, toasted coconut, berries, or chopped walnuts for a kid-pleasing crunchy topping.
What are your kids' favorite lunchbox foods?  

About 4 Ingredients: Written by Rachael Bermingham and Kim McCosker, these bestselling cookbooks are jam packed full of quick, easy and very delicious recipes that you can easily whip up to WOW your friends and family, and ALL with only 4 or fewer ingredients.

You won't need to spend a fortune in measuring utensils. To use 4 Ingredients all you will need is 1 cup, 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon - it's cooking made real easy!

There are fantastic recipes for breakfast to dinner, entrees to desserts and lunchbox delights.
You will be super surprised and delighted with the fantastic dishes you can create using this easy to follow cookbook AND with ingredients mainly already found in your pantry!

If you are a busy person, or on a tight budget, have moved out of home, are still fine tuning your culinary skills, are going camping, are on the move and haven't a lot of room for a full pantry, OR you simply haven't had time to do the groceries, then this is the book for you!

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Thanksfor the blog - all good ideas
Our elementary school is nut free so lots of these don't work. I never thought yogurt or cottage cheese would stay cold long enough but maybe I'll try that.

My high school son always packs leftovers from supper because they have a microwave, or takes a sandwich with a lot of fruit. Report
My oldest daughter loves vegetable soup, so I bought a small thermos container that will keep the soup warm until lunchtime. Other hit items are string cheese, berries, and Fiber One bars. Report
My 8yo will eat apples with peanut butter at home. At school, it's a different story. One of his best friends has a peanut allergy, and even though my son is allowed to have nuts and peanuts in the lunchroom, he doesn't want to ("just in case", to protect his friend). Report
a Bento Box! that would work!!

the lunch containers sound cute. Report
Thanks! These are good ideas of stuff to keep on hand - cottage cheese, apples, yogurt and leftovers are all economical and my kids like them, too! Report
i dont have any kids but i love these ideas and plan to try them out on myself and my lil brother he is 11 yrs old and very picky thanks Report
With my kids it seems to help if I ask them what they want. However, that only "helps" it's not a full proof method because sometimes they still don't finish their milk or eat the healthiest items. I'll find out they ate the cheesy puffs and Nutrigrain bar but left the yogurt and grapes behind. Ugh! And they wonder why they are hungry after school and why I make them eat their veggies at dinner!

I just think it's a universal struggle and if we don't all make an effort and get the Lunchables off the shelves and fix the school lunches we will continue to have problems. I know not everyone will be perfect and some will still serve white bread bologna, mayo and processed cheese with chips and soda to a 7 year old, but we have to keep trying.

rumbamel Report
My 16-year-old daughter is VERY active and needs large quantities of quick and easy foods for lunch and snacks during the day, otherwise she will lose more than the usual 10 pounds a year after marching band season starts. To keep her fed on a day when she has practice, I start with a sandwich on whole wheat bread with turkey or chicken sandwich meat (low sodium or "natural" type), 9 slices of pepperoni, a slice of cheddar cheese and some mayo. For snacking, I throw in prunes and dried apricots, Babybel cheese, pre-packaged fruit snacks, an apple and/or fig newtons. She doesn't always eat everything, but it's there just in case. Report
My boys are all grown & off, but these are great ideas for MY lunches for when I get called to sub at school! Report
My boys love these ideas, however, when my oldest started middle school and I went to check his locker, there were dozens of molded lunches :( He wanted to buy like all of the other kids. I finally gave in. We eat very healthy at home though, so that makes me feel a bit better!! Report
Having watched kids at lunch time throw apples and carrots in the trash, I wouldn't bother sending them in a child's lunch. Not while the kid setting next to him has Fruit Rollups and Oreos. LOL My children went to Catholic Schools where they could buy Pizza or Hamburgers for lunch, so I let them. Then I brought some "good food" when I picked them up at 3 PM as they were always hungry on the ride back home. Report
I don't have kids - but all these ideas sound great for me - thanks for the tips Report
Forget pleasing kids (since I don't have any of my own), I want to pack these adorable lunches for myself!! Report
My lunches are growing by leaps and bounds in my imagination--thanks for the great ideas. Report
great thanks my kids start back to school soon Report
Thank you for sharing these great ideas. Report
This sounds great. I am going to try it for me not just the kids. I always need something for a quick and healthy lunch for me at work and I get very bored with sandwiches and salads everyday. thanks! Report
These are great ideas that I'll even use for myself. The only thing I'm concerned about is the nut butters. Many schools don't allow children to bring any kind of nut product to school anymore because of allergies. Just a heads up. Report
I am amazed that some people will say they have a hard time staying away from certain pre-healthy lifestyle foods and not trying any of these delicious healthy options! Lately, my fave dessert has been a sliced Fuji apple with cinnamon sprinkled on it. All of these healthy suggestions are keepers for home as well! Thanks for the great blog. Report
My 9 yr old boy is a very fussy eater. I would be willing to try some of these. Report