10 Fun and Healthy Lunchbox Ideas for Kids

These healthy and tasty lunch ideas will help keep young schoolchildren full and focused. (Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

A healthy lunch that kids want to eat helps keep them full and focused. (Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Nutrition is a family affair. Send young children off to school on the right nutritional foot with these 10 tasty (and easy!) ideas for packable school lunches (via FamilyEducation.com):

1. All-American Favorite
Many kids love turkey. Make a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce and mayonnaise or butter. Add a small juice box or water bottle, sliced apples and baby carrots.

2. Make Your Own
Pre-packaged lunches are loaded with fat and sodium, but you can make your own for less money. Invest in a few sectioned containers (or repurpose a small, plastic, fish tackle box) to pack the food in. For mini pizzas: Arrange round crackers, shredded cheese, pepperoni slices, and a small amount of tomato sauce packed in doubled plastic snack bags. Add sliced carrots and low-fat ranch dressing, or celery and peanut butter.

3. Oodles of Noodles
Instead of sandwiches, try making sesame noodles, an Asian-inspired pasta salad that’s perfect to eat at room temperature. Make sure your school doesn’t have a zero-tolerance policy on peanut butter, due to some children’s allergic reactions. Then try this recipe:

Quick Lunchbox Sesame Noodles

  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine, cooked
  • 4 tablespoons parsley (or cilantro)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons cooking sherry
  • 3 tablespoons white or brown sugar

Blend parsley and garlic in a food processor until fine. Add soy sauce, oils, vinegar, sherry, and sugar. Add enough peanut butter to make slightly thick. Blend until smooth. Add to pasta. Can top with chopped scallions, sesame seeds, and/or peanuts.

Note: Add a dash of orange juice if sesame/peanut sauce is too thick.

4. Fruit Kebabs
For kids, how things look often matters as much as how they taste. Try making colorful fruit kebabs with chunks of cantaloupe and grapes alternating with mini marshmallows on wooden skewers.

5. Mini Animals
Pick up low-fat deli meats and cheese, then use dinosaur or farm animal cookie-cutters to cut the slices into kid-friendly shapes. Pack with crackers and fruit. Remember: Less is more. Children like mini-sized waffles and donut holes, and you can use the same concept in packing lunches.

6. Peanut Butter Power Balls
These are packed with protein; just make sure your school doesn’t have a zero-tolerance policy on peanut butter. Then try this recipe:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup non-fat dry milk powder or soy protein powder
  • 1/2 cup raisins or chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Graham cracker crumbs

Mix all ingredients except the graham cracker crumbs in a large bowl. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll in crumbs and refrigerate (or freeze; balls will thaw by lunchtime).

7. Eat by “Color Code”
Cookbook author and lifestyle trainer Jyl Steinbeck of Scottsdale, AZ, has trained her own children to eat at least one orange, red and green food each day. Ask children to choose carrot sticks or a navel orange, green pepper strips or a Granny Smith apple, etc. This allows them to have some say in the selections.

8. Retro Jell-O
Sneak in some veggies without your kids even noticing. Just add grated carrot and tiny chopped pieces of celery to Jell-O; mold in small plastic containers.

9. Stuffed Apples
Scoop out the core from an apple; stuff with peanut butter, cream cheese, or other spread, and top with raisins.

10. Post-it Lunch
Encourage children to think in terms of food groups. Together, make a chart with four columns and the headings: Sandwiches, Fruits, Snacks and Desserts. Have children fill in each column with items of their own choosing. Then tell them that each day, you’ll pack one item from each group. This way, they will be eating foods they chose themselves.

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