Does the following scenario seem familiar to you? You put time and money into planning and packing your kid’s lunches, only to receive them back at the end of the day half-eaten at best. Then, when you ask your child why they did not eat the entire lunch that was provided for them, they say that they “weren’t hungry” or “didn’t like it”.
Let’s face it: a lot of kids are picky eaters, and it can be hard to encourage them to eat their lunch even on the best of days. But this doesn’t mean that lunchtime has to be a complete lost cause! In this article, we will give you ideas for making packed lunches a hit for your household. If you find that lunchtime is always a source of stress in your house, then this article is for you.
Kids’ Lunch Planning Ideas
Create a Meal Plan
We know, we know—a meal plan? Who really wants to create that? The answer is you do. You just don’t know it yet.
Not only does planning your kid’s lunches out ahead of time help you save money (fewer impulse purchases), but it also helps you to keep things interesting for your child or children so that you hear fewer complaints at the end of the day.
Meal planning is a personal thing, and different things will work for different people. Some people may prefer to use an app or a digital planner, while some people may want to use an old-fashioned notebook. You can choose to either plan your kid’s lunches out a week, two weeks, or even a month in advance. Try to write them out as if you were writing a restaurant menu in one column.
Then, in the next column, write all of the ingredients and quantities out so that you know what to buy at the grocery store.
Embrace the Sunday Meal Prep
If you yourself work a 9-5 job Monday to Friday, you may find that you already use Sunday afternoons for meal preparation for your own lunches. It may be easier to just think that you can get to the kid’s lunches “later”, but don’t get trapped in this line of thinking! By doing a few rudimentary prep tasks like slicing veggies or boiling eggs, you can get a leg up on the busy week ahead.
Invite Your Kids to Help With Meal Prep
We all know that if we let our kids pack their own lunches it would be waffles and candy every day. However, there is a middle ground between leaving it all to your kids and doing it all yourself. Depending on the age of your child or children, you may find success in inviting them to help out a bit with meal prep.
For example, while younger children won’t be able to handle knives or other sharp objects, you can still involve them by having them watch you prepare their meals or by letting them choose some of their own lunch ingredients (within reason). This will help these younger children feel excited about lunchtime since they know what is coming. You can even assign older children the responsibility of packing their own lunches once they get to a certain age.
Sandwich Alternative Lunchbox Ideas
Are your kids going through a phase where they are feeling a bit “over” the sandwich? We get it. Here are some lunchtime ideas that go beyond the classic wonderbread sandwich:
Cheesy Quesadilla With Guacemole and Fruit
Quesadillas are not only quick and easy to make, but they also pack a deliciously cheesy taste that is sure to appeal to most children’s taste buds. You can either buy frozen pre-made quesadillas or make your own. To make it interesting, try adding meat like chicken or beef, or vegetables like mushrooms or bell peppers.
For an interesting dipping option, add a scoop of guacamole on the side. Add a few berries or other cut up fruit for dessert.
Hummus Wrap, Veggies, and Goldfish Crackers
A hummus wrap is an easy and nut-free way to ensure that your child is getting enough protein out of their lunch. These wraps on their own are pretty filling, so you won’t need to worry about too much by the way of sides. You can just add in a small serving of veggies and everyone’s favorite cracker (goldfish crackers). If you suspect that your child may need a little bit of coaxing to eat their hummus wrap, feel free to make it in the shape of a fun character, as shown here.
Here is a unique lunch idea for your child! This “cucumber sushi” comes packed with healthy ingredients like rolled-up lunch meat, carrots, and cheese. Not only will your kids love the delicious taste, but they will also be the envy of all of their friends because of the sushi’s vibrant colors and kid-friendly look.
What kid doesn’t like pizza? Unfortunately, as much as many kids (and adults for that matter) would love to eat pizza for lunch every day, we know that this wouldn’t be the healthiest of options. Instead of sending your kids to school with pizza in their lunch bag every day, though, you could always send them with a pizza muffin! Yes, you read that right. These savory muffins present a healthy alternative to a pizza slice, and they might be exactly what you need to get through to your little picky eater.
Cheese and Meat Skewers
This option is great for any child with wheat sensitivity, or any child who is going through a “no bread” phase (it happens). You can build these cheese and meat skewers using whatever you happen to have around the house, too, which means that they are perfect for those days that you are in need of groceries and running low on supplies. Healthy and fun to eat, your kids will be asking you for these skewers on a regular basis.
Holiday-Themed Kids’ Lunchbox Ideas
If holidays happen to fall on a school day, you are going to want to make sure that your child gets to enjoy all the best fun that this holiday has to offer even if they are going to be stuck in the classroom. One of the most festive things that you can do is send a holiday-inspired lunch with your child! It’s sure to surprise them and put a smile on their face. Here are some ideas:
Christmas Tree Bento Box
Here is a great one for the Christmas holiday season. We love the way that this unique bento box uses miniature ham or turkey rolls to create a Christmas tree. You can use other parts of the bread to make a stem and a star for the tree. Your child is bound to squeal with excitement and show all of their friends when they open up their lunchboxes and find this as the contents!
Pretzels are not just a tasty snack that kids love—they also happen to make perfect antlers! You can easily make your kids a sandwich that resembles a reindeer by using a circular sandwich and chocolate chips (or raisins) for the eyes. Don’t forget a raspberry for the nose! It’s probably best to add in a small side salad—reindeers love their greens.
Easter Egg Sandwich
What says Easter more than bunny rabbits? You can make an adorable Easter bunny sandwich by cutting a sandwich into a circle and using the extra bread to make distinctive bunny ears. Then, you can use cheese to make big puffy bunny cheeks! Don’t forget to stay true to the theme by adding some crunchy carrots and celery on the side. Your child can pretend to be a bunny as they eat it!
Mummy Bento Box
Halloween is a popular holiday among children, and why wouldn’t it be? Not only do they get to enjoy a higher-than-normal amount of candy on this day, but they also get to dress up as whichever character that they would like to be! You can give your kids a Halloween lunch to remember by providing them with a “mummy” themed bento box. It’s easier to pull off than it sounds.
Various Tips for Kid Lunches
If you feel totally stumped by all things lunchtime, then this section is for you. Here is a collection of some of the best lunchtime wisdom that can be found on the internet:
Focus on the Sides
Some of us spend so much time stressing over the “main lunch event”, such as the sandwich or wrap, that we forget about sides altogether. Avoid lunchtime monotony by offering your children a selection of sides (we all love crackers, but there are only so many times that we can stomach having crackers in our lunches). Here are some less conventional ideas for sides that you can consider:
- Broccoli or cauliflower (raw or steamed)
- A rainbow of sliced bell peppers (raw)
- Edamame beans
- Sliced apple
- Balls of melon or canteloupe
- Unsweetened fruit cups
- Sliced snack cucumbers
- Snap peas
- Hummus and pita slices
- Homemade muffins
Don’t Forget About Hot Lunch Options
Most of our children have their lunches in a school setting where they don’t necessarily have access to microwaves or other heating appliances. And we get it—kids aren’t old enough to use these tools themselves, and it simply wouldn’t be practical to expect teachers to help every single kid out with the heating of their lunch.
However, don’t forget that it is possible to send your kids to school with a hot lunch with the help of a thermos! Not only are thermoses available in a variety of fun designs and colors, but they are also kid-sized and perfect for holding soup or leftover pasta. Thermoses retain the temperature of your food, so don’t forget to let it cool down a bit before you add it to a thermos. That way your child won’t be at risk of burning their tongue.
Try a Homemade Lunchable
If you went to school in the 80s or 90s, then you are for sure familiar with the concept of the “lunchable”. Unfortunately for kids, although these premade lunch kits were fun to put together and rather tasty, they were very high in sodium and very low in nutritional content.
That doesn’t mean that your child can’t experience the joy of a lunchable in their lunch, though. You can make them their very own lunchable kit! Get inspiration here.
Lunchtime isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be particularly hard, either. With a bit of time and effort spent, you can make lunchtime an enjoyable and memorable experience for your child for years to come.