7 Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids
Use these simple tips when packing a school lunch or fixing a summer snack.
Make It a Team Effort
From pizza to hot dogs (and even dessert!), we’ve got simple and healthy lunch ideas that kids will love. But before you open the fridge, the first step toward success is allowing your children to make lunch decisions. The second step is to help them make their meal.
Offer two or three healthy options each day. When your child chooses one, team up to make and pack their lunch. Whether it’s spreading on condiments, rolling up tortillas, or filling baggies, your child’s effort will give kids a sense of pride while teaching them to eat healthy!
Healthy Pizza Party
Can a healthy lunch include cold pizza? With this version, the answer is “yes.” Plus, it’s a great way to get your kids to willingly eat some veggies.
Simple Recipe: Spread low-sodium tomato or pizza sauce on a large flour tortilla, and sprinkle with reduced-fat shredded cheese. Add chopped turkey pepperoni or ham and then let your kids add their favorite chopped veggies. Roll the tortilla up like a burrito, cut into equal halves, and you’re ready to go!
Better-for-You “Hot Dogs”
All kids love hot dogs, but they’re not the healthiest lunch option. With a little creativity, a fun and nutritious alternative can be easily packed into any lunchbox.
Simple Recipe: Wrap a reduced fat string-cheese mozzarella stick with one or two slices of lean ham or turkey and place in a hot dog bun. Don’t forget to include a few individual ketchup and mustard packets for this healthier take on the hot dog.
Fresh fruit smoothies are a great way to “hide” the vitamin-rich fruits you want your kids to eat.
Simple Recipe: Puree low-fat plain or fruit-flavored yogurt in a blender along with fresh or frozen fruit. If you’re using bananas, add a little peanut butter for extra protein. Fill a thermos with the smoothie, and tell your child to shake it up before drinking.
Sneak in Fresh Fruit
While you hope that your child will eat the apple or orange that you put in their lunch bag, more than likely, it’s getting tossed in the trash at the end of lunch period.
Simple Tip: You’ll have a better chance of getting your kids to eat fruit if you peel or segment it and seal in a zip-top bag. Add a small cup of peanut or almond butter for dunking, and they’ll be eating two nutritious foods at the same time.
Don't Forget Hot Food
Face it: at some point, cold sandwiches can get really boring, no matter what you do to them. But who said school lunches have to be cold? A hot lunch can be just what your child needs on a chilly winter day.
Keep It Hot: A wide variety of insulated food-storage lunch bags and thermos jars come in many shapes and sizes to keep soups, stews, and entrees hot and safe until lunchtime. Large discounts stores such as Target or Wal-Mart, and online stores such as Amazon.com, usually have a great selection.
Kids Deserve Dessert!
Remember the good ol’ days? What’s the first thing you looked for in the lunch your mom or dad packed for you? You got it—dessert. Sweet treats that keep fat and sugar to a minimum are great additions to the lunchbox.
Go Get ‘Em: Marketed toward dieters, 100-calorie snack packs are a great way to include a little something sweet in a lunchbox while limiting high amounts of fat and sugar. Alternatively, chocolate-covered strawberries, apples, or pears will satisfy a kid’s sweet tooth and a parent’s aim for good nutrition.