Fun foods don’t have to be deep-fried or full of preservatives. Just think bite-size, dippable, and varied when looking for kids lunch ideas. Natural foods aisles in many grocery stores have a lot of healthier products, such as snacks sweetened only with fruit juice or packaged with fewer trans-fats and preservatives.
Here are five kids lunch ideas for health-conscious meals that are easy to prepare and fun. Whether your child is a try-anything eater or has the pickiest appetite ever seen, these lunches are sure to please.
Instead of buying prepacked sets of crackers, cheese, and deli meats, put together a homemade version. Your child can even help out the night before, picking out the crackers, meat, cheese, and a small dessert. Another fun idea is to use mini cookie cutters (about the same size as the crackers) to cut the lunch meat slices into fun shapes. (The leftovers make a good mid-morning nibble for you!)
- veggie or water cracker rounds
- chicken or turkey deli meat, cut into roughly cracker-size pieces
- part-skim mozzarella or cheddar slices, cut into roughly cracker-size squares
- fruit cup (packed in juice) or unsweetened applesauce
Grilled Cheese Pockets
As a variation on the standard pan-browned cheese sandwich, try using a sandwich maker; some machines even make the crispy triangles sealed around the edges. Use whole-grain bread and low-fat or part-skim cheeses, which are healthier than their whole-milk counterparts and melt better than completely fat-free versions. Include a couple of fruit leathers and a handful of baked pita or potato chips in the lunch bag, too.
Turkey-Cran Tortilla Bites
Instead of packing a bulky wrap or burrito, slice up a tightly rolled tortilla and fillings. The trick is to spread all the ingredients evenly rather than pile them into the middle like in a traditional wrap sandwich.
Lay the tortilla flat, then spread a thin layer of cranberry sauce over the whole surface. Top with one layer of lettuce leaves, then with pulled turkey (in smallish pieces) or deli meat slices. Roll tightly, then cut into one- or two-bite pieces, holding each piece closed with kid-safe toothpicks. (For vegetarian kids, try it with a thicker spread of hummus, thin slices of peppers and cucumber, and lettuce.) Toss in a box of raisins and a few animal crackers on the side.
Everything in this lunch is bite-size and gets dunked. Pack them loosely in separate containers for younger children, or in rows on “skewers” for older ones.
- Chicken nibblers with honey mustard
- Baked tortilla chips and tomato salsa
- Baby carrots and cut-up celery sticks with light ranch dressing
- Sliced apple, banana, and peach with fruit yogurt (or plain yogurt stirred with all-fruit jam)
Turn the traditional sandwich on its head—literally—by piling the halves onto one another. It even works without the crusts! (Just cut them off before building.) This is a great way to liven up old standards like peanut butter and jelly, or try a club sandwich variation.
Cut two whole-grain bread slices diagonally in half, then line up the four resulting triangles. Spread a little bit of mustard on the first triangle and top with one piece of deli meat and cheese. On the next triangle, use mayo and a different kind of deli meat. The third triangle gets sliced veggies, such as tomato and cucumber, and lettuce. Stack these three, covering them with the last triangle. Spear the tower with two kid-safe toothpicks and cut in half. Include some pretzel sticks and chopped dried fruit.
Coming up with new kids lunch ideas week after week can be challenging. Balancing healthy options with finicky appetites can limit menu options. We hope these 5 fun kids lunch ideas will get your creative juices flowing and help you come up with your own kid-friendly but healthy lunch items.
Have a picky eater in the house? There are tons of ways to sneak vegetables into their meals without their knowing. Our favorite is homemade sauce. Whether you’re sending your child to school with a small serving of pasta or an English muffin pizza, all it takes is heating vegetables in a pan and blending them together in a blender. The best part is, it only takes 30 minutes to prepare and makes 8 servings, so you can make it the night before school and save the rest for later!
Nutella and Banana “Sushi”
It’s as easy and delicious as it sounds– take a tortilla and line it with a layer of Nutella. Cut up a banana and place the pieces on top of the Nutella. Then, roll up the tortilla, and cut between each banana slice so it creates little sushi-like pieces. Paired with extra fruit and vegetables, this is a sweet treat that your child will look forward to every time! You can also do this with a variety of different wraps to make lunch time a little more fun, using ingredients like hummus and peppers or chicken and aioli. Get creative with it!
Breakfast for lunch, anyone? This is a fun one for Friday to lead into the weekend. Make your favorite pancake recipe then fold them over like tacos. Fill the pancake “taco shell” with yogurt and a variety of fruits, and sweeten things with a drizzle of honey or authentic maple syrup. It may be a little messy, so don’t forget to pack a fork and some napkins too!
Essentially a sandwich on a stick, a lunch kabob takes lunchtime favorites and gives them a fun twist! The best part is, it’s fully customizable to your child’s preferences. Just follow the vegetable → protein → dairy (or dairy alternative) → vegetable formula for a perfect kabob every time.
A fun lunchtime companion will put a smile on your child’s face every time! These quesadillas are shaped and decorated to look like sharks, making for a fun lunchtime surprise.
Vegan Mac and “Cheese”
Whether you have a plant-based eater in the house or you’re just trying to sneak in extra veggies, this is the perfect recipe for mac and cheese fans. There are six (yes, six!) hidden vegetables in this “cheese” sauce, and it goes perfectly over whole wheat macaroni for maximum health benefits. Yum!
Originally posted in 2007 and updated regularly.