Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids (For School or Daycare)

Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids full of nutrition and appealing to children

If your kids are getting tired of sandwiches everyday and you’re getting fed up with making them only to see them wasted when your kids don’t eat them, try something new. Here are the best healthy lunch ideas for kids. You will enjoy making these lunches because you’ll know your child is getting a more nutritious meal. With so many ideas here, you’ll find something you and your kids love.

These lunch ideas are designed to be fun as well as nutritious. You can see lots of different options to choose from. Try one this week and try another idea next week. Or pack different lunches on different days of the week to keep your kids surprised. The choices are endless.

Try and Find a Healthy Balance

When you are putting your kids’ lunches together, the most important thing is to focus on balance. Instead of having all protein or all carbohydrates, you want a good balance between protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fiber. This allows you to get a well-balanced lunch that is nutritious and tasty at the same time.

How to Find the Right Balance

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First of all, you need to know exactly what balance you are going for.

The three main nutrients to be sure you include in your son or daughter’s lunch are a healthy fats, proteins, and fiber.

However, you will also need to be adding some other nutrients as well, such as fruits and veggies, whole grains, and carbohydrates, though many of these other nutrients still fit within the first three you are aiming for.

It is much easier to give them a balanced lunch when you use a compartment lunch box, such as a Bento box.

I love using Bento boxes because they make it easier to pack lunches for my kids. And my kids like it that the food doesn’t get all squished together.

I find using a Bento box keeps the food fresher because it is separated.

Choose Meals That Combine Everything

Once you know what balance you are going for, you then need to start planning out the meals.

One way to do is by thinking of meals for lunch that actually include all the important elements. For example, a wrap can have your whole grains in the tortilla, fruits and veggies inside, protein with the meat and cheese, which also contain your healthy fats, and fiber in the tortilla or bread as well.

Some lunch ideas that contain all important elements are sandwiches, wraps, and salads.

Use Multiple Food Items For Balance

Another option is instead of trying to put a ‘meal’ together, just include different food items in the lunch box that eventually make up the proper portions and balance between the various nutrients.

This is where you really want to use a Bento box or other lunch box that includes different compartments inside. What you can do is use these compartments to make sure the kids lunches have enough balance in nutrients, while also controlling portion sizes. If there are four compartments, you can use one for your protein, one for veggies with fiber, one for fruit, and one for another snack, such as nuts and seeds, trail mix, or granola.

A good thing to do is have your kids help put lunches together, giving them options within each major food group so that they can pick and choose the elements, but are still achieving a balanced lunch every day.

 

Healthier Sandwiches For Kids

If you want to make a sandwich for your kids, but not the traditional peanut butter and jelly or you want to get away from overly processed luncheon meats, these sandwich recipes are perfect.

They make lunch healthier and more interesting, while still sticking to the sandwich for lunch.

Ham, Cheese, and Fruit Melt

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Just because your kid can’t heat up his lunch in the cafeteria, doesn’t mean you can’t include a nice sandwich melt. It won’t be completely warm, but if you heat it up before packing the lunch, then wrap it properly, it might still contain some heat. Either way, a melt is still good when it is cold.

This sandwich takes the simple ham and cheese concept and gets more interesting. You can use your daughter’s favorite type of ham, then add some cheddar or even a Monterey jack to add a little more flavor. Place thinly-sliced fruit on the sandwich, such as apple, which is perfect with a ham and cheese sandwich.

Vegetarian Sandwich

For kids who are vegetarian or vegan, or you simply want to reduce the amount of meat they eat, there are some yummy options.

One option is to take some whole grain bread and spread almond butter on the inside of the two bread pieces. You can then add some dried cranberries, slivered almonds, and any other nuts or seeds they would like.

The almond butter will make the fruit and nuts stick to the bread, so it will be easy for them to pick up and eat as is. Another good option for a fun sandwich is to spread hummus on the inside of the bread, and add veggies like chopped bell peppers, sliced tomato, and lettuce.

Chicken Broccoli Cheese Sandwich Pocket

Another sandwich idea to make your kids is one that is more similar to a Hot Pocket, but is homemade and doesn’t contain all those preservatives.  If you’re wanting healthy lunch ideas for kids this is a great choice.

This pocket sandwich is made with chicken breast that has been cooked, some chopped broccoli, and cheddar cheese.

You want to fill a flour tortilla with the ingredients, fold up the burrito, then bake it until it is crisp. Keep it in the fridge, and it will be a perfect sandwich pocket for your son or daughter’s lunch the next day.

Grilled Ham and Cheese

Grilled cheese sandwiches are delicious and kids love them, but they aren’t the healthiest option. This sandwich instead is made with ham and a little less cheese, and any vegetables or fruit you want to add.

It can be a ham, cheese and tomato sandwich, one with spinach or kale inside, or you can even add pears.

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Create a Healthier Lunchables

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Lunchables are often a kid favorite because they are small, fun, and allow your kids to put their own little cracker sandwiches together.

Unfortunately, they are highly processed and filled with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and preservatives. If you have kids that love these lunches, you can make them the same thing, but a much healthier version. The better version of lunchables is good when you’re trying to find healthy lunch ideas for kids similar to things they already like.

The Components of a Lunchable

If you want to make a custom lunch that is similar to a Lunchable, you will first need to start with the basic components.

Each traditional lunchable had two forms of protein, a starch, a sweet, and a drink.

With your own custom version, you can stick with the two proteins and one starch, such as with meat and cheese with whole grain bread or crackers. However, you should replace the cookie or candy with either a fruit or vegetable, then choose a healthier drink option.

Ham and American Cheese Lunchable

A popular type of Lunchable is one with ham and American cheese. If you want to make one that is a little healthier and not made of processed ingredients, start with ham you have cooked on the bone, then cut thin slices on your own.

This allows you to make your own luncheon meat slices. You can also have the deli cut fresh ham for you.

Add some cubed cheese that is not processed, such as what a deli can offer you, or with a block of cheese you have cut yourself. Avoid any type of cheese in the package.

Add these ingredients to the lunch box with some whole grain crackers and a sugar-free juice on the side. You can then add some fruits and veggies to go with it.

Hot Dog Lunchables

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There is also a way to make one of the alternative flavors of Lunchables, such as if your kids love the hot dog lunchables.

Since the Lunchables don’t require heating up, you don’t need to worry about that either.

Hot dogs aren’t raw meat, so it is no problem if you prepare them this way.

A healthier version of this is to start with all beef hot dogs, since they don’t tend to contain a lot of preservatives or animal byproducts.

You can cut them into smaller pieces, then instead of hot dog buns, you can put in some whole wheat tortillas or pitas that are sliced small enough for the hot dog slices, and some fruit and veggies on the side.

Any Lunchable your kid likes can easily be made into a healthier alternative for their lunch.

Wraps Kids Will Love

Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids for nutrition and fun eating

If you want to make your child a lunch that is yummy, but not another boring sandwich, a wrap is a great alternative. You can reduce the carbs by using a lettuce leaf or low-carb tortilla for the wrap, plus it can be filled with just about any ingredients you want.

Here are some kid-friendly wraps to consider making when you’re trying to find healthy lunch ideas for kids.

Peanut Butter, Jelly, and Banana

This is a wrap that isn’t too different from your kids’ favorite PB&J, though it has a little extra nutrition. You can use any type of tortilla you like, whether it is a regular flour or tortilla or a low-carb version. You can spread some peanut butter on the inside, add some sugar-free jelly or jam, then add sliced banana. Roll it up, and it’s good to go!

This is very delicious and when you use homemade jelly with no sugar added and sliced banana, it adds some nutrition without the added sugar.

Put Leftovers in a Tortilla

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You can make what is sometimes called a ‘trash burrito’ or ‘trash wrap’ where you essentially just using all of the leftovers in the fridge, or the ‘trash’ to create a lunch.

Perhaps over the last few days, you have accumulated leftovers like some shredded chicken, mixture of arugula and spinach greens, a carrot, and some cheese. You can shred the carrot, tear the lettuce into smaller pieces, then add all of the ingredients inside a tortilla and put it in your kids lunches.

I like to make a trash wrap for my kids with whatever we have in the veggie patch. I’ll harvest some arugula, salad greens, basil and tomatoes and we’re good to go. If there are only a few leaves of one of the ingredients it doesn’t matter because I just use different things on different wraps.

Make a Chef’s Salad Wrap

A wrap can also contain ingredients that would have gone in a salad, but you put in a tortilla instead. Kids don’t always want to eat salad for lunch, or it might be a little too difficult for them to put it together and eat it in the cafeteria with their friends. It can be more convenient to put the ingredients of a salad inside a tortilla as a wrap.

For example, for a chef’s salad wrap, you might include lettuce, tomato, cheese, different luncheon meats, and pieces of hard boiled egg.

Egg Avocado Wrap

Also consider putting together a breakfast-style wrap with a spinach tortilla and breakfast items inside.

Try scrambled eggs, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, and either some tomato or a nice salsa.

This is really nutritious, fun to eat, and very delicious. You can also include any other veggies inside that your kids enjoy eating, such as bell peppers, onions, or even some asparagus.

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Finger Foods For Kids Lunches

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As you start planning for your kids’ lunches, try to think of foods that are easy for them to eat. While soup and chicken dinners might seem great for you when you prepare your own lunch with leftovers, these aren’t easy or convenient for kids to eat in the cafeteria.

Here are some healthy foods that are convenient for your kids, but also nutritious and delicious. They tick the boxes when you’re looking for healthy lunch ideas for kids.

Fruits and Veggies

First of all, fruit and vegetables make the perfect finger foods for a kids’ lunch. You can easily chop, slice, and dice them into bite-size pieces where a kid of any age is going to find them a fun treat for lunch.

You can slice up fruit like cantaloupe, apples, watermelon, and honeydew melon so that they are easy to put in a compartment of the lunch box.

Veggies like carrots, celery, zucchini, broccoli, and cauliflower are also easy to cut up. Some veggies and fruits are already small enough to have as finger foods, such as berries, grapes, and cherry tomatoes.

Breakfast-Inspired Lunch

Your kids’ lunch doesn’t always have to be a traditional lunch food. There are ways to give them finger foods that actually have breakfast components but you use these as healthy lunch ideas for kids.

For example, you can make some little egg muffins by beating eggs and pouring them into little muffin tins. Bake the eggs with cubed ham or bacon, veggies and cheese, then put each muffin in the freezer individually-wrapped.

If you take them out and put them in your kids’ lunch boxes, they will be thawed by lunch time and ready to eat.

In my experience these types of mini egg muffins often stick to your muffin tray so remember to use a spray bottle of olive oil to coat the muffin tray before you pour in the ingredients. Alternatively you can use silicone muffin trays which don’t seem to stick. That’s what I use.

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Mini Pizzas

You can make mini pizzas for your kids lunches, but also make them in a healthier way.

If you want your kids to stick to a paleo or low-carb diet, then you can make the pizza dough with a cauliflower crust.

This is lower in fat and much more nutritious than a regular dough crust. Otherwise, consider getting some whole wheat dough and making mini pizzas, then in the lunch box, include ingredients like a lighter pizza sauce, cheese, and lots of veggies.

This ends up being similar to a pizza Lunchables, but is a lot healthier.

Quesadillas

You can also prepare some veggie quesadillas for their lunches, which are great finger foods.

Bake the quesadilla so it is crispy, making sure there are plenty of veggies inside, not just cheese. Cut the cooked quesadilla into smaller pieces, and place it in their lunch box with some salsa.

It is a fun and nutritious lunch for the kids.

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Kid-Friendly Fruits and Veggies

Everyone needs to eat multiple servings of fruits and vegetables every day, kids included. Unfortunately, a lot of fresh produce isn’t on kids’ top favorite foods list. These tips and tricks not only list some veggies and fruits kids tend to prefer, but give you options for encouraging them to eat more of them. If you’re looking for healthy lunch ideas for kids, you’ll love including these kid-friendly options.

Veggies With Dip

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Just about any vegetable that can be served with dip like ranch or hummus is probably a favorite among most children.

This might be a mix of cauliflower, broccoli and carrots, garden vegetables like cucumber, or even mini bell peppers with ranch dip.

If you don’t want to serve ranch, which is sometimes high in fat or calories, you can serve it with hummus dip as a healthy substitute.

There are many different types of hummus, so mixing it up each day makes the veggies even more enticing.

You can make your own hummus or buy it in bulk. Just be sure to check the ingredients to make sure you’re getting a healthy product without added sugar.

You can make other dipping sauces like an avocado puree dip, but you’ll need to make this on the day you’re using it because it will change color. By adding a little lemon juice to an avocado puree it will help to keep the color. Without the lemon juice the avocado will turn brown so you don’t want to be making it the night before because it’s not very appealing a day later.

Broccoli and Cheese

A vegetable combination that many kids enjoy is broccoli and cheese. While it might seem like melted cheese would not be a good option for kids, it can actually be healthy, especially when it is a small amount of cheese compared to a big handful of broccoli. Broccoli is very nutritious, low in fat and carbs, and with almost zero calories. It is an excellent side dish to a healthy sandwich or a variety of finger foods. Put your cheese in a little container with a lid, add some broccoli, and that’s all that needs to be done.

Sneaking Veggies in Your Kids’ Lunches

If you have picky eaters, they probably have no interest in eating their vegetables, no matter what type of dip or cheese you have with it. This is when you need to be a little sneakier about it. One way is to put pasta in their lunch, and sneak veggies in the sauce. When you have small pieces of vegetables in pasta sauce, it is rarely noticed since it softens up when heating up your sauce. You can put a good amount of tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and even carrots or celery into sauce without your kids noticing too much.

Fruit in Granola or Snack Mixes

There are some snack mixes that can be made more nutritious with fruit, which is a good way to get picky eaters to eat more fruit. For example, if your kids like granola or trail mix, you can easily mix in some dried fruit like dried apricots or cranberries. Putting in pieces of apple or banana chips is another good option.

 

Foods on Sticks For Kids

Are you struggling to get your kids to eat healthy? Need more healthy lunch ideas for kids that are different? Why not put food on sticks! This turns an ordinary lunch into a fun one by still using all the same healthy ingredients as if these different components were in a Bento box. Some kids just need to look at their food in a different way to encourage them to eat healthier.

Mini Burgers On a Stick

This is a fun lunch for kids that is nice for a little treat, but is still a nutritious and well-balanced lunch. This is awesome for healthy lunch ideas for kids that like burgers. When done right, the mini burgers contain protein, fiber, vegetables, fruit, and carbohydrates; everything your child needs for a healthy lunch. What you want to do is make mini hamburger patties with ground beef or turkey. Ground turkey is healthier and with the right seasoning, can taste a lot like beef. You can cut up the smaller patty into cubes if you like. Take a skewer and alternate with your pieces of hamburger patty, and toppings like lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions.

Sandwich Without a Bun

Another easy way to turn your kid’s lunch into one that is on a stick is by making a sandwich without a bun. You are essentially using all the ingredients of your sandwich to be placed on the stick, similar to a hamburger on a stick. So you can fold slices of turkey or ham and put them on there, alternating with cubes of cheese, cherry tomatoes instead of slices, folded up pieces of lettuce, and other toppings your kids usually like to put on their sandwiches.

Grilled Cheese and Tomatoes

Think you can’t get a grilled cheese onto a stick? Think again! This is actually a really fun food to put on sticks, and can make your kids lunches a lot more interesting. Make some grilled cheese sandwiches, but make them with veggies to be more nutritious. This is great if you’re looking for healthy lunch ideas for kids. For example, you can have spinach or sliced bell peppers inside. Now make them a little crispier than you normally would so they are easy to cut. Once they are done, let them cool off first, then cut into small bite-size pieces. Waiting until they cool off keeps you from dealing with a melted cheese mess. Now put those pieces onto your skewers alternating with some chunks of tomato.

Fruit and Cheese

Food on sticks don’t always need to be the main course for lunch. They can be a little snack or side dish in the lunch, such as taking skewers and putting on different types of fruit and cheese. Fruit like cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, apples, and banana all work great for this type of snack. These all add to your healthy lunch ideas for kids, either as part of lunch as a side, or separately as a snack.

Pack a Deconstructed Salad

Salads are a great option if you’re looking for healthy lunch ideas for kids, but they can sometimes be difficult for kids to eat as a regular salad in their lunch, plus they have ‘health food’ written all over them. A better option is to take all the ingredients you would put together in a salad, and deconstruct them by putting the components separate in a lunch box. Here are some tips for getting this done for your kids’ lunches.

Serve Veggies and Ranch Dip

The simplest ways to prepare a lunch for your kids with a deconstructed salad is to simply put veggies and ranch dip or another type of salad dressing cup in their lunch box. You can choose a variety of different veggies that you know they like, such as celery, cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and any others. These are often ingredients you would find in a mixed salad or garden salad, but they in a separated form. If your kids like cheese on their salad, you can include some cubed cheese pieces to eat separately.

Choose a Specific Type of Salad

Another good option when you’re thinking about healthy lunch ideas for kids is to have your kids choose their favorite salads, then you can deconstruct them and put them together in a lunch box with different compartments. For example, if your daughter loves chicken Caesar salad, this is easy to do in a deconstructed way. You can use a Bento box with compartments, have cubed chicken in one compartment, some lettuce in another, and some cheese cubes in another instead of shredded cheese. Have a little cup with a lid that includes the Caesar dressing, and don’t forget to have some whole wheat croutons as well.

Additional Tips to Follow When Serving a Deconstructed Salad

Now that you know the basics of putting together a deconstructed salad lunch for your kid’s lunch, there are a few other things you need to know. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind as part of your healthy lunch ideas for kids.

Be careful what you plan ahead of time – While some ingredients can be prepped beforehand, you shouldn’t do this with everything. For example, your lettuce and greens will wilt if placed in the lunch box too early, so these should stay in a separate airtight container until the morning when you are getting the lunches together.

Don’t put dressing directly into the lunch box compartment – Dressing can make a big mess in a lunch box, even one with different compartments and a tight lid. It is best that salad dressing be kept in a separate container. There are small storage containers that are perfect for holding salad dressing.

 

Why You Should Use Bento Boxes

Bento boxes are simply lunch boxes that have different compartments in them. If you’re looking for healthy lunch ideas for kids they’re perfect.

They allow you to pack lunches that are well-balanced and nutritious by having the compartments instead of needing to put lunch items into separate bags or containers. Here are some different reasons you should consider using these boxes for your kids’ lunches.

They Help With Meal Planning

A great reason to consider using Bento boxes for your kids lunches is because they can help with meal prepping and planning. When you are prepping for your kids’ lunches during the week, you don’t have to keep all the chopped veggies and homemade sandwiches or wraps in baggies or other containers. You can place them right in the lunch box, then put them in the fridge and keep them there until your son or daughter is ready to head off to school. It makes it much more convenient and saves you a lot of time during the week.

You Can Control Portions

Bento boxes are also an ideal way to control portion sizes. It is easy to fill up regular baggies with chips, vegetables, or pretzels, but when the compartments are small, you are able to reduce how much you give your kids. The boxes provide plenty of room for multiple food items, but they keep the portions to an appropriate amount. That way, you know your kids are eating enough, but not too much and you aren’t wasting food.

It Helps You Create Well-Balanced Lunches

When you use Bento boxes or similar compartment lunch boxes with your kids lunches, they can also help you to prepare balanced meals. It is sometimes difficult for you to achieve the right balance of foods and ingredients in their lunches when you are also trying to provide foods your kids like, while trying to maintain proper nutrition. With the different compartments, you can put one food from each major food group into each compartment, and control portions at the same time.

They Keep Lunches Fresh

A benefit to keep in mind is that with the different compartments of a Bento box, it can help keep the lunches fresh. You are able to put them together beforehand, but not have to worry about certain ingredients mixing together and spoiling the other components of the lunch. These containers don’t allow food to touch, but they have airtight lids to keep everything fresh until it is time for your kids to enjoy their lunch.

Bento boxes come in different types and sizes, so get a variety of different ones.

 

Best Meal Planning Tips For School Lunches

Meal prepping and planning is a great way to start putting together your kids’ lunches. It gives you the opportunity to plan ahead of time so it’s not the morning before they go to school and you are throwing in a bag of chips and a cookie because you didn’t plan ahead.

Meal Planning Containers and Accessories

To start with, you will need to get some containers and accessories that you can use for planning your kids’ lunches. Start with the lunch boxes of course, which should preferably have multiple compartments. This makes it much easier to plan ahead and make sure they have healthy meals within the different important food groups. However, if your son really wants to use his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lunch box, then you will need small individual containers that fit inside the lunch box in order to put his different lunch items inside. Some other containers you might need are small mason jars, snack-size bags, and larger containers for the prepped ingredients.

What You Can Plan Ahead

Once you have all of your meal prepping containers, you can then plan certain things ahead of time. While not all components for the lunches will be done before you actually prepare the lunches, there are many things you can do ahead of time. Doing this over the weekend or in the evening before can really help to save time on busy mornings. Some things you are able to do ahead of time include boiling eggs, chopping fruit and vegetables, and putting items like granola, trail mix, and pretzels into portion-control containers or baggies.

Save These Things For the Night or Morning Before School

There are other things that you should wait before you start prepping. The following are some food items and ingredients that you should not just prepping and planning until either the night before school, or early on the morning before school. For example, if you are making a sandwich that includes luncheon meat, cheese, and veggies in bread, you should not be putting it together and keeping it wrapped for days at a time. It won’t stay fresh and the ingredients can cause the bread to get soggy. This is something you should leave for the last minute. This also goes for crackers, fruit or veggies that have juice, salads, and a variety of similar foods.

Meal prepping and planning is an ideal option for making sure your kids have healthy lunches as long as you do it right.

In Summary…

If you can make your kids’ lunches more appealing and give them a healthier choice at the same time, it’s worth doing. Many of the ingredients can be prepped the night before and you can use Bento boxes to quickly pack everything the next morning. If you think your child will respond well by choosing his or her food, let them help. If they prefer a surprise, change it up every day.

 


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