Updated: Aug 23, 2019
We have parents asking all the time for convenient foods they can pack for their kids’ school lunches. Getting the right combination of macros to keep your kids satiated throughout the day can be tough!! We’ve got a few ideas for you and would love to hear your school lunch packing tips, too!
Any and all cut up fruit and vegetables are fair game! Kids like finger foods and we’d say there are some items from the produce department are more kid-friendly than others. It’s also important to point out that you do not have to have fruit fear! In other words, don’t worry about the natural sugar content of fruit, only the pesky processed sugars (cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.)
Finger foods in the form of fresh produce include:
Sugar snap peas
Jicama cut up into “chips” or sticks (trust us, it’s good!)
Avocado for those healthy fats
Broccoli and cauliflower (especially the multi-colored cauliflower)
Celery - turn into ants on a log for more fun
Berries - blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
Grapes (can also be frozen for a cold treat)
Bananas - dip in nut or seed butter and roll in shredded coconut for fun
Pineapple rings or chunks
Apples - slice them up and sprinkle cinnamon on them to enhance their sweetness; add a nut or seed butter with honey for dipping (optional)
Dates (we love medjool for their ooey-gooey goodness)
Cuties/oranges (peel before packing)
Watermelon - scoop our balls or cut up into “fries”
Kiwi - cut in half and eat with a spoon or peel and slice
Whether fresh or dried fruits and vegetables, this list could go on forever. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new foods as we never know what our mini me’s will like...they may take you by surprise!
Prepare at Home
For those who prefer to DIY, we've got some ideas for you below!
Energy balls - include whatever your kids like (and sneak in the ones they don't) in a food processor until the consistency is just right to form balls:
Almond meal/flour or shredded coconut
Nut or seed butter
Flax seeds (ground)
Honey for an extra touch of sweetness (optional)
Trail mix - combine your child’s favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruits
Breakfast cookies (these double as a healthy dessert for lunch):
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
½ almond butter (or nut/seed butter of your preference)
¼ cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips, raisins, craisins, dried apples, chopped nuts, or filling of your choice (look for added sugars in dried fruits)
1 egg or egg substitute
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
Mix all ingredients and drop large tablespoons onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Store in the fridge for up to one week!
Dehydrated meat/jerky - this can be done low and slow in the oven if you don’t own a dehydrator!
Potato or sweet potato chips - slice thin by hand or using a mandoline and bake in coconut, avocado or olive oil at 400 for 15 minutes and flip; bake for another 10 but keep a close eye so they don’t burn.
Kale chips - same as above but less cooking time
Smoothies - this is an easy way to pack in the nutrition (especially those essential greens), and, using a spill-proof Yeti-type mug makes it transportable
Smoothie muffins - in case an actual smoothie is just asking for trouble! link to last blog
Unwiches - use cucumber slices, romaine or butter lettuce leaves, or baked sweet potato slices as the bread for your kiddo’s favorite sandwich
Ants on a log
It’s okay to rely on packaged food sometimes. Below are Prep to Table’s top picks for kid- and parent-approved healthy lunch options
Happy Kid bars - these do sneak in “natural flavors” so we recommend calling the manufacturer to find out exactly what’s in them
Rx bars - these tend to be pretty sticky so make sure your child can eat them first
Lara bars - read the ingredients, some have cane sugar and some use only natural sugar from dates; these less sticky/easier to eat than Rx bars
Tuna packets - always read the ingredients
Nick’s Sticks - 100% grass-fed beef or free-range turkey sticks or jerky
Hummus packets from Costco
Organic Greek yogurt or non-dairy yogurt - buy it plain and add cinnamon, local honey, nuts and/or fruit
Organic cheese sticks - we recommend minimal dairy even if your child tolerates it
Dried veggies - edamame, carrots and broccoli, just to name a few
We want to iterate to always read the labels on the food you’re purchasing and buy organic where possible, especially meats and dairy.
You don’t have to spend an abundance of time making your children's school lunches; minimal effort can go a long way for their taste buds and their nutritional needs! And, a friendly reminder to please be kind to the Earth as you pack utensils and other necessities. :-)