My first son is off to Kindergarten this year. Sniff sniff. So there’s no better time than this one for me to finally talk PACKED LUNCHES! It seems like it’s an easy task, but it’s difficult to know what nutrients they need and how to maintain variety so their lunch boxes come home empty. It reminds me a little of the day when I had to feed my son his first solids…kinda scary, such a difficult subject to tackle, but one we all get the hang of eventually (and with a little trial and error).

Instead of giving you a few “perfect” lunch combos, I’m going to share some ideas that you can freely and creatively mix and match to come up with a lunch that is nutritious and also fits your child’s (probably picky) taste buds.

When packing a lunch most people immediately think “meal.” Instead of thinking about lunch like this, let’s break it down into simple food groups and then build upon these basic blocks.

  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Protein / Fat
  • And, of course, SNACKS / TREATS (this is definitely a kids food group!)

Thinking about lunches in this way makes eating healthy less complex and time consuming.

Ideas and Recipes for Healthy School Lunches

Here we go…

FRUIT

  • As a last resort, you can pack store-bought organic fruit leather, organic applesauce, or organic fruit snack. Just stay away from the traditional fruit roll-ups and look for fruit snacks that are organic with no sugar or artificial dyes—kids can become hyper active after eating red dyes in particular.

VEGGIES

Vegetables are sooooo grounding for kids. Eating them on a regular basis can help children concentrate better. So, don’t skimp on this when packing lunch.

  • Chopped raw veggies like carrots and cucumbers are great finger foods for kids. I usually give them some dip, like hummus (more on that later) or the old celery with natural peanut butter trick. Try a green smoothie full of veggies and fruit (or you can purée the veggies as mentioned above).
  • Skip potato chips in favor of dehydrated snacks like kale chips. Kale chips are such a genius way to get kids to eat kale and peppers or tomatoes. There are lots of flavors you can try as well. Try my sour cream and onion recipe. Dehydrating zucchini is also awesome. You’re left with a crunchy chip! If you buy veggie chips and snacks, look for the local organic vendors.
  • You can sauté veggies that you made a night before with some spices or cheese. I sauté broccoli with coconut oil and tamari. My kids fight over it—it’s so good!

PROTEIN / FAT

I lumped these two items together because you want both in your diet/lunch, but you don’t need as much.

  • Vegan Mayo tastes wonderful and is the best thing to make sandwiches with. My kids absolutely LOVE mustard, vegan mayo, and avocado sandwiches. When they are feeling adventurous we add some spinach, arugula, or lettuce.
  • Avocado brown rice sushi is a wonderful option. You can make this at home so easily. Check out my Instagram video how-to. It takes just a few minutes to wrap these up. Add a little tamari and voila!
  • Hummus: A family favorite at our house! I put some in a tiny reusable container and package chopped veggies or rice crackers to go along with it. Or I make a hummus sandwich for my kids. Either way, it’s so healthy and you can make your own in less than 15 minutes!
  • If you’re a meat-eating family, then get creative. Mix it up. Salmon and beef jerky are a bit salty but sometimes a fun snack option. Try and find organic, gluten-free, and low sugar/salt varieties. Why not throw in a grass-fed, no nitrate hot dog in there? Try cooked salmon, sardines, or another of your fave fish in a reusable container. Add a fork and let them eat it plain.
  • Edamame beans are a great natural, fun, protein-filled snack to throw in the lunch box (just avoid too much processed soy and soy isolates).
  • What about a plain hard-boiled egg? My kids LOVE hard-boiled eggs. Or you can mash it up with vegan mayo and avocado as a salad or a sandwich.
  • A small bag of raw almonds? YUM! As long as your kids are good chewers, this option is perfect. Maybe a homemade trail mix? With some dried fruit as well? Kids LOVE pistachios. Trader Joes sells them already roasted and kids can remove the shells. It’s like an activity at lunchtime.
  • Since we don’t eat a lot of meat or tofu at my house, we make protein bars at home. Lots of nuts, oats, puffed rice, or even buckwheat, some dates, and whatever flavors we want. Try my homemade recipe from Pure Mamas.
  • Protein and vitamin powders! These powders can be used to add to a drink, a homemade granola/protein bar, or even to oatmeal or yogurt. The Honest Company makes a great kids’ vitamin powder perfect for this purpose. Or try another Pure Mamas homemade “bar” recipe; it includes chocolate and you can add your fave protein powder.

SNACKS

Let’s be honest, every kid eats snacks. It’s in their nature to grab things that are packaged and bright! Because every family is different with their dietary needs and rules, snacks can vary from yogurt to dried fruit to seaweed to candy (just avoid artificial colorings and dyes). I often get asked what my kids eat as a snack. So, here is a list of some that make me feel comfortable if my kids raid the cupboard.

  • Kids need so many calories to get through their busy days, so sometimes it’s okay to let them snack on a nutrition bar. However, these bars can be filled with tons of sugar, corn syrup, soy protein isolates, dyes, and other icky stuff, so be careful to read labels.
  • Looking for a candy corn alternative? This one tastes amazing; it’s sweetened with coconut sugar. It’s a nice indulgence.
  • What kid doesn’t like gummies? This is a super special treat at our house. Annie’s are non-GMO verified, free of artificial colors and preservatives, and vegan.
  • Hail Merry’s tarts and macaroons are to-die-for decadent. They are raw, vegan, and just amazing no-guilt treats.
  • The mango flavor Funky Monkey snack is so darn good! Just fruit, no added sugar.
  • These aren’t as popular with my kids, but every once in a while we enjoy nut butter balls. YUM!

Of course, you can give kids left over dinner or more of a meal for lunch. I’m just offering simple ideas for quick and easy lunch packing. What are your favorite healthy lunchtime meals and snacks?

~ Juli Novotny of Pure Mamas

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  • Clauda

    Just wanted to take a second to thank you for the wonderful products. I started ordering the monthly bundles right after my 16 month old daughter was born. I have peace of mind knowing that we are using products in our home and on my daughter that all safe and lovely.

    • You are welcome, Clauda! We’re very grateful that you and your daughter our members of the Honest family — thank you! And we really appreciate your participation in the blog community. Please stop back with any questions, comments, or other ideas you may have…we love the feedback. Also, feel free to share a pic of your little one! You can upload it in the comments here or tweet it to us on Twitter using @Honest.

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  • Alli

    Thx! Great ideas!

    • You’re welcome, Alli!

  • Yuli

    Great picks! Organic Seaweed & Annie’s, my favorites!

    • Thanks, Yuli! In addition to your faves, are there any other lunch items or snacks you’d add to this list?

      • Yuli

        There’s such an amazing list here already! So much to try:D but how about a handful or two of Organic UNSALTED Plain Raw Cashews! The benefits are incredible;)

        • Kelly

          My daughter is a huge raw cashew fan. It also make a great spread or dip with just a dollop of honey:-)

  • Karen

    I love you guys & Jessica Alba of course! Her book is extremely thorough and helpful, As well as these blogs. Thanks for all the great tips in making my sons lunch healthier and my job easier! I can’t thank her enough for changing my families eating habits and making me more organized than ever! Thanks Jessica!
    Your biggest fan,
    Karen B from NY

    P.s I can’t wait to have another baby just to order your products! 🙂

    • Thanks so much Karen for being a member of the community! We’re so happy that these blog posts are making your life easier — that’s what we strive for, so your feedback is invaluable and appreciated. What other blog posts would you love to read more of or any particular topics you’d like discussed? Stop by again soon!

  • Annie @ Natural Sweet Recipes

    Keeping kids healthy during school is the hardest! Fabulous ideas! And all those snacks are yummy for adults too. 🙂

    • We agree that it’s hard to maintain a healthy diet, especially once the year is in full swing and our best intentions are overwhelmed by schedules, work, etc. If only there were more hours in the day, right?! Which is exactly why we created the lunch ideas with the entire family in mind — so you can simplify the process and feed everyone the same things. We’re glad you enjoyed!

  • Catherine

    No carbs? What’s the thinking behind that?

    • Jonna

      Fruits itself contain lots of carbs. Believe me.

    • julinovotny

      It’s not that there’s no carbs per se…{fruit and juice, etc.} but starchy carbs are in breakfast and dinner and way way over consumed by kids. They get enough in their days. Granola bars {homemade or not} are a great carb for lunches.

  • Twin Mama

    Quinoa balls are a great snack. You can shred fruits and veggies, add to the cooked quinoa and use an egg to help hold it together and bake in the oven. My kids love freeze dried fruits and veggies!

    • julinovotny

      YUM!

    • Thanks for this healthy recipe, Twin Mama! How long and at what temp should we bake them at?

      • Twin Mama

        It depends on the recipe. I adapted one from http://www.littlegrazers.com and I usually bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. They get a little golden, or firm to the touch.

  • t. kerce

    My 2 and a half year old son eats Kale chips like they are cookies. I have caught him sneaking some enough times.

    • julinovotny

      AWESOME!

    • That’s such a cute story! We love that healthy treats are so popular with kids — it makes our jobs as parents (a little bit) easier!

  • Yonat Arie

    Hi there,

    I have a question regarding picky eaters. I have a 5 yr old daughter at home who rarely eats veggies and fruits. Goodness knows I tried many different ways. I tried hiding them in foods, puréed, squeeze pouches even bribes, still nothing. Any ideas on how to get her to eat more fruits and veggies?

    • Ntasha

      I have a super picky 8 year old so I can relate. Sneak them in a tasty smoothie that consists of (organic) kale, banana, pineapple blueberries, strawberries , carrot, orange juice or organic milk … my son loves it and I also make sure that he takes his multivitamin from Honest :0)

      • Yonat Arie

        Ntasha,

        Thanks! I shall try that for her.

    • julinovotny

      Hey I wanted to tell a really great smoothie recipe that my kids LOVE and they don’t like eating fruit plain.

      1st you’ll need to freeze super ripe bananas {I keep tons in the freezer}

      In a high speed blender add 4 cups fresh orange juice, {get the good clean stuff like Evolution Juice, it’s worth it} a few handfuls of spinach, 2 frozen bananas and BLEND AWAY. Sometimes I add protein powders as well but not usually.

      My kids know this is a great serving of fruits and veggies. So they devour it. It tastes AMAZING. Like ice cream. Just try it once at least. 😉

      Also, dried fruit is great. Give frozen fruit a go as well. My son will eat frozen mango chunks, frozen pineapple chunks, frozen bananas, etc.

      Hope that works.

  • Mom of 3

    My eldest daughter is allergic to nuts and I just don’t keep them around the house since she gets jealous she can’t have any. I use soy nut butter for P&J sandwiches but what can I substitute for crunchy nuts. I feel bad for my other 2 daughters that we can’t even buy them. Any tips?

    • Leiachica

      Since she can eat soy, roasted soy nuts are the obvious choice. They are delicious to snack on; just be sure they’re processed in a plant that does not process other nuts to which she’s allergic.

    • Leiachica

      Another great option is sunflower seeds, if she can eat them. They’re available in all kinds of great flavors both in and out of the shell, and many people with nut allergies can eat them.

    • Amanda B.

      Roasted chickpeas?

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