Packing healthy lunches for ourselves or our kids can be very frustrating! “What should I pack?” “Will they eat it?” “Will it even taste good by noon?” Not to mention that manufactures have made it very easy for us to buy and pack cookies, chips, and soda in those convenient little snack bags and bottles. And way too many parents have heard, “But all my friends have candy in their lunch!” We can, however, overcome all of these hurdles and create a healthy masterpiece for lunch!
While bananas and apples are great fruit because they’re portable and don’t need to be kept cold, we can also add an ice pack and toss in a small Tupperware of sliced kiwi, a bag of grapes, cut up cantaloupe, or blueberries. Whatever fruit you choose, cut or wash enough for everyone’s lunch – mom, dad, and the kids! Another option is to give everyone a small baggie of dried apples or apricots, or even a box of yogurt covered raisins.
While we’re thinking ice packs, toss some carrots, celery, or snap peas into a bag with a side of hummus or salsa in a 4 oz. plastic container with a lid. Tired of carrots? Slice up a green and red pepper into strips, chop up some fresh broccoli, or give everyone a few sliced cucumber rounds. If you prefer a little extra spice in your veggie, try adding some wasabi peas with your lunch.
Dairy and Protein
A cup of yogurt is a great addition to anyone’s lunch. It’s an easy way to get some calcium and protein in one shot. Or try boiling a few eggs Sunday afternoon to toss into everyone’s lunch that week. Encourage your kids to buy low-fat milk at their school cafeteria. Grab some of your favorite crackers and add in some low-fat Colby Jack cheese slices.
More Lunch Ideas!
One of the easiest lunch ideas, but can often be the most boring – “Not peanut butter and jelly AGAIN!” Try carving off some chicken from Sunday’s chicken breast dinner and saving it for chicken salad sandwich for everyone’s lunch on Monday. Not a meat eater? Create a veggie sub with sliced zucchini, arugula, spinach, tomato (keep tomato separate until you’re ready to eat), and Swiss cheese.
Think Outside the Bun
Dust off your thermos – it’s not just for camping anymore! Warm up last night’s whole grain pasta dish or heat up a can of low sodium chicken noodle soup and keep it hot and ready to eat for lunch. Making a turkey chili this weekend? Double your batch and save some for lunches! Or toss together some tuna, white beans, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and red onions for a mayo-free tuna salad. Another option – a wrap with your favorite veggies and turkey breast.
A good lunch doesn’t have to be the typical sandwich, chips, and fruit. Your lunch could be made from your favorite snack foods, too! Add peanut butter crackers, a handful of almonds, cherry tomatoes with a little dip, and cheddar cheese slices together for a satisfying lunch.
With just a little planning, we can create a delicious, healthy lunch that EVERYONE in the family will look forward to eating. For even more meal planning ideas, you can meet with one of our Registered Dietitians by clicking here or calling (301) 474-2499 to make an appointment!
Blog updated November 2019
Contributions by Dawn Frick, RDN, LDN
Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients. Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.
Wonderful article. Covers a lot of bases for parents and kids- not to mention the food groups. A snack of nuts and/or seeds with some dried fruit could be an addition too. Excellent!
What a great article with lots of fun ideas. I’m actually excited to go to the grocery store and start packing some lunches! 🙂