Packing kids lunches can either be a struggle or a simple fact of life.
I want my kids to eat healthy meals and I don’t want it to be a big challenge for any of us, so I let them have some (measured) freedom in making lunch choices.
First we look at the lunch calendar ahead and pick the days to buy their favorites. Then we plan the pack days, by me asking asking for their general ideas first, then referring to this list and then planning the main item for each day together. I write down their decisions on the calendar so there aren’t any surprises (except the occasional treat I might pack, or a love or joke note from me) and then we are good to go until it is time to pack.
So what do we pack?
I typically pack a sandwich, kabob or roll-up with a crunchy snack-like side item, fruit and a drink.
(They pick and pack the fruit as I pack the rest. Sure, they could pack their own lunches, but I want to pack them for them at this age.)
Here’s our basic go-to list:
Kabob (use toothpicks or small skewers)
Hawaiian: Ham, pineapple, Canadian bacon
Meat and Cheese: Chicken, turkey or ham cubes alternating with different types of cheese
Fruit: strawberries, grapes, cantaloupe, pineapple, melon (whatever is fresh!!)
Add something sweet to the fruit: mini marshmallows, angel food cake, banana bread squares
Sandwich kabobs: make a favorite sandwich, slice it into quarters and put on skewers or toothpicks for a new twist
Depending on your kabob, consider adding a dipping sauce in a small container: peanut butter w/ a touch of apple sauce, honey and cinnamon, ranch dressing, yogurt, barbecue sauce.
Sandwich guts/ interior ideas:
Leftover barbecue chicken or pork
Chicken salad with grapes
Turkey, ham, roast beef (with or without cheese)
Tomato sauce and sliced meatballs
Peanut, cashew or almond butter and thinly sliced apples or bananas (or both) with a touch of honey
Peanut, cashew or almond butter and jelly
- Add berries or bananas
- Add honey
- Add granola
Sandwich exterior ideas other than ‘regular’ bread when we need a change:
2 slices of bread flattened with a rolling pin, stuffed, rolled and sliced like sushi
Tortilla (rolled or toasted on the stove like a quesadilla)
Bagel or mini bagel
Hot dog bun
Ham, turkey or chicken around a cheese stick
Ham, turkey or chicken rolled up & stuck with a toothpick
I keep this list handy and know my kids will eat from it, but I don’t make any effort toward rotating through the whole thing. Often we’ll go for weeks with the same 3 lunch items. And I think that is okay. Like I said, I try to keep lunch simple and enjoyable… and if all they want is something simple day after day, as long as it meets my nutrition requirements, I joyfully give it to them.
I also try to get my kids involved in cooking in the kitchen as well as planning. Here’s a link to a post on our guest chef night where you can see another way I get them involved.
Hope this helps you in planning and packing your own lunches. Please share any ideas that your family enjoys. I’m always looking for something new and fun!