Lunchbox SOS

Packing Fun into Box Lunches

As the new school year begins, coming up with some creative ideas for lunchboxes can be challenging. Here are a few healthy alternatives that will make lunches fun and tasty.

  • Consider using cookie cutters to change the shapes of sandwiches that match the season, like a football, hearts, animal shapes, etc. Then add a decorated cookie for dessert to match the theme.
  • A warm sandwich is a great alternative and easily made with lunch meat or turkey slices and cheese placed in the middle of a rolled out refrigerated pizza crust. After it’s baked, wrap it in aluminum foil and put in an insulated lunch bag to stay warm.
  • When making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, consider changing the flavor of jelly to add variety to a standard favorite.
  • Top whole-grain mini waffles with Nutella spread and sliced strawberries instead of a cookie or brownie.
  • Make chicken skewers with chunks of cooked chicken, cherry tomatoes and a chunk of cooked vegetables.
  • Bake flour tortillas filled with tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese and wrap in aluminum foil to keep warm.
  • Roll a lunchmeat slice around small cheese stick and secure with a toothpick
  • Use other bread alternatives are pita bread and flour tortillas which can be used with lunch meats and made into wraps.
  • Zucchini bread and banana breads work well with cream cheese and other spreads.
  • Give hot dog buns, pretzel buns, hamburger buns a new lease on life by using with meatball slices or lunchmeats.
  • Fill mini bagels or mini croissants with chicken salad, tuna salad or egg salad.

Kids, like adults, can become bored having the same items all the time. Consider making small portions and give them a number of items so they can choose.

Side Dish Suggestions

  • Apple slices topped with peanut butter sprinkled with granola
  • Yogurt served with fruit dippers or carrot sticks
  • Cucumber slices topped with hummus
  • Celery stuffed with cream cheese and topped with raisins
  • Caprese skewers alternated with cherry tomatoes and chunks of mozzarella cheese
  • Guacamole dip served with whole-wheat tortilla chips
  • Large strawberries on a skewer served with a yogurt dip
  • Yogurt-dipped pretzels
  • Chocolate-dipped strawberries
  • Trail mix with nuts, raisins and dried fruit

Packing Tips

  • Packing sandwich items separately to assemble them when ready to eat avoids them getting soggy.
  • Put condiments in individual mini containers or use packets.
  • Use an insulated lunchbox/bag to keep food fresh.
  • Freeze a juice box or frozen gel pack and add it to an insulated lunch bag to keep food cool during hot months.
  • Remember to include napkins and throw away utensils.
  • After each use, wash reusable lunch/bag to avoid bacteria.
  • Collect colorful plastic dishes to make lunch more festive.
  • Add an occasional note thanking them for doing something you are proud of:

“I am so proud you made your bed without me asking.”
“Thanks for feeding the dog this morning.”
“I am so happy I am your mom/dad. You’re a great son/daughter.”
  • Add a mini flash card with a foreign word to teach a new language.