Packing school lunches can be a chore, so think “outside the box” with some different menu items. Your goal is to find the items your kids like, will eat and will enable them to keep their focus the rest of the afternoon.
A well-balanced lunch includes lean proteins and fiber from fruits and vegetables. Following the MyPlate guidelines, you can also include whole grains and low-fat dairy items. Whether you are looking for toddlers or teenagers, there are plenty of easy and healthy boxed lunch ideas to choose from.
But what if your child has an allergy like dairy or gluten? Abbey Granger, a dietitian at Akron Children’s Hospital, offers some ideas for packing lunches that are allergen friendly that are also tasty and nutritious by pairing wholesome items for long-lasting energy.
What you will need
A successful school lunch should start with the following:
- Insulated lunch box
- Containers with sections
- Sandwich bags
- Freezer packs (to keep food cool!)
Dairy-free lunch combos
- Hard-boiled eggs + peeled orange + pretzels + salted cashews
- Pro-tip: if your child doesn’t like the yolk of the hard-boiled egg, try swapping out for mashed avocado in the egg white
- Turkey roll-ups + diced apples with walnuts + sliced cucumbers + banana chips
- Pro-tip: freeze-dried fruit is a great way to replace potato chips for a crunchy snack
- Grilled chicken strips + carrots + hummus + grapes
- Pro-tip: grill and slice chicken breasts at the beginning of the week to store in the fridge for easy lunch making
Gluten-free lunch combos
- Chicken salad lettuce wrap + applesauce + cheese cubes
- Pro-tip: combine canned chicken with diced apples and celery, plain yogurt, honey mustard, and seasonings for a healthy spin on the classic chicken salad recipe
- Cottage cheese + berries + cucumber slices + rice crackers
- Pro-tip: after scooping cottage cheese into container, top with berries in a shape or smile for a surprise when your child opens their lunch box
- Ham-wrapped cheese sticks + apples with cinnamon + pistachios + spinach and tomato salad
- Pro-tip: sprinkle cinnamon on top of diced apples for an extra taste of something sweet.