School hasn’t even been back in session for a full month, and yet, do you find yourself already bored packing the same lunches day after day? Does that PB&J look a little lackluster? Are you stumped for ideas of how to spice up both you and your kids’ lunch boxes? Look no further for a little inspiration to keep lunches not only fun and different, but healthy and full of essential nutrients to power your family through school and work, and to keep them energized through after-school activities, sports, and gym time.Create a healthy lunchable
Whether you’re more into the make-your-own pizza, or the meat and cheese stackables, it’s easy and cost-effective to create your own lunchables to your liking. Using a whole wheat or cauliflower crust as a base and stocking up on a jar of quality pizza sauce, veggies, cheese, and other toppings of your choice can mimic what you find in those lunchables sets but ups the flavor and nutrient profile. If you’re more of a meat and cheese family, purchase some whole grain crackers, and pair them with a tasty spread (avocado mayo anyone?), and top with healthier meat and cheese options from the deli counter. Round out lunchtime with a piece of fruit and a naturally flavored seltzer water for a filling and delish lunch option. Other lunchable-type ideas to try include build-your-own tacos or mini pita pockets stuffed with meat, cheese, or salads.
Use last night’s leftovers to create a new and fun lunchtime meal. Use leftover chicken as the star in a taco salad, or better yet, lettuce wrapped tacos. Or try saucing up your chicken with a low sugar teriyaki or barbecue sauce for a different flavor using the same satisfying protein. Was salad your main entrée last night? Pre-portion some out for tomorrow’s lunch and top with fun and kid-approved items that will have your little ones getting their veggies in . Try raisins, whole wheat croutons, or shredded cheese. Keep the dressing separate to avoid soggy greens. Have roasted veggies sitting in Tupperware? Throw some on a whole grain baguette, smear on a bit of goat cheese or cream cheese and stick in a few spinach leaves to complete the sandwich. Lastly, get creative with leftover grains, such as rice, pasta or quinoa. Turn these into a filling grain salad by adding in diced veggies, toss with your favorite vinaigrette, and top with nuts, herbs, crumbled cheese or dried fruit for a hearty and filling lunch.
Have fun with breakfast for dinner
No time to shop or cook this week? Use easy and available breakfast staples to create a filling and well-balanced lunch. Pack hard boiled eggs, Greek yogurt and a side of fruit for a wholesome and easy pick. Or, pack whole grain waffles with a side of almond butter and banana slices for topping. In a pinch for time? Whip up a smoothie with yogurt, greens (spinach blends nicely), fruit, and milk (any kind of dairy or non-dairy works) and call it lunch. Add in a cheese stick and whole grain crackers for a complete meal that will hold you over through dinner.
Make a bento box
A bento box is a reusable Japanese-style lunch box that typically holds a main dish and sides, separated into sections to keep food items from spilling together. This is a great way to provide plenty of options and even repack leftovers. Stick to a protein, a starch or grain, a side of veggies, and a fruit. Great options to include are veggies and guacamole and salsa, crackers with cheese, hummus and pita, or even a chickpea pasta salad with veggies and fruit on the side. Use these for your lunchables (listed above) and enjoy assembling sandwiches, pizza, pita pockets, meat and cheese roll ups, tacos, or anything your heart desires. Or stick to the traditional Bento box fare and add in Japanese staples, such as edamame, sushi, a seaweed salad, and a fortune cookie for a fun finish. Bento boxes are widely available to purchase online and come in fun colors and shapes that the whole family will love.
Lunchbox sandwich kabobs
Jazz up your boring sandwich with an easy fix. Cut any sandwich into fourths and stick a skewer (or for a safer bet, use a popsicle stick) through it. Layer your kabob with fruits, veggies, or even cubes of cheese to round out the meal. Consider whipping up an almond butter and jelly sandwich layered with strawberries, bananas, and then provide a Greek yogurt sauce as a dip. Crave a more savory sandwich kabob? Layer a turkey sandwich with cherry tomatoes and cucumbers with an avocado dipping sauce. Even building cheese cube and apple kabobs can be a great healthy and satisfying afternoon snack.
If you think soup is just for before your entrée, think again. Invest in a high quality thermos which will keep liquid hot for hours and fill with hearty and filling soups such as turkey chili, chicken noodle soup (full of veggies, potatoes, and large chunks of chicken), loaded baked potato soup, or a cheesy and delicious bowl of cheeseburger soup. Pair a small side of oven-baked tortilla chips, whole wheat crackers, or roasted chickpeas or edamame in a separate container for dipping and topping.
Use these ideas as a start to get a fresh take on your lunches this year. Take stock of what you have in your pantry and fridge and with a little creativity, you’ll have all your kids’ friends lining up at your door for snack time.