The Kids’ Lunch Makeover :: How to Prevent Lunch Box Boredom


“Really mom, ANOTHER sandwich for lunch?” I have heard this from my kids so many times, and I am sure you have too! It is challenging to come up with new lunch ideas for my kids. Not only do you have to consider what your child enjoys eating, but you also have to consider the time they have to eat. (My son has about 20 minutes at school, which is not very long). And you have to think about whether or not the child can heat their food.

Of course, we also must consider if it will provide good nutrition for them.

Even on days when I am home with my daughter, I find it challenging to keep it interesting. I know I have failed when we remain at the kitchen table for almost an hour and she is still just sitting there not at all excited about eating her lunch. (Am I alone here?)

I decided I was tired of our lunch routine. Really tired. I was tired of sitting at the table for an hour, constantly asking my daughter to eat her food. And I was really tired of half-eaten sandwiches coming home in my son’s lunch box. So instead of wallowing in my dislike for lunchtime, I decided to do something about it. A few months ago I brainstormed some new ideas, and over the last few months, we have been trying them out. They are ideas that are different, tasty, and nutritious. Here are some ideas that have worked well for us, and I hope they will work for you too!

Components of a Healthy Lunch

It is helpful to include at least three different food groups in your child’s lunch. Hopefully you all know this, but our food groups are:

1. Grains

2. Vegetables

3. Fruits

4. Proteins

5. Dairy

One of those groups should be either a protein or a dairy food of some sort, and I like to include a fruit AND a vegetable. Sometimes I include a grain, depending on what the rest of the lunch is. I always throw in a small treat of some sort to encourage my children to eat their food. I actually don’t know if they save it for last, but I sure hope they do!

Some Ideas To Help You Get Started

Idea #1: Pasta with cheese, berries, raw veggies, chocolate milk, and cinnamon almonds

I added some cinnamon roasted almonds on the side of this pasta for a little protein boost.  I also find my kids are much more likely to eat their lunch if it looks pretty! One of the keys to making this happen is to include foods with a lot of color.

Find the recipe for the almonds here.

I also make my own chocolate milk to reduce the amount of sugar my kids consume. The already-made chocolate milk has 6 1/2 tsp of sugar (3 1/2 of those are added sugars)!  When I make it myself, I can limit the amount of chocolate syrup I add, and they love it just as much!

Idea #2: Meatballs, green beans, apple slices, and a homemade blueberry muffin

Meatballs! They actually make a really great lunch, and both of my kids LOVE them! Here is the recipe in case you want to try them.

I usually make extra for dinner and freeze them in small containers with three each. This seems to be about the right size for lunch. The meatballs keep my son full all afternoon, and even my daughter, who is a self-proclaimed vegetarian, likes them! A lifesaver for our lunches are these thermoses. They allow me to send hot lunch to school without worrying about it!

Idea #3:  Quesadilla, corn, avocado, salsa, dried cranberries, and chocolate

This lunch is a simple one that can be eaten either hot or cold. I found these great lunch containers on Amazon. They are glass, so they do well in the microwave and the dishwasher. They are pretty durable also, but I have explained to my kids that they are fragile and that they should be careful with them.

Idea #4: Mini Hot Dogs (grass fed beef, no nitrates), fruit salad, carrot and zucchini strips with ranch, and yogurt.

I found these great hot dogs at Costco this week, and my kids absolutely LOVE them! You can serve these hot dogs cold or heated up. I sent my son with ketchup on the side today.

Idea #5: Turkey, cream cheese, and spinach roll ups, Triscuits, apples and blackberries, raw veggies, and a glass of milk

I like to use spinach in any lunch roll up as it provides so much nutrition and the kids can’t even taste it. I recommend using a dipping sauce for veggies like hummus or a salad dressing. Kids love dips!

Idea #6: Almond butter sandwich, banana and oranges, celery and baby carrots with ranch, a fig bar, gummy bears for dessert

I saved this one for last because this is the normal option. You can make it fun though! Try using roasted chicken or almond butter in place of lunch meat for something different.

Kids’ lunches don’t have to be boring, but sometimes you do have to make an effort to try something new. Hopefully, you will be able to use a few of the ideas given here this week!  I would love to hear if your kids like them!

Originally published February 2018.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.


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