Believe me, there are some weeks where I feel like I’m re-creating the wheel, and others where I can create great lunches from practically nothing. Either way, it’s a great feeling for me to know that I am sending my kids nutrient dense food to sustain them throughout their school days.
Get All the Macros
Each meal should include a clean protein, colorful carbs, and a healthy fat.
- Hard-boiled egg
- Deli turkey, ham, salami (organic, nitrate-free)
- Tuna, chicken, or salmon salad
- Cold leftovers: chicken, meatballs, shrimp, etc.
- Yogurt (try my homemade coconut and homemade dairy versions)
- Chia pudding
- Vegetables: raw, roasted, in soups, in smoothies, as a salad
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains, as your body tolerates (don’t focus here — most people get plenty throughout the day)
- Nuts and seeds
- Nut butter
Keep in mind, a lot of your foods will hit on more than one macro. For example, a smoothie with coconut milk, collagen, and fruit will hit all three. It’s all about variety and nutrient density!
So Many Ideas
In reality, any of my recipes on this blog are great options for lunches. So often we cannot get over this picture in our head of sandwich-chips-apple-baby carrots. Let me tell you right now — you or your children do not need to fit this mold. In fact, I encourage you to try all kinds of things outside this formula. Get creative! (Or get lazy — you might be surprised that can work too.)
- Soups and stews in a thermos
- Cold leftovers
- Breakfast for lunch
- Charcuterie or “snack smorgasbord”
- Anything with dip — kids love dipping!
Here’s a roundup of blog posts with more real food ideas:
- Snacks for Homemade Lunches
- How to Pack School Lunches
- Easy Take to Work Lunches
- High-Energy Snacks for After-School Sports
Make It Appealing
If you want your kids to actually eat their lunches, a little effort goes a long way in making it fun and enticing. A rainbow of colors. A variety of textures. Use fun containers, little toothpicks, silicone muffins liners, cool water bottles. Lunchboxes and lunch bags to match their personality.
Get the Kids Involved
The years of packing lunches pays off when I see my kids get excited about putting something together on their own. There isn’t anything in our house that wouldn’t be good for their lunches, but I find myself wanting to jump in and interrupt when they pack a lunch of a gluten-free sandwich with rice chips, a rice cake, and fruit. No, it’s not bad, they are just forgetting the variety piece a bit, so I might suggest they add a little color via more produce, or some protein. All in all, I don’t want to take away their interest in responsibility, so mostly will smile and know they will need a ton of protein when they get home (or better yet, just bring it along in the car for pick up and beat them at their own game!).
Below is a video from 8 years ago(!) where I asked my little sweeties about their favorite lunch items and got some silly responses.