Lunch With A Punch: Alternative Ideas for Healthy Kids

It is back to the lunch packing grind for many parents! We know that it can be easy to fall back on the “Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich” train when you are rushing to get the kids out the door. However, did you know that children who eat a well balanced lunch often do better in school and are more alert? While breakfast is the most important meal of the day, lunch rounds in at a close second! Without your child in front of you, it can be difficult to monitor what they eat. You may have to up your game to get kids to actually eat what you’ve packed. Maybe your family follows a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, perhaps your child has a gluten restriction, or possibly you are just looking for some awesome, healthy lunchbox tips and ideas! Well, you have certainly come to the right place!


Throughout this article you will get to experience a coveted Daily Mom favorite, the Laptop Lunch Bento Box by Laptop Lunches! These great lunch boxes help you keep lunch organized, they are made in the USA and full of recycled materials. They are also PVC, BPA, lead and Phthalate free! This box will appease even the pickets of kids and will be adored by all Moms! They are sturdy and have a long life. The containers are removable for maximum versatility.

Lunchbox tips

  • Remember that it’s not your lunch! If you pack carrots knowing your child hates them, they will not get eaten! Allow them to weigh in when you pack their lunch. Avoid them asking for something like cookies by giving them a few healthy options and letting them choose. As parents well know, kids love feeling like they have some control!
  • Don’t be tempted by the convenience of pre-packaged, processed foods. These are extremely high in sodium, preservatives and often full of unpronounceable ingredients and dyes.
  • Save yourself time and stress! PACK LEFTOVERS! If your child loved last night’s brown rice stir fly or devoured some bean chili, pack it up into an insulated thermos, add a little snack and send them on their way!
  • Pack a safe lunch! Properly packing a lunch will ensure food safety and freshness. A reusable ice-pack and a thermos to hold warm foods are both good investments! A cloth napkin and reusable utensils will also cut down on waste.
  • There is no rule that lunch has to include a sandwich and two sides! Be Creative!
  • Check in with your child’s school to see if they have any restrictions. Sometimes, due to life threatening allergies, schools may restrict things such as nuts, legumes or certain fruits. Play it safe and make sure you know this beforehand.

A Healthier Sandwich

To some, the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich is as American as apple pie. Most PB&J sandwiches contain peanut butter that has a lot of added sugar as well as jelly that’s also loaded with sugar. It is then sandwiched between white bread which unfortunately is nutritionally deficient. However, if you make a few tweaks this classic could be a bit healthier and keep its place as an occasional rotator in your child’s school lunch!

You should look for high fiber, whole grain bread that has 3-4 grams of fiber per slice. Sprouted bread is also a fantastic option. It contains more nutrients and is easier to digest. Ezekiel’s makes a great one which can be found in the freezer section of your local grocery store.

When choosing peanut butter, always get natural peanut butter. Most brands add excessive amount of sugar and salt as well as hydrogenated oils, all of which are unnecessary and not a good part of your child’s diet. Natural Almond Butter is a fantastic substitute for peanut butter. It contains Iron, Vitamin E and Magnesium.  If you are making a sandwich with jelly be sure to choose jellies that are made with all fruit and have no added sweeteners.

Consider branching out from PB&J and try packing some other options. Hummus with vegetables makes for a great vegan sandwich, supplying protein and packing great flavor. Try forgoing jelly on the sandwiches and substituting it for apples and raisins! This lends to a crunchy, sweet sandwiches that kids are sure to love. Do you have a blueberry lover on your hands? Try an organic cream cheese sandwich layered with blueberries!

Veggie Nuggets

Chicken nuggets is often a favorite of children. Unfortunately they are processed and full of sodium with very little nutritional value. Rather then feeding your kids something void of nutrition help them get through the day with these vegetable nuggets. Broccoli is loaded with essential nutrients offering you a rich dose of Vitamin C as well as loads of Fiber. The cauliflower packs heavy doses of Vitamin C and K. Encourage your child to help you to help you turn these nuggets into fun shapes that they are sure to enjoy come lunch time. Add some marinara for dipping and they are good to go!

Ingredients

  • ½ large cauliflower
  • 1 broccoli crown
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup bread crumbs (Gluten Free? Try Replacing with Ians GF Bread Crumbs)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (Vegan? Replace with Nutritional Yeast)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • Handful of Fresh Parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Boil your cauliflower and broccoli until they are cooked and soft. Remove from water and rise in cold water.
  2. Preheat oven to 375.
  3. Place cauliflower and broccoli inside a food processor. Process for a minute or two until it’s thoroughly combined.
  4. Add eggs, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley and seasoning to veggie mixture. Process a few pulses until evenly combined. If veggie paste is too sticky, add additional bread crumbs.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, place veggie nugget scoops onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown.

Note: These freeze well. Line the uncooked nuggets up on a baking sheet with parchment paper and freeze. Once frozen transfer to a bag or container. Add 2-3 minutes to the cooking time.


The Snack Effect

If you’ve ever sent a kid to school with a delicious lunch, opened their lunchbox at the end of the day and realized they skipped right over the lunch and ate only the snacks, we feel you! Make sure you are packing nutritious snacks so if that’s all they eat they are still getting some of the good stuff. A trail or trek mix is a great option. These are easy to mix up ahead of time and fun for the kids to help you make. Pick some of your kid’s favorite foods, like raisins, nuts, shredded coconut. Store extra for next time!

Want to save the time and buy one already made? Be sure to read the ingredients because companies often add unnecessary sugars and oils. Check out the bulk section of your grocery store for the best pricing or try this Organic Trail Mix. It is lightly sweetened with apple juice and contains only a small amount of organic sunflower oil.


Pack For Protein: Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is an amazing and versatile grain! This little food is a gluten free nutritional powerhouse. It offers a complete protein which is awesome for those following a vegan diet or just anyone trying to obtain some of their protein from meatless sources. As a complete protein, it contains all nine essential amino acids.  High in dietary fiber and slow to digest, this is the perfect and filling lunchtime meal to help the kids make it through the rest of the day. The best part is that quinoa is such an adaptable grain. Tweak this dish to contain your child’s favorite vegetables or add in dried fruits and nuts!   Sweeten it with a touch of honey or cinnamon to appeal to the pickiest of eaters!

Check out our article on 3 Grains You Should Add to Your Diet for more information on quinoa and some other healthy and essential grains!

A Simple Salad

A simple salad can make for a great addition to your child’s lunchbox. Try mixing up an organic chicken salad, tuna salad or even a tofu salad! Kids love the creamy flavor of mayonnaise. Replace traditional mayonnaise with “Just Mayo” an outrageously delicious mayonnaise by Hampton Creek. It is delicious, sustainable and comes in multiple flavors like garlic and chipotle. Along with being delicious it is also Non GMO, cholesterol-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free and lactose free with no artificial colors or flavors.  Just like original mayonnaise, but healthier and even tastier!

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Just Mayo | Variety Pack

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A Lunchbox “Treat”

Young ones are always delighted to open their lunchbox to find a special note! Take lunchbox notes to the next level by sending them with 5×5 square prints from artifact uprising. Printed on high quality, matte paper these are a great way to remind your little ones of past special memories and occasions! They will love discovering this little touch and they can treasure it for years to come. Make it even more exciting by sending treasured pictures of other family members along with a special note!


Don’t let packing a healthy school lunch for your children be a daunting task. Give them an array of healthy options to choose from and get creative!

Check out our post on “Five Ways to Make School Lunch Fun” for some more great ideas to make sure this year is “The Year of the Best School Lunches”

Photo Credits:Its A Logical Life, Kirsten H.

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Jessica

Jessica is a holistic health counselor and work from home mom living in the middle of nowhere USA with her sweet little boy! She suffers from a serious case of compulsive globe-trotting and is always counting the days until her next move or adventure. You can often find her trying to get in her exercise in by lunging through the park while chasing after her very energetic little boy! She is constantly fueled and energized by her love for healthy eating and occasionally copious amounts of caffeine.

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