Healthy (But Fun!) Lunches for Kids
You might be surprised to learn that parents often miss the mark when it comes to creating wholesome, redeeming meals at lunchtime. According to NBC, scholarly researchers have published multiple studies that confirm that federal lunch programs are often healthier than what Mom and Dad choose to pack for school. While loading up on fresh vegetables and fruit is crucial for any kid's lunchbox, the best meals are creative enough to bring out tasty flavors and ensure that your little one actually has fun eating. Crafting balanced lunches at home allows you to encourage your little one to make better choices: After all, further research shows that establishing healthy eating habits in our youth impacts our dietary habits later on in life.
The best healthy meals think outside the box—our spin on a lightened quesadilla using fresh squash, seen here, is the perfect example. If you've overdone the nut butter and jelly wheat sandwiches, try repurposing some of last night's leftovers into a hearty lunch that's still fun to eat. This quesadilla is creamy and satisfying, marrying fresh mozzarella and goat cheese with hearty butternut squash, and is topped with fresh pico de gallo. The little ones will love eating with their hands and dipping their meal into fresh salsa. And it's a guaranteed winner, even for the pickiest of kids—who wouldn't enjoy the creamy profile of the squash alongside a good sprinkle of cheese?
These lunch ideas allow you to test drive fresh ingredients in your child's lunchbox in exciting ways; from revamped sandwiches to better-for-you pastas and supercharged salads, these thrilling lunches will keep everyone healthy and happy.
Chicken Soup with Rice
Tropical Fruit Salad with Coconut Crunch
Who says all sweet treats have to be baked goods or made entirely of chocolate? A fruit salad is a great alternative. Chop ripe, fresh berries and flavorful tropical fruits to give your little one a taste of summer all year long. Be sure to make a big batch of the crunchy coconut-poppy seed dressing; it adds a fun, healthy punch to this dish.
Tahini Fruit Dip
Here's why these cookies are the supercharged treat you should add to your kids lunchbox: The recipe swaps butter for coconut oil, which reduces saturated fats and adds nutty flavor. We also like that it uses gluten-free flours and oats, but you can make it a whole-grain cookie by choosing spelt flour.
Lean ham and loads of broccoli bulk up this healthier twist on pizza pockets, and we love how easily they can be packed into a lunch box. Don't forget to include a little container of tomato sauce for dipping.
Baked Sweet Potato Chips
Transform vitamin-packed sweet potatoes into a low-fat "can't eat just one" snack simply by tossing thin slices with a drizzle of olive oil and baking until crisp-edged. These crunchy sweet potato chips are just one of our favorite options for creating better-for-you veggie and fruit chips at home.
Turkey Caesar Sandwich
Whole-Grain Breakfast Cookies
While these may be called breakfast cookies, we promise they taste just as good at lunch. Buckwheat flour, millet, and oats form the wholesome base, and the addition of cashew butter, coconut oil, and fresh raspberries will make sure your kids are well fueled for the rest of the school day.
These mini bean-and-veggie burgers take inspiration from Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches. Blended beans and rice are the basis of these sliders, which are supercharged with grated carrots, broccoli, and ginger. Top them with cilantro and sliced mango for the brightest sandwiches ever.
As a parent, you object to food that comes in "Tropical Tie-Dye" flavor, but the grocery-aisle pleas are inevitable. Head them off by making real-fruit rolls that are like candy, only better.
Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken and Scallions
Introduce your kids to protein-packed edamame: They'll have fun sucking the tender beans out of their pods.
Instead of the usual hummus, try this brilliant-green, protein-packed spread with vegetables and whole-grain crackers or pita for dipping.
Vegetarian Black-Bean Chili
A thermos full of this mild-but-tasty vegetable-packed chili and some baked tortilla chips will keep little tummies happy all afternoon long.
Ants on a Log
Using assorted dried fruit adds a colorful twist to this classic snack.
Julienned carrot, red bell pepper, celery, and scallion are rolled in tangy sushi rice and crisp nori to make this colorful, fun-to-eat veggie sushi.