Starting a new school year is exciting, but it also can be challenging to get back into a routine. And if you don’t always have time to pack lunches and snacks that are both healthy AND yummy for your little ones, you’re not alone.
We’ve put together a list of fun, fast, and budget-friendly ideas that will keep everyone happy! Use these tips to get your children excited for lunchtime so they come home with a full tummy (and an empty lunchbox). We would also love to hear how you inspire your children to eat nutritious lunches at school.
MAKE LUNCHTIME FUN!
Lunch kebabs: Stick a toothpick or a skewer through some rolled-up lunch meat and cheese or through cut-up fruit like melon or berries. Changing how their lunch looks can please a picky eater!
Bento boxes: A bento box is an all-in-one lunch box containing everything to make a balanced meal. It’s also easy (and cheap) to make your own bento box. Grab a flat plastic storage container that will fit inside your child’s lunchbox and a few cupcake wrappers (paper or reusable). Fill the wrappers with different foods (see photo) and place them inside the Tupperware container, side by side, leaving no space in between each wrapper, and seal tightly.
- Protein: ham and cheese cubes, a hard-boiled egg cut in half, beef jerky
- Fruit & Veggies: apple slices, baby carrots, cucumber slices, banana slices
- Crunch: granola bar (cut in half), crackers, pretzels, popcorn
- Dip: yogurt, hummus, applesauce, salsa
Mom Hack: Bento boxes are great for children who don’t like their foods to touch each other.
Shiny happy faces: Turn ordinary sandwiches into smiling faces and fun animals to add a little humor (and adorableness) to lunchtime. Take anything round, like olives, cherry tomatoes, grapes, or blueberries for eyes, cut-out pieces of cheese, carrots, or peppers for the nose, mouth, and/or whiskers, or be creative and use what you have in the fridge.
Interesting shapes: Make an ordinary sandwich and then use a cookie cutter to transform it into a fun shape or character. If you don’t have a cookie cutter, use a knife to cut the sandwich into a circle, triangle, star, or heart. Anything new and different should catch your little one’s eye (and hopefully make its way into their tummy).
Jar-cuterie: This is a kid-friendly take on a meat and cheese plate (charcuterie). Like many of the lunch ideas on this list, it’s all about taking something familiar and presenting it in a new and interesting way that will motivate kids to eat their lunches. Take two or three clean, reusable jars, and arrange lunch foods inside. Kids will enjoy unpacking the food and eating lunch in a new way.
- Meat and cheese: Roll up lunch meat and cube cheese or slice it into long slices.
- Veggies: Cut carrots, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, or peppers into long sticks and arrange them standing up in a jar. The more colorful the combination, the better! Add olives or pickles, too!
- Fruit: Try layering cherries, berries, orange slices, or cubed pieces of melon so they make A rainbow of color, or mix them all up for a fruit salad-in-a-jar effect. Add a spoonful of yogurt on top to give it a sweet touch.
Pinwheels: Try this spin on traditional sandwiches. Take a tortilla, spread it with cream cheese or hummus as a base, then layer on crunchy veggies like grated carrots, peeled cucumber slices, or chopped spinach, finally, add the lunchmeat of your choice (if any). Roll them up, slice them into 1-inch-thick circles, and use toothpicks to hold them together if needed.
Quesadillas: Make quesadillas at home with ingredients that travel well for a tasty alternative to a sandwich. You can use basic ingredients like cheese only or cheese with ham, or if your child is a more adventurous eater, make a cheese and apple quesadilla or cheese and spinach.
Inspiring Notes: Make your little ones smile and create a core memory by sending a cute or encouraging note in their lunch box to tell them you love them and are thinking of them.
SWEET (BUT HEALTHY) SNACKS
Ants On A Log
Step 1: Take a celery stick and fill it with peanut butter (or sun butter if you’re nut-free or peanut butter isn’t allowed at your child’s school)
Step 2: Let your child choose their toppings. Give them healthy options like blueberries or raisins, and then let them sprinkle in a few chocolate chips.
Step 1: Start with a large sugar cookie or whole piece of pita bread
Step 2: Spread a combination of cream cheese and vanilla yogurt as a base
Step 3: Decorate the top of the “pizza” with a variety of fruit, like berries, grapes, or kiwi.
Step 4: Slice it up like a pizza.
Pancake Taco Station
Step 1: Make pancakes or use leftover pancakes.
Step 2: Set up a taco-making station with a plate of pancakes, a tasty spread such as Greek yogurt or cream cheese, peanut or sun butter, and small toppings: blueberries, sliced fruit like mangos, bananas, or strawberries, dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries, and a small number of sprinkles or chocolate chips.
Step 3: Have kids build their own pancake tacos with the spreads and toppings they like.
Step 4: Fold up the sides of the pancake tacos and dig in!
Step 1: Slice up an apple.
Step 2: Spread out the slices on a plate.
Step 3: Choose your dips and toppings! Peanut butter and yogurt make great dips. Fruit and sunflower or pumpkin seed toppings take this snack to the next level.
If you need help getting healthy food for your family, we can help. Visit CommunityFirstResources.com and enter your zip code. Then, click on FOOD for a list of no-and-low-cost resources near you. You can also visit one of our Community Food Pantries located throughout Bexar County and surrounding counties. Most are open 24/7 and contain non-perishable food and other grocery items.
Finally, if you or your child is a Community First Health Plans Member, please take our online General Health Assessment. Your responses will help us serve you better and connect you with helpful resources.
Reminder: Your doctor can be a great resource for child nutrition and can determine if your child’s growth and development are on target for their age. Visit our Annual Wellness Checks page for more information.
Visit our blog to read more about free community events, local resources, and health and wellness tips. Have a question or want to suggest a topic? We want to hear from you!