Finding healthy lunch box ideas for my kids can be extremely hard. They are some picky eaters. They've always been picky. Even when it came to baby food it was a gamble.
Every year I dread the thought of packing lunch for the kids. They don't have the opportunity to warm up their food which means I always have to find something that will stay cold and still be good to eat. And they HATE the cafeteria lunch menu, except for the chips and unhealthy snacks that are served.
Then I have to worry about whether or not they'll actually eat it and not skip lunch because they didn't like what was packed. Most of the time I have them pack their own lunches because it's easier and they get what they want and will eat.
But it still seems like they come home with a full lunch box and the excuse that they didn't like something. My usual words are "C'mon now.. you picked the food you liked for that reason!". I honestly think they do more socializing than eating at lunch!
Our School Lunch Packing Process
Each month or so we make a list of foods they like. We then narrow it down to foods that they might want to take for lunch.
They often try to get some sweets in there, but I, of course, want them to pick more healthy food items. If they had it their way, I'm sure the lunch boxes would be packed with nothing but candy and junk food!
You can download a printable list with some healthy food choices at the end of this post!
Our healthy lunch box ideas list has items that are simple and will stay cold in their lunch box with one of those little ice thingies. You can pack these the morning of or the night before.
Tips for packing lunches
- If you're sending them with chicken salad or the like.. put the salad into a small dish and let the kids make their sandwich when it's lunchtime so the sandwich bread doesn't get soggy.
- If the above isn't an option, add a piece of lettuce between the bread and the salad to act as a barrier between the bread and meat.
- For sandwich toppings and other veggies, make sure they are nice and dry before you pack them. This includes the lettuce used as a barrier.
- Pack any condiments or sandwich toppings (tomatoes, mayo, etc) separately and have them add it right before they eat so the flavors don't blend together and become a yucky sandwich as my children like to call it.
I really don't like to use baggies to store sandwiches. They seem to always get smashed. Instead, I use a plastic container. A lot of times I use the containers for other things like veggies and fruits as well.
Favorite inexpensive containers and lunch accessories:
Sistema storage containers (these are flat and stack really well). They have a ton of other storage products for around the house plus, they are affordable which is a really nice bonus.
Slim reusable ice packs. They keep the lunch box cold and they're not bulky so I can fit more in the lunch bag/box. I wasn't sure if they'd keep the food cold, because they were so thin, but they do.
Reusable storage bags. These are something I've started using the last few years or so. I hate wasting money on sandwich bags and having reusable bags saves us money. They're perfect for snacks, veggies, and fruits. We have had no problem with these leaking. Plus, they are dishwasher safe, eco-friendly, and are freezer and microwave safe.
Mabel's Labels. I include these a lot just for fun. They also have allergy and medical alert labels you can stick on the lunch boxes or individual containers. My son is allergic to shellfish and while it's not common for kids to bring things like that, sometimes they do.
So, as you can see above this is the latest and greatest of what my kids say they will eat for lunch. Most of the ideas were picked by them, but I did encourage a few of those on the list that they've tried and liked before.