When I work with entire families through my Health Coaching practice, we often have several sessions devoted to helping the kids take ownership for their own health. Not only is this critical to ensure they keep up the habits over the long term, but it’s also fun! With many clients, I review the online school menu in detail to help the kids select tasty and healthy school lunches.
If you dig into the nutrition information provided on many school websites, you may be astonished! At some of the best schools in Dallas, I’ve found caffeine and sugar added to chicken breasts, high fructose corn syrup in dozens of products (see this post for more on added sugar!), enriched flour and poor-quality oils all over the place, and even ammonium hydroxide (yep! A derivative of ammonia!) and MSG in many items.
Now, trust me, I understand the complexities of trying to serve healthy foods (budget, perceived preferences from kids, convenience, red tape, and more), and I’ll never be one to say that kids (or anyone!) should eat “perfectly” all the time. However, I think that packing a lunch for your child just one or two days a week can go a long way towards ensuring they have the nutrients they need to get through the school day with all the brain power, focus, and energy that the need. If you’re on board with this idea, I’ve rounded up 7 of my favorite healthy school lunch ideas in this post. I hope you enjoy!
By the way, if you don’t have kids or don’t pack their lunches, you may (like me!) enjoy packing some of these for yourself at work, so don’t skip this post!
Here are my top 7 healthy school lunches to pack for your kids (or yourself)!
*Note: Some options are marked gluten-free (“GF”), nut-free (“NF”), dairy-free (“DF”) and / or vegan (“V”) to help out!
- Pancake sandwiches with baby carrots (GF; NF, DF, V options). I recommend Birchbenders Paleo Pancake Mix. It’s simple (just mix with water!), the ingredients are clean, and it has a great balance of macronutrients so your child won’t have a sugar rush. Make two pancakes, and use them as the ends of a sandwich with almond butter and banana, or turkey and cheese. Add baby carrots for crunch! For a nut-free option, use Lakanto pancake mix and Sunbutter. For vegan options, skip the turkey and cheese, and for dairy-free, skip the cheese.
- Fritatta Fingers, Fruit, and Nuts (GF; NF option). Make frittata fingers and pair with a serving of fruit and a packet of nuts like these. For nut-free option, choose olives or Enjoy Life trail mix, and be sure to use gluten-free flour if you care about being gluten-free.
- Quesadillas with veggies and hummus (GF and NF; DF and V options). Heat a Siete tortilla in a skillet, and layer with black beans or ground beef / turkey, plus cheese or dairy-free Kite-Hill cheese (Note: Kite Hill is dairy-free but not nut-free). Top with another Siete tortilla and heat until melted (most kids won’t mind if it’s not still warm when they eat it! They’re just happy to have quesadillas!). Serve with some veggie sticks with an individual pack of guacamole or hummus.
- Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps with crackers and cookies (GF; DF and NF options). Make allergy-free chicken salad lettuce wraps, and pair with a serving of Mary’s Gone crackers or Enlightened Bean snacks, and a Cocoroon. For nut-free option, choose a square of dark chocolate instead.
- Bento box lunch (GF, NF, DF options). I love these bento box ideas from Our Paleo Life, and I think this bento box is adorable and functional!
- Smashed Chickpeas with pita or cucumbers and berries (DF, NF, V; GF option). Make a delicious pita wrap! For gluten-free pitas, try these. Serve with berries on the side.
- Snack plate (GF, NF, DF options). These 15 ideas from Eating Made Easy are great! Just think: vegetable, fruit, protein, carbohydrate, and a little fun!
Want a few more ideas? Good news! I just released a meal plan designed specifically for families! You can purchase it here. Follow it to a “T,” or just get some ideas for even more breakfast, lunch, dinners, and snacks that your entire family will love!
Now it’s your turn … Do you pack your kids (or yourself) a lunch every day? What’s your favorite thing to pack?