Looking for Lunch Time Ideas

Dear Home-Ec 101,
I have been trying to figure out how to be more creative and cook from scratch since I know processed or over-processed foods can’t be good for us. My kids started eating school lunches again and as I watch them put on more weight, I am realizing I need a creative, fun way to offer them a healthier take from home school lunch some how…. any suggestions?
Signed,

Flummoxed by Lunch

Heather says:

This is the type of question I like to open up to the greater Home Ec 101 community.

Jenn Fowler (happy birthday, my friend) often does a lunchbox report on her site FrugalUpstate. Maybe she’ll share a link to that series in the comments below.

Bento Boxes (if you have serious time on your hands)

Salads

Soup

Hummus

Yogurt & Fruit

Just be aware sometimes schools pay attention to what you pack and have different ideas of what constitutes healthy and balance. It’s just a good idea to remember this, after all, they count a packet of ketchup as a serving of vegetables. (Let that sink in)

If you are a blogger and share what you pack for your kids, feel free to link to yourself in the comments below.

Otherwise, chime in with your suggestions for healthy lunch box ideas.

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Comments

  1. bookchick says:

    I almost always bought leftovers from whatever we had for dinner the night before. I assume my mom made extras to enable us to do that. Now that I cook for myself, I usually make extra so i can have at least one sometimes even two lunches out of it. If not leftovers then we usually had sandwiches.

  2. I pack lots of small things for my fussy daughter who demands variety.  We agreed on a list of main items — ham & cheese sandwich, pb&j, reduced fat hot dog on whole wheat bun (packed warm, so room temp. by lunchtime), whole wheat pasta in a thermos — and then I supplement with homemade trail mix (almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruit bits and just a few mini chocolate chips), applesauce, “just fruit” roll-up, sometimes a stick of cheese or go-gurt.  Also, potato/lentil curls from Trader Joes or mini cheddar rice cakes or oatmeal squares (cereal) that she pulls out at snacktime.  She’ll eat leftover homemade pizza, too, and homemade muffins, even if they’re healthy, so long as they have a few mini chocolate chips in them.  My no-variety son prefers whole wheat pita with cream cheese, cut up kiwi, cheese sticks, a special K bar and the fruit roll-up. 

  3. bookchick says:

    http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2012/04/is-sugar-really-a-poison/

    This is a little off topic but it makes me wonder how schools and people in general view food. I know growing up in the 80s we were never allowed soda except for special occasions and my mom was the ‘mean’ one that didn’t let us have a lot of chips and things like that. It seems like there are many more options for cutting sugar intake now then there were 30 or 40 years ago, not that artificial sweeters are good either but it seems like strictly in the ‘sugar is a posiion’ perspective that a Diet Coke would be better than regular Coke if you HAVE to have a soda. Obviously water would be the best option and I would think milk the second.

    Lots of studies have shown that kids eat more fast food these days than ever before. I admit I’ve never looked at the sugar content of a happy meal – but i would think a burger and fries wouldn’t have a lot – the concern there would be sodium. I wonder if the influx of ‘coffee shakes’ and smoothies is adding to our kids sugar addiction.

    • bookchick says:

      Of course as I write this I am drinking a large caramel light frappucino. :)

    • imeverything09 says:

       @bookchick You would be amazed at how much sugar is in fast food.There are 22 grams of sugar in a basic hamburger happy meal from Mcdonald’s You are correct in saying sodium is a bigger concern. There are also 690 mg of sodium. Now this information is using 1% white milk as the drink. Throw in a soda, which most moms do, and add another 29 grams of sugar as well as 5 mg of sodium. Not to mention the carbs, and fat grams our children are consuming.

  4. We homeschool so I do not have to pack lunches everyday, but do have to pack 2-4 times a week depending on whats going on, have to make something to eat the rest of the days. We do not often have leftovers so that is out, we do not have a microwave in the house. Here are some of the things we do.

    First once a month I ask my kids what they want for lunches, they each get to pick 5 things, then I pick 5 simple lunches, I also come up with 5 new lunches. If it is really out there idea then I will have my kids try it as a dinner before sending it as a lunch (do not want starving kids at school). Then I use this list and make up a menu for the month, when I run out of ideas I start again. This way the kids get some say in whats in the lunch.
    Here are some ideas…. did you know you can boil a dozen eggs and they will still be good on friday (my mom takes one to work with her every day). You can also slice up carrots and stick them in a glass of water and they will be good.
    My kids love cold chickpeas or black beans or any other type of bean, often you can make up a bean “salad” (vegetables, sauces and beans) send that for one or two days then freeze the rest (as long as its freezeable veggies). You can also mix it with rice and guac on another day, throw it in a tortilla and you have a veggie burrito (Or just make up a huge batch of real veggie burritos for dinner one night and you can freeze the rest, so easy to use for lunches (do not wrap frozen in tortilla though:).
    Once a month mom also has some recipes for lunches
    http://onceamonthmom.com/

  5. I like to send vegetarian sushi with my kids to school. (warning: I’d be afraid to send raw fish in a lunchbox!) This only works if your kids like it, but mine love it. I’m always afraid people will make fun of what my kids are eating… but I’ve found the opposite to be true. The other students and even the teachers want to steal my kids’ food. Be creative… it doesn’t have to be a sandwich. And the less cooked food the better. Carrot sticks don’t take any more effort to shove in a baggie than potato chips. http://modernhomemakers.com

  6. When our sons were in 4th and 5th grades we switched to bento boxes (http://www.allthingsforsale.com/104-bento-box-lunch-box).  We totally westernized the meals and didn’t go for the decorations et all.  It was hard to find “male” oriented boxes, but we succeeded.  Usually there are two or three levels – one is deeper than the others.  The boxes often come with a washable bag to put the boxes into.  We would throw a cloth napkin in the bag. Compltely reusable.  There are also bento boxes that are stainless steel – so no plastics. There were more than enough calories – even though some of their teachers didn’t think so – but that goes to the ideal that carbs = calories. Stick  to you guns.  My guys were the envy of their friends for their variety of foods and the anime lunch boxes.  (Love the veggi sushi – going to try that.

  7. My kids don’t even EAT their lunch until they’re in the car after school. It’s way more fun to play. But I have better luck if it’s finger food, and then they’ll eat a couple of things.
    My daughter has been on a breakfast kick. A bagel, a container of yogurt, hard boiled eggs, and some fruit.

    • how do you get her to eat the yolk? mine will only eat the white and I’m not sure it’s enough protein for them?

  8. We pack lunch pretty much everyday.  One thing i have learned is that the pressure to provide variety in lunches comes from me and my ideas not my kids. So we’ve set up a rotation. Five different lunches. they still only eat them 4 times a month. and the thermos is our friend. I send leftover casseroles, lasagna, chili, etc. in them. 1 day of lunch rotation is “leftovers” day.  We have a fresh fruit and a protein everyday. Turkey roll-ups, yogurt, bean burritos, pb&honey, salami sandwich (her fav, i drew the line at bologna) apples, bananas, strawberries, grapes. We try to get a veggie in there as well. Sliced green peppers, carrots, celery, cucumbers. I found sample cups with lids so i can send a little ranch along with them to dip the veggies in. we do graham crackers, animal crackers, homemade muffins for snacks. My goal was to make homemade granola bars this year. I’d better get moving cause there’s only 35 days of school left!

  9. My daughter falling in love with the bento box fashion really expanded packed lunch options and made her more open minded as an eater. Especially after I bought her a Ms. Bento box, which is thermos style, and easier to clean than the standard thermos. As others have mentioned leftover pasta, casseroles, chili, Once a week I make a peanut or sesame cold noodle dish, which includes tons of shredded veggies, carrots, cabbage, you name it. The spicey, citrusy peanut or sesame sauce makes shredded veggies irresistible to her.  Other faves include lettuce wraps,  sliced fruit (sprinkled with lemon juice to prevent browning) berries, sliced cucumbers, celery sticks with a small container of peanut butter.

  10. deneicer1 says:

    My daughter always wanted the same lunch everyday…so it wasn’t a big deal.  My boys would rather eat at school (most likely because they wanted to be just like everyone else) even though I packed them a lot more food than they would ever get from the school.

  11. JennFowler says:

    Well I was traveling last week so just saw this!  I do indeed talk a lot about packing lunches-and almost every morning on the Frugal Upstate Facebook page I post the daily “Lunchbox Report” ( http://www.facebook.com/frugalupstate
     
    Some posts I’ve done that might help you out are:
     
    http://www.frugalupstate.com/sponsored/walmart-challenge-how-to-save-money-packing-school-lunches/
    http://www.frugalupstate.com/frugal-living/keeping-stuff-hot-for-lunch/
    http://www.frugalupstate.com/frugal-living/readers-question-what-kind-of-thermos-do-you-use/
     
    I hope that helps!

  12. I have one daughter in school right now (1st grade) and I’m thankful she prefers bringing a lunch from home over eating school lunches. I use the EasyLunchboxes and usually make 1/2 a sandwich (turkey & cheese is her fave), goldfish or wheat thins, and carrots, grapes, and/or applesauce. She almost always has a frozen gogurt for her snack at school as well.

  13. AdoptiveLegacy says:

    I like to batch cook muffins, cookies, brownies, etc. I can make them healthier by sneaking in veggie purees. Then I freeze them and take them out the night before to put in the kids lunches. Nothing like making your own convenience foods!

  14. KatherineNgiam says:

    Bento boxes do not require serious time, only the artsy ones do.Toss a few meatballs and some sauce into a bento box with half a roll in another tier for instant subs! Make a little extra with dinner and pack it into a bento for the next day. Your kid like chicken nuggets, no problem. Toss a few into the toaster oven while getting ready in the morning, so long as you let them cool before closing up the box they’ll still be crispy come lunch. I could go on and on but for more ideas I suggest checking out some bento blogs that aren’t centered on food art- there are plenty out there you just have to look.

  15. bookchick says:

    @Above Ground Pools Tupperware used to sell ‘baby’ thermoses. That is what we used as kids. We didn’t eat lunch in school for Kindergarten (assuming a 5 yo is Kindergarten) becasue it was still half-day, but by first grade I was taking hot stuff in a thermos and it would still be warm at lunch.

  16. bookchick says:

    @Above Ground Pools My coworker has Kindergarten twin boys and she packs them soup in a thermos and they don’t seem to have a problem.

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