Skip to main content

See also:

Try these top 10 packed lunches for your kids to return to school the right way!

If you want your kids to show you some extra love in the morning then you should pack them one of these top 10 packable lunches that they will be sure to love when it comes time to go back-to-school. Remember, they do not want to eat celery, but they do want cupcakes and squiggles or peanut butter and fluff. Even though, you want them to eat pretzels, an apple or turkey on whole wheat, stay strong and do not.

Packed lunches always call for everyone's favorite, the sandwich.
Photo by Eugene Gologursky

After struggling with back-to-school wars over bedtime and homework, many moms would rather quit than battle over what children eat – or toss in the trash can – in the school cafeteria. The great news is it is simpler than ever to "think outside the box" when it comes to the school lunch box. It does not have to be an option between what is “fun for you” or "good for you."

1. All-American Favorite
Kids adore turkey. Try a half of a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with mustard or mayonnaise and you will find only crumbs in the lunch bag at the end of the day. Place a water bottle or tiny juice box, baby carrots, and you have got a lunch that will get gobbled up.

2. Create Your Own Lunch
Bagged lunches are filled with sodium and fat, but you can make your own for cheap. Buy a few divided leftover plastic boxes to put the food in. For mini pizzas, organize pepperoni pieces, sliced cheese, round crackers, and a small amount of tomato sauce packed in doubled plastic snack bags.

3. Oodles of Noodles
Instead of sandwiches, send children off to school with a plastic container filled with Sesame Noodles. It is an Asian-inspired pasta salad that is delicious to eat at room temperature. Be sure your school does not have a zero-tolerance policy on peanut butter, due to some kid's allergic reactions. Try this recipe:

Speedy Lunchbox Sesame Noodles

One pound of linguine or spaghetti, boiled
Four tablespoons of parsley or cilantro
Three cloves of garlic
Half a cup of soy sauce
A quarter cup of sesame oil
A quarter cup of canola oil
Half a cup of peanut butter
Two tablespoons of rice vinegar
Two tablespoons of cooking sherry
Three tablespoons of brown or white sugar

Mix garlic and parsley in a blender until fine. Add sugar, sherry, vinegar, oils, and soy sauce. Add enough peanut butter to make slightly thick. Blend until smooth. Add to pasta. Can top with peanuts, sesame seeds, or chopped scallions.

Note: Pour a dash of orange juice if peanut/sesame sauce is too heavy.

4. Fruit Kebabs
When it comes to pleasing kids, how things look often matters as much as how they taste. A child who won't touch a plain old apple might well eat a fruit kebab with chunks of cantaloupe and grapes alternating with mini marshmallows on a wooden skewer.

5. Mini Dinosaurs
Order low-fat deli meats -and cheese sliced extra thick; then use dinosaur or farm animal cookie-cutters to cut the slices into kid-friendly shapes. Pack with crackers or bread. Remember: Less is more. Children like mini-sized waffles and donut holes, so use the same concept in packing lunches.

6. Peanut Butter Power Balls
These are packed with protein; just make sure your school does not have a zero-tolerance policy on peanut butter, due to some children's allergic reactions. Try this recipe:

One cup of peanut butter
Half a cup of non-fat dry milk powder or soy protein powder
Half a cup of raisins or chocolate chips
A quarter cup of honey
Graham cracker crumbs

Mix all ingredients except the graham cracker crumbs in a large bowl. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll in crumbs and refrigerate or freeze; balls will thaw by lunchtime.

7. Eat by "Color Code"
Cookbook author and lifestyle trainer Jyl Steinbeck of Scottsdale, AZ, has trained her own children to eat at least one orange, red, and green food each day. Let children make lunch choices according to color. Ask them to choose carrot sticks or a navel orange, green pepper strips or a Granny Smith apple, etc. Sometimes kids are more receptive to eating fruits and veggies if they helped make the selections!

8. Retro Jell-O
Remember the gelatin salad molds of yesteryear? You can adapt this 1950's classic for today's lunch box and sneak in some veggies without your kids even noticing. Just add grated carrot and tiny chopped pieces of celery to Jell-O; mold in small plastic containers.

9. Stuffed Apples
Scoop out the core from an apple; stuff with peanut butter, cream cheese, or other spread. Top with raisins or chocolate chips.

10. Post-it Lunch
Similar to eating by a "color code," this strategy encourages kids to think in terms of food groups. Together, make a chart with four columns and the headings: Sandwiches, Fruits, Snacks, and Desserts. Have children fill in each column with items of their own choosing. Then tell them that each day, you will pack one item from each group. Remind them that they will be eating foods they chose themselves!