Quick & Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids

Most kids don't want to sit down for a three-course meal at lunch time. If they're at school, they probably want to eat as fast as possible before playing with their friends. All of this is normal, but it doesn't have to prevent you from providing a lunch that's both quick and healthy.

Use these tips from Pottery Barn Kids to pack a lunch your kids will love that's healthy, nutritious, and most importantly, easy to eat!

Mackenzie Navy Mermaid Lunch Bag

Veggie and Cheese Sandwiches

The sandwich is the perfect delivery vessel when it comes to lunch for kids who rarely want to sit down and eat for an hour. The peanut butter and jelly is a classic, but there are other options that are even healthier and just as tasty like the cheese sandwich.

Whether you go with American cheese slices or something more exotic is up to you and your child's tastes, but instead of the basic cheese on bread, try mixing in veggies like avocado, tomato and even sprouts. If your child doesn't like avocado, hummus makes an excellent replacement for mayonnaise that won't spoil quite as quick. It's also high in protein, giving your kids extra energy for those afternoon classes.

Pasta Dishes

A variety of pasta dishes can be eaten by kids of all ages, and best of all, many can be served at or around room temperature, making them ideal for a lunchbox. One of the best options is pasta primavera with fresh veggies like squash, eggplant and broccoli. Mix in your child's favorite lean protein like grilled chicken and you've got a healthy, easy to eat meal that even picky eaters will love.

When packing pasta for your kids, avoid cream sauces and things that need constant refrigeration. Fresh tomatoes can do okay for a few hours, but sun-dried versions are even better if your child likes them.

Temperature Control

Sending your child to school with a food item that can only be eaten right out of the oven isn't a wise move. That doesn't mean everything you send with them has to be at room temperature. Providing your child with warm and cold foods is possible.

For items that need to be chilled like sandwiches that contain mayonnaise, meats or cheese, the tried-and-true ice pack is still a go-to. Many modern lunch boxes have compartments for ice packs so they don't bounce around in your child's lunch box as well.

Warm foods can be a little trickier, but Thermos-style containers work well for older kids and foods like stews and chili. They can even be used for noodle soups where broth and other ingredients are mixed in a pre-packed bowl before eating. Older kids may also have access to a microwave for lunch if they're in high school.

For younger children, your best bet with warm foods is to pack them in containers that have tight-fitting tops and thick walls. This will keep them from getting too cold, especially if they're packed in a thermal bag that isn't opened until lunch time.

Pack Appropriate Snacks

Kids don't always eat big meals, often preferring to eat a little lunch and then snack later. There's nothing wrong with this approach, and if this is how your child eats at home, providing snacks at school is important.

Healthy snacks like nuts and whole pieces of fruit are easy to pack since they do well at room temperature. Baby carrots, celery sticks, peanut butter and crackers can also last a few hours in your child's lunchbox. Granola and other food bars are also ideal.

When picking a snack, make sure it's something your child likes and will actually eat to avoid any leftovers in their lunchboxes when they get home.

Fairfax Solid Gray Classic Lunch

Aim for Balance

Whatever you include in your child's lunch, creating a healthy, balanced meal should be your goal. To do that, a combination of lean protein, complex carbohydrates like wheat or grain bread and fresh fruits and veggies are your best bet. For most kids, a combination of lunch and snacks will provide the best results and the highest likelihood that they'll get the nutrients they need.

With balance in mind, it's important that you also consider adding a special treat for your child so they enjoy lunch a little more. This is especially important with picky eaters who may be prone to trading their sandwich away for a pudding cup or cookies.

Treats like a small cookie, a few squares of chocolate or low-sugar pudding can be an excellent reward for eating the healthy part of the lunch you pack. If your child likes fresh or dried fruit, an extra portion is even better.

Lunch gives kids the fuel they need to finish their days happy and healthy. Follow these basic guidelines to provide meals kids can eat in a hurry with a smile on their face.

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