SUMMER

Kids Lunch Box Ideas

Ahh... the challenge of filling your children's lunchboxes week in and week out. You want food that is healthy, fun and tastes great. You want variety and for it all to look appetizing. You want the meals to be well-balanced, with the right mix of protein, carbohydrate, healthy fat, fruits and vegetables.

Whether you want ideas for quick, no-frills lunches or more exotic, time-consuming meals, here are a host of lunchbox suggestions for you to choose from, with some bonus surprises for you to add to the package that will delight your child.

Easy-breezy no cook lunches

Sunny Mediterranean

  • Carb: Gluten Free Multiseed Crackers

  • Fruit: Grapes

  • Vegetable: Red Peppers, Celery

  • Dip: Classic Hummus

  • Dairy: Colby Jack Cheese Sticks

  • Meat: Oven Roasted Turkey Breast

  • Snack: Vanilla wafers

I love Italian

  • Carb: Wheat Baked Crackers

  • Fruit: Strawberries

  • Vegetable: Red Peppers

  • Dip: Fat Free Ranch Dressing

  • Dairy: Fresh Mozzarella, sliced

  • Meat: Pepperoni rounds

  • Snack: Coconut macaroon

Sandwich on a Stick (Use small, wooden skewers, so your kids can choose to eat it whole, or pull the pieces apart.)

  • Carb: Whole wheat bread

  • Fruit: Clementines

  • Vegetable: Lettuce, cucumber

  • Dairy: American cheese singles

  • Dip: Fat-free Ranch dressing

  • Meat: Uncured Black Forest ham or roast turkey breast

  • Snack: Hershey's kiss

Picky eater's favorite

  • Carb: Wheat round crackers

  • Fruit: Cinnamon-coated apple slices

  • Vegetable: Celery sticks

  • Dip: Fat-free Ranch dressing

  • Dairy: Sliced Cheddar cheese

  • Meat: Pepperoni

  • Snack: Potato chips

Bagels are the best

  • Carb: Whole wheat or pumpernickel mini bagels

  • Fruit: Grapes

  • Vegetable: Baby carrots

  • Topping: Cream cheese

  • Dairy: Cheese sticks

  • Meat: Oven-roasted turkey breast

  • Snack: Apricot or raspberry fruit roll-ups

PB and J: cut into fun shapes; smiles guaranteed

  • Carb: 100% whole wheat bread

  • Filling: Creamy peanut butter, grape jelly - both on the side in small containers

  • Fruit: Clementine

  • Vegetable: Celery

  • Dairy: Sliced Colby Jack cheese

  • Snack: Potato chips

Lunches that need cooking and prep time

Food on Sticks

Think chicken satays, beef skewers, or sausage kebabs, packed on lunchbox-sized sticks for kids. (Use flat, blunt-edged bamboo sticks for very little kids.) Pack with: rice, cucumber slices, sliced mango, yogurt-covered pretzels.

Cheesy Quesadillas

Grilled Cheese, Mexican-style! Pack with: avocado slices or guacamole, jicama sticks, pineapple chunks, pumpkin seeds or tortilla chips.

Spring Rolls

Rice paper wrappers or large lettuce leaves make great rolled-up meals that are super-fun. Fill them with tofu, pork, or shrimp, or let your kids come up with their own ideas. Pack with: cubed cheese, sliced red peppers, blueberries and a chocolate square.

Vegetable Sushi or Onigiri

Using leftover rice and vegetables or cooked fish from an earlier meal. Pack with: sushi condiments, edamame, raspberries and a snickerdoodle cookie.

Cold Noodle Salads

Soba noodles with black sesame seeds, plain udon, or Greek chicken pasta with olives and feta. Pack with tinned fish or sliced chicken, sugar snap peas, clementines and chocolate raisins.

Fluffy Quinoa Salad

Mix the meats, cheeses and veggies your kids like into plain quinoa and dress lightly with a basic vinaigrette. Pack with mozzarella/tomato/basil lolllipops, sliced pear and a baby brownie.

10 surprises to add to your kids' lunch boxes

We know lunchtime is full of laughs, swaps and ball games, but why not stick a surprise goodie in their lunchbox to make them smile? You'll be the most popular parent ever.

  1. Origami notes: Use patterned or color paper and write a sweet message, folding your note into an origami shape.

  2. Love-ly Lunch Money: Fold that lunch money into a paper heart and send your child to school with some extra $ love.

  3. Alphabet Crackers: Grab some edible ink and write letters on your kids' crackers or wheat thins. They can practice their spelling during lunch break.

  4. Optical Illusion Lunch Box Notes: Worth googling for these wild and wonderful notecards that will have your kids seeing weird, wacky shapes and things.

  5. Fruity roll-up Fortune Cookies: Take some roll-ups, make nifty triangle pockets and slip a kid-friendly message inside about the future. What a sweet surprise!

  6. Printable Lunch Box Brain Teasers: Keep those young minds at work, even over lunch! (Q: What is full of holes but can still hold water? A: A sponge.)

  7. Confetti Paper Hearts: Find these sweet, inexpensive hearts at a craft store. Your child will jump for joy when they rip it open and colorful confetti pops out!

  8. Joke it! Buy a kids joke book and pen some funny ones for your child to chuckle over. They can share with their friends and be the comic star of the day.

  9. Cheese Monsters: Little Babybell cheeses are perfect for parent play. Carve creepy smiles into the wax coating and use buttons for monster eyes.

  10. Banana Notes: Using a marker, write a positive message on a banana skin before you put it into your child's lunchbox: remind them they can be great!

Prepare healthy, delicious lunch box treats for your child. Throw in a creative surprise and fill their bellies with yummy food and their hearts with happiness. Way to go, parent!

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