Kid-Approved Lunch Ideas for Busy Parents
Picture this: You’re walking down the dairy isle at the grocery store and your kid sees a strawberry yogurt with a few Minions on it.They start crying that they want this yogurt so you just grab a few and throw it in the cart.
Yeah, I thought so! But, have you ever stopped to read the label?
Products that are specifically marketed towards children are usually LOADED with added sugar and have little nutritional value!
As a parent, it’s your job to help your kids make healthy choices. If you let them eat tons of sugar as a child, you could be setting them up for a lifelong addiction to sugary foods and drinks!
Side note for those with a sweet tooth: There’s a huge difference between added sugar and natural sugar. Added sugar doesn’t have the fiber your body needs to digest the food. Natural sugar (found in whole fruits and vegetables) has plenty of fiber, nutrients, and vitamins, which helps to slow down the absorption so it doesn’t get fast, direct access to the liver like added sugar does. So, when you or your child are craving sweets, try to eat some fruit to feed that craving the natural way!
If you’re trying to stop feeding your kid’s processed sugary foods, these lunch box ideas are a step in the right direction! It might take you a little longer than throwing a pre-packaged Kid Cuisine in their lunchbox, but the health benefits they get from eating a home cooked meal far out weight the time difference! Not only are they healthier than the products that are typically marketed towards kids, but they’re pretty easy to make and your kids will love them too!
But First, A Quick TipIf your children don’t have access to a microwave to heat up their food, buying a thermos gives you endless lunch possibilities because you now have the freedom to pack hot lunches too!
From a quick search on Amazon you will find thermoses (like this cute pink and purple thermos from FooGo) for about $15 or $20, and trust us, this is totally worth it! Your kids will be happy that they don’t have to eat sandwiches everyday and you’ll be happy that you can start packing away some of your dinner leftovers in their lunchbox!
If you do end up getting a thermos, here’s how you can keep your food hot!
- Boil water (you can do this quickly in the microwave by heating up a large glass of water for about 2 or 3 minutes.)
- Fill the thermos with the boiling water, close the lid and let it sit inside for about 5 minutes.
- When you’re ready to fill the thermos, poor the water out and add the food.
- Cover immediately.
For breaded items (like chicken nuggets) that you want to stay crispy, place a paper towel in the bottom of the thermos to keep the moisture off of the food and prevent it from getting soggy.
Kid-Approved Lunch Ideas for Busy Parents
In addition to these quick main-meal lunch recipes, make sure you include a source of protein, a veggie, some fruit, and a whole grain in every lunch box. Each one of these key essential food groups help to make a balanced meal that will set your kids up for success!
1. Healthier “Lunchable” Pizza
Kid’s usually LOVE pizza, so why not make them a healthier “lunchable” pizza to take to school! It’s cheaper and healthier than buying the processed store-bought version and you even have the ability to customize it to your kids’ tastes and preferences. As long as you choose the right ingredients, you can provide your kids with a serving of veggies, dairy and whole grains.
Get the recipe from Holley Grainger.
2. Mini Taco Hand Pies
Forget the kids, you’re going to want to pack these for your own lunches!All jokes aside, this recipe only takes about 35 minutes to throw together and it’s totally kid friendly! The black beans and ground beef will keep them full throughout the day, and adding some guacamole provides them with plenty of healthy fat! We would recommend heating these up in the morning and putting them into a thermos, but if you don’t have one, the author of this recipe said you can also wrap it in foil to keep it “warm” until lunch.
Get the recipe from Lemons for Lulu.
3. Lunch Kabobs
We love this idea from Mom on Time Out because these kabobs don’t need to be warmed up! They’re also the perfect go-to lunch because you can make these with leftovers, too! Our personal favorite is the chicken cobb because there’s so many different flavors on that kabob, but we also like the cheesy chicken quesadilla! Pair these kabobs with a cup of fruit or a veggie for a well balanced meal.
Get the recipe from Mom on Time Out.
4. Chicken Avocado Salad Roll Ups
Now, we know a lot of kids are picky and may not like avocado, but for the kids that do, this one is a perfect, healthy lunch idea! Packed with protein from the chicken and healthy fat from the avocado, this lunch will keep your kids feeling full all day long! Just make the salad ahead of time and then spread it on the wrap in the morning, roll it up, and cut it! It’s that simple.
Get the recipe from OMG Chocolate Desserts.
5. Spaghetti Pie Muffins
Bite-size spaghetti pies? Now we’re talking! Double the recipe to make these for dinner AND enjoy them for lunch the next few days! They’re the perfect muffin to take to work in a warm canister. Opt for whole wheat pasta and a spaghetti sauce that’s low on added sugar (or no sugar at all) to make this a healthier lunch… and don’t forget to include the Certified Angus Beef®! Can you say YUM?
Get the recipe from Where Your Treasure Is.
Do your kids love tuna or chicken salad? If they do, this is a great idea that you can make ahead of time and feed your kids for lunch all week long! This idea reuses fruit cups and a mason jar (hense the name, masonables!)
You could use this same idea for a cup of fruit with yogurt, cheese and crackers or even pretzels and hummus! The possibilities are endless with Masonables!
Get the recipe and more Masonable ideas from Soup Spice Everything Nice.
7. Strawberry Banana “Sushi” Rolls
Get your little one’s in on the fun and have them make their own strawberry banana sushi rolls! These “sushi rolls” are packed with protein in the greek yogurt and natural peanut butter spread, loaded with healthy whole grains, and bursting with vitamins from the bananas and strawberries! A win for their taste buds and a win for your wallet!
Get the recipe from The Foodie Physician.
8. California Pasta Salad
The best part about pasta salad is that you can make it truly unique and cater to your kid’s favorite veggies! Plus, if you opt for a whole-wheat pasta you can provide your kids with the extra fiber that they need for a healthy body! It’s also such an easy way to meal-prep for a busy week!
Get the recipe from Life in the Lofthouse.
9. No Bake Peanut Butter Energy Balls
This simple addition to your kids lunch box will look like you’re giving them a sweet treat, but little do they know how healthy they are! Oatmeal is naturally a gluten-free whole grain and a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. The flaxseed and chia seeds will add plenty of fiber but the texture will be hidden by the creamy peanut butter and sweet dark chocolate chips. Pair this with a fruit and vegetable for a well balanced lunch.
Get the recipe from Shape.
These recipes are an easy way to add some tasty nutrients into your kid’s lunches while keeping them full with fiber and whole grains! If you’re looking to simplify your meal prepping even further, click here to see how easy it is to meal prep when using a home food delivery service.