Need some preschool lunch ideas for picky eaters that don’t take a lot of time to prepare? Whether you need to bring them to daycare, leave with a sitter, or to school, try out these fun and healthy ideas to create awesome preschool lunches.
Whether it’s your first time making school lunches or the summer wasn’t long enough to get a break from packing food daily, you know that kids need to eat a variety of foods to get the nutrition they need to grow.
If you are a beginner and just want to get started, look for a container with three compartments. This way, you have fewer compartments to fill, and each will have their nutritional purpose. The more compartments, the more items you’ll need to fill, so start simple.
Not only do kids love “compartments” but a divided container also allows you to separate the “wet” foods from the “dry” foods. Make sure you look for one that is leak proof if you plan on sending things like yogurt or apple sauce.
The largest section will hold the main item. This can be a wrap, a pinwheel (a wrap cut into 1-inch pieces), salad, a sandwich, or even food skewered through a bento-pick.
The second compartment can hold either fruit or veggies, cut into bite sized pieces.
The third and smallest compartment can hold either fruit or veggies if you didn’t pack it in the other two, or a dip. A treat can be something as simple as fruit or an energy bite.
Lunchboxes with a variety of colors and textures have a lot more eye appeal. Colorful (real) foods have a lot of nutrition, so the more you can pack in there, the better.
Add both color and nutrition by packing baby carrots, cut celery, and cherry tomatoes, for example. Other veggies that hold up well in a lunch box are broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, frozen peas, edamame, and sliced cucumbers. Try sending a little hummus or dip with the veggies for more interaction.
Adding fruit to the lunch box is another terrific way to add color. Blueberries, strawberries, apple slices, and kiwi are all great options. Do your kids love watermelon? Send that too, but make sure the compartment is sealed since it tends to release juices.
Revamp those leftovers!
If it was a winner for dinner it’s a winner for lunch.
Leftover grilled chicken can be revamped into an awesome wrap, leftovers from taco night can easily be re-created into a taco salad, and meatballs can either be skewered or sent inside a thermos.
Most parents worry too much about the temperature of the food when in reality, kids rarely eat their food hot! Lunch is as much about socializing with friends as it is about actually eating the food so just make sure you pack the right utensils and you are good to go!
If you don’t have the brain power or energy left to come up with a different lunch every day and have been packing a turkey sandwich forever, here are 5 different ways to use up turkey throughout the week that incorporate today’s tips.
What do you struggle most when packing a school lunch?
If you’re looking for an easy, allergy-friendly lunch idea, we’ve got you covered with this Mayo-Free Egg Salad!
Egg salad is a classic lunch staple. You can use it in sandwiches, wraps, or even as a dip for crackers or veggies! But many store-bought (or even homemade) egg salads use mayonnaise, which can contain raw eggs. That can be a problem! There’s also a ton of other nasty ingredients in mayonnaise that we try to avoid most of the time.
This Mayo-Free Egg Salad is the solution! It has the same classic taste of traditional egg salad without the raw eggs. You can make a big batch at the beginning of the week for easy lunch packing.
If you need help in the lunch-packing department, you are in the right place! Helping others pack fresh lunches is all I do!
If you need a few ideas to help you get started, sign up for our newsletter, and you’ll get a free week of ideas.
Today, you are here to see 10 ways you can make your lunches healthier, so here we go!
1. Fruit flavored water versus juices You might think you’re providing “all the vitamin C” your child needs in that drink, but the reality is that some fruit juices can have just as much sugar as a soda! Even worse, they aren’t made with real juice but from concentrate and sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Try packing fruit-flavored water as a healthier option. A few slices of lemon, lime, and orange will make a glass of cold water even more refreshing! If you really want the water to taste like the fruit, squeeze it first to release some of the juices.
2. Real fruit versus fruit cups While there are some options on the market better than others for prepackaged fruit cups, nothing beats packing it fresh! By packing fresh fruit, you will avoid added sugars, acids, and in most cases, HFCS. Take a few moments to slice your own fresh fruit or pack frozen fruit in the lunch box. By lunch, it will be perfectly chilled but not frozen.
3. A single cookie versus those 100-calorie packs What’s wrong with a homemade cookie made with real ingredients? My chocolate chip cookie recipe has real ingredients, stays fresh in the lunch box, and my kids love it. Those 100-calorie packs, while low in calories, are high in unidentifiable ingredients.
Making your own is simple and much cheaper. Purchase whole-wheat crackers, real cheese, and fresh deli ham or turkey, and package in your favorite lunch container.
5. Make your own snacks I remember when I was a kid, and fruit roll-ups were the new, tasty treat to have for snack and lunches. They were fun and delicious—certainly NOT nutritious. Whipping up homemade ones takes hardly any time, and the oven does the rest! Using fruit gives you natural sweetness. Another inexpensive and kid-favorite snack you can make at home? Granola bars.
6. Leftovers versus unhealthy cafeteria food My philosophy is cook once, eat twice! If you’re having pasta for dinner, knowingly make a little extra for lunches the next day. You can do the same with items on the grill, soups, etc. A $10 to $14 thermos container will be your favorite accessory for “thermos Thursdays.” Just because your child’s school has “hot lunch” on the menu doesn’t mean it’s nutritious.
7. Homemade pizzas versus greasy cafeteria pizza Pizza is one of the iconic go-to meals. I love it, my husband loves it, and of course my kids do too! You can use a whole-wheat English muffin, Naan bread, or bagel for lunch! Add sauce, cheese, and toppings of your choice. I love pizza because it’s easy to sneak veggies under the cheese, and it’s delicious at room temperature.
8. Whole-wheat versus white bread sandwiches What is the difference between whole-wheat and white bread? Thirty good-for-you nutrients! If you have a picky eater, use white bread on one side of the sandwich and wheat on the other. Tell them one is “sunny-side-up.” Make sure you check the labels, and look for breads that contain the words “whole wheat” and other whole grains such as oats as the first ingredient in the list.
9. Almond butter versus caramel dipping sauce My kids love to dip their apple slices in caramel. Who am I kidding; I love it too! Ditch the sugar, and opt for a healthier dip, such as almond butter. By eating almonds or almond butter, you get vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and phosphorus. Almonds are a good fiber source and also contain protein. Delicious with fruit and even by the spoonful! Can’t get your kids to eat “nut” butter? Try my homemade Nutella (psst! It’s “nut” free!)
10. Greek yogurt versus fake pudding Greek yogurt has a rich, satisfying texture. You can even flavor it with real cocoa powder, honey, or fresh fruit! Greek yogurt typically packs half the sodium and sugar of other regular nonfat yogurts. It’s not only high in protein, it’s also low in carbohydrates, making it an excellent choice for the entire family. Better option: 3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Pudding.
Making healthy changes can be overwhelming. I often tell MOMables subscribers to do one thing at a time until it’s part of the routine. Trust me, I know it’s difficult to manage kids, a full-time job, extracurricular activities, and making healthy meals for your family. Remember that Rome was not built in a day, so be easy on yourself.