January 23, 2018

View as List Healthy Lunches Kids (and Adults) Will Actually Eat

  • Elementary Pupils And Teacher Eating Lunch

    This fall, instead of packing lunch boxes with ham-and-cheese sandwiches and cardboard juice boxes, get schooled in healthier, more inspiring options. We’ve come up with five suggestions for nutritious, delicious lunches that kids won’t want to trade—with some great grownup options that will have you eating lunch at your desk instead of racing through the nearest drive-through window.

  • 1

    Sandwich shapes

    Slices of bread, ham and cucumber on a cutting board

    There is a reason sandwiches are lunchbox staples: Assembling meat, cheese, and condiments between two pieces of whole-grain bread is a simple, portable lunchtime option. Instead of the same boring sandwiches, use cookie cutters to turn sandwiches into art projects. Your child will be excited to open her lunchbox to find a star, heart, or flower-shaped sandwich. Don’t stop with the bread. Mini carrots make great butterfly antennae and raisins are delicious eyes; cookie cutters can also transform fruits like apple slices into fun-to-eat shapes. 

  • 2

    DIY pizzas

    Pita Bread

    Skip the cafeteria line and pack a healthful no-cook pizza for lunch. Pair slices of whole-grain mini pitas with tomato sauce (put sauce in a small container; include a small spoon for spreading), shredded cheese, and veggies like tomatoes, mushrooms, chopped green peppers, and olives. Unlike store-bought pizza lunch kits, a DIY version allows you to skip the processed meats, which are high in sodium and nitrates, and add more healthy vegetables. To get kids excited about their lunchbox pizza, ask for their “order” the night before and include the toppings they request.

  • 3

    Breakfast for lunch

    Boiled eggs

    Morning isn’t the only time to eat breakfast foods. Eggs, whole-grain bread, yogurt, and fruit are good lunch options, too. Hardboiled eggs are a great source of protein (up to six grams in a single egg) as well as vitamins A, B12, and D.  You can hard boil a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week and add them to lunchboxes all week long. Whole-grain bread and jam (or nut butter, if the school allows it), yogurt, and a piece of fruit provide a combination of savory and sweet flavors that will keep your child feeling full throughout the afternoon.

  • 4

    Quinoa salad

    Tabbouleh salad with quinoa and salmon

    A tossed salad might be nutritious, but after a while, a bed of greens can feel a little boring. Pack a quinoa salad instead. This ancient grain can be served cold and, when paired with corn, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, basil, and lime juice, as in this easy Quinoa and Corn Salad recipe, it’s a delicious meal that packs a healthful punch. Best of all, it’s just 430 calories per serving, with 8 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein (not to mention nutrients like magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, and zinc).

  • 5

    Soup

    Steamy bowl of chicken noodle soup

    Remember when your mom sent soup to school in your Thermos? It’s time to revive that old-school lunchbox staple. Soup isn’t just comfort food. Depending on the ingredients, it can be a great way to eat extra vegetables, fiber, and protein; and studies show that it can also help control your appetite and help you lose weight. If you’re sick, chicken soup has been shown to reduce cold symptoms, too. Skip canned soups, which can be loaded with sodium, and opt for simple homemade versions instead. For inspiration, see our Quick and Easy Vegetable Soups infographic.