School Lunch Ideas That Kids Actually Love

Kids sitting down at the lunch table enjoying the school lunch their mom made them

Are you struggling to come up with some healthy school lunch ideas? So many people are in the same boat! It can be stressful trying to make sure your kids have a healthy meal every day.

The school cafeteria should have at least a few healthy options available…they really have come a LONG ways since we were in school.

The National School Lunch Program has to follow very specific guidelines to make sure our children aren’t just served pizza and hot dogs every day.

However, when faced with the choice, it’s probably a little too tempting to pass up the cheese pizza (with whole wheat crust of course) for the yogurt parfait.

With just a little extra thought and preparation, you can make a meal that will help them have a successful and productive day at school that helps develop healthy eating habits at the same time.

Let’s Take a Look at Proteins

Including a healthy serving of protein in their lunch everyday helps support the (seemingly) never ending growth and development your children experiences during this important time in their lives.

And let’s be honest, all of those scraped knees and bruises could use a little extra protein to speed up the healing process! Protein will also help keep your little ones feeling fuller for longer and have the lasting energy they need for those after lunch classes.

Protein Options Your Kids Will Love

  • Cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Ham or turkey deli meat
  • Grilled Chicken or chicken nuggets
  • Tuna
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Peanut Butter

Fruits And Veggies

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with many important nutrients. The fiber helps prevent or relieve constipation and keeps you feeling fuller longer.

They are typically higher in vitamins A and C which help with vision and the immune system! They are also very low in fat, calories and sodium which is an added bonus

Most kids don’t get the recommended five servings of fruits and veggies every day. A few tricks of the trade are to add them as snacks and as a side to lunch or even hidden in sauces or smoothies.

Kid Approved Fruit and Veggie Options

  • Strawberries
  • Apple slices
  • Blueberries
  • Bananas
  • Orange slices
  • Grapes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Carrot or celery sticks
  • Bell pepper slices
  • Sugar snap peas

Most of these are delicious on their own, but you can also add dips or dressings to make them even better.

Try ranch dressing for the carrots, hummus or peanut butter for the celery, and even cream cheese for the strawberries or apple slices. For an added flair, try sprinkling a little cinnamon on the apples.

Healthy Snacks

Of course, you still want your kids to have a snack! But even here, there are plenty of healthy options. I’ve seen more and more schools discouraging “unhealthy” snack options being brought to school.

They are typically higher in carbs and sugar and are the culprit that contributes to the burst of energy before lunch and the bobbing heads in dire need of a nap time after!

Snacks Without the Added Sugar

  • Trail mix
  • Popcorn
  • Peanut butter filled pretzels
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese and whole wheat crackers
  • String Cheese
  • Cuties or mandarins
  • Baby bell cheese with pretzels

All of these will still feel like fun snacks to your kids, but you won’t need to worry about sending them to school with all the extra sugar. These snacks can also be made over the weekend as a fun family project. Make air popped popcorn and add your favorite seasonings.

Drinks

Picking healthy food options can feel hard enough, but another sneaky source of sugar and empty calories that are so easy to forget about.

A few examples of these sugar drinks which all contain about 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar per serving include soda, gatorade, grape juice, and fruit punch.

Tasty Reduced Sugar Drink Options

  • Water Infusions, give a few of these flavor combos a try!
    • Watermelon and Mint, Mixed Berries, Lemon, Strawberry/basil
  • Dairy Milk
  • Non-dariy Milk Alternatives
  • Coconut Water
  • Decaf Herbal Teas
  • Sparkling Water
  • Crystal Light Pure
  • Bai Water
  • Homemade Fruit and Veggie Smoothies

All of these have very few calories and sugar (or none at all, in the case of water and herbal tea). If you do make your kids a smoothie, make sure it’s a real smoothie made from fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure you pair like colors to avoid the infamous brown smoothie!

Mix and Match for Endless Combinations

You can mix and match any combination of these foods. One day you can give your kids turkey deli meat, strawberries, pretzels, and a bottle of water.

The next day give them cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, blueberries, popcorn, and a healthy smoothie. Your kids can have a different meal every day, eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring.

So there you have it, you can make sure your kids have a healthy meal every day. It won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and they aren’t difficult to prepare. Even if you hate cooking, making a healthy meal out of any of the foods listed here is very simple.

I hope this list has encouraged you to start packing healthy meals for your kids. Remember, make sure your kids have a serving of healthy protein, fruit, veggie, healthy snack, and a drink that isn’t high in sugar in their lunchboxes every single day.

Let’s work together to develop those healthy eating habits that will last for the rest of their lives.