36 Healthy Things to Put in a Kid’s Lunchbox

Read it now, because 6 a.m. isn’t the time to rack your brain for ideas.

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In a rut packing the same sandwich, muesli bar and apple? Never fear, some fresh ideas are here. Not sure your child will like it? Give it a try—you won’t know unless you offer it (sometimes a few times). 

  • Hard-boiled eggs: Make a couple for the following days; use room-temp eggs; add to boiling water for 8 minutes. Store in the fridge.
  • Bliss balls. So many options for these that use inexpensive pantry basics like oats, cocoa powder, seeds and dried fruit.
  • Corn Thins/Rice Cakes with hummus or cream cheese. A great sandwich swap.
  • Vegetable sticks (carrots, celery, capsicum, cucumber, cherry tomatoes) with hummus. Kids love to dip
  • Parfait of stewed fruit, Greek yogurt and muesli or seeds: In a container, add stewed fruit (I often use homemade applesauce), top with yogurt and a sprinkling of crunchy granola or similar. Don’t forget the spoon!
  • Quiche cups. Eggs plus milk plus cheese plus veggies—what’s not to like?
  • Seed crackers with sliced cheese. Filling and full of vitamins and minerals.
  • Whole wheat or spinach wrap with cucumber, cream cheese, shredded carrots. Sub a tortilla—colourful red and green are a hit—for sandwich bread.
  • Kale chips. They may not eat kale, but oil, salt and baking can change a child’s mind.
  • Olives. If your child is an olive-eater, then they’ll like this salty treat at lunchtime.
  • Seaweed. Funny how many children like the salty crunch of nori.
  • Homemade popcorn. So easy to make a big batch, especially if you’re packing multiple lunchboxes.
  • Vegetable pasta salad. Choose vegetable spirals and add any veggie they like, sprinkled with a bit of cheese—best part is that you make it the night before.
  • Mexican rice bowl. Throw in some tortilla chips to scoop up the goodness.
  • Trail mix. Any combination of nuts, seeds and dried fruits that you have around. I put in a few dark chocolate chips sometimes.
  • Energy bars. Because packaged muesli bars are full of junk; you can ensure that it’s pure, wholesome goodness in these ones.
  • Zucchini Bread. Yummy goodness plus a side of nutritious nuts and zucchini.
  • Homemade tortilla chips and guacamole. Buy or make corn tortillas, cut into wedges, place on a baking tray with a sprinkle of salt and bake at 180 for 5 minutes. Easy peasy.
  • Sushi (brown rice with avocado, carrot, cucumber, tuna or salmon). The night before, make the rice (add store bought sushi seasoning if desired) and slice vegetables. Then assemble with nori in the morning. 
  • Peanut butter on celery. You can add raisins and call it ants on a log.
  • Empanadas. Little hand pies that you can fill with their faves, like leftover roast chicken, mashed kumara, cheese and shredded carrot. Use the kumara bread as a pastry base.
  • Roasted chickpeas. Rinse and completely drain/dry a can of chickpeas. Place in a single layer on a baking paper-lined tray, toss with sea salt and a slug of olive oil; bake for 20 minutes at 200 C. Best eaten day of for maximum crunch factor.
  • Smoothie. Berries, spinach, frozen bananas—whatever you desire, whiz it up in the blender and send it to school in a wide-mouth drink bottle. My new favorite is a chocolate concoction.
  • Almond scones. Make them in mini sizes, perfect for the lunchbox. (You can sub tapioca flour for the arrowroot in this recipe.)
  • Veggie/Corn fritters. Again, a petite size is just right for eating. Send with a favourite dipping sauce.
  • Dark chocolate square (70% or higher). Kids DO like dark chocolate, just try it. 
  • Apple chips. Triple this recipe—they go so fast. And use any kind of apple.
  • Couscous & veggie salad. Another great one to make the night before. I love it with pine nuts, capsicum and cucumber.
  • Nuts. Any kind—they’re all full of minerals.
  • Chia pudding. Make a big jar on Sunday to decant into lunchbox-friendly containers throughout the week. 
  • Homemade veggie chips. I won’t lie: They’re more work than opening a packet of crisps. But these are guilt-free.
  • Kumara flat bread. These delicious rounds are easy to prepare and delicious on their own or with a savoury spread.
  • Broccoli tots. Simple ingredients produce nuggets of goodness. 
  • Fried rice. Make the night before (or for dinner and send leftovers). Combine cooked rice with a medley of vege and a soy sauce-based sauce. 
  • Frozen peas. Don't bother defrosting them--just pop 'em straight in.
  • Sugar snap peas. Teach your child how to pull off the string--it makes them yummier and it's a bit of hands-on fun.