School lunch doesn’t have to be boring — especially when you come up with creative lunch ideas to pack for your child. We’ve put together some ideas for nutritious, out-of-the-ordinary lunches you can tuck into your child’s lunch bag and/or backpack:
Rollups — or pinwheels as they’re sometimes called — are one of the simplest and most satisfying lunches you can pack. They’re easy to handle and don’t require utensils, and they can be made in lots of different ways. Here are just a few ideas for rollup fillings, but you can always come up with your own based on your child’s culinary preferences:
Rollups are easy to make; all you need is a soft flour tortilla and whatever filling ingredients you’re using. Depending on the tortilla size, cut each one into halves or fourths so they’ll fit in your kids’ lunch boxes.
Note: Check with your child’s school to make sure nut products are allowed; some schools don’t allow them because of student allergies. One similar alternative is sunflower seed butter; you can also use tahini or coconut butter.
Another packable option is mini pizzas. Include small whole-wheat rounds, which can serve as the pizza crust. If you can’t find any in stores, you can cut your own small circles out of flatbread. Tomato sauce can be packed in a small lidded container; include shredded cheese and you’re all set. You might also want to include sliced veggies, pepperonis, or whatever toppings your child prefers.
Sushi is another fun, creative lunch for kids. Forgo the fish and opt for veggies for the filling. Cucumber, avocado, green onion, carrot, and any other fresh vegetables can be used. You’ll need sushi rice, which is designed to stick together when cooked properly, and nori to impart the distinctive sushi flavor. It’s possible to roll your own sushi using plastic wrap and a placemat — YouTube has plenty of how-to videos on this — or you can make the job virtually effortless with a sushi maker.
Who doesn’t like food on a stick? Cut blunt-ended bamboo skewers into sizes to fit your child’s lunchbox (make sure there aren’t any sharp edges or points), then layer on different fruits, veggies, and meats. One skewer could hold grapes, strawberries, and banana chunks, while the other could feature cheese squares, ham slices, and bread cubes.
Kids love finger foods, and they’re easy to pack for school lunch. To separate each type of food, opt for a bento box container that can fit into your child’s lunch bag or box. There are all kinds of options when it comes to what to include. Consider some rolled-up slices of lunchmeat, cheese squares, grapes or strawberries, and a handful of nuts. You can also include a few cookies or other types of dessert for a sweet surprise.
Another idea for a bento box is a salad. Put one salad ingredient in each compartment; the largest can be used for the lettuce. Hard-boiled eggs can be included for a protein boost. You might also want to include sunflower seeds or croutons to add crunch. There are plenty of options when it comes to salad ingredients, such as cucumber, tomato, carrot, broccoli florets, and even berries for a sweet touch. Your child’s favorite salad dressing can be included in a lidded container for easy dipping.
No matter what you choose to pack, your child will need the right boys’ or girls’ lunch bag for school. Choose a zippered insulated bag that helps keep foods at the right temperature. If you opt for a fabric lunch bag, look for one with a rigid bottom and sides to prevent delicate foods from getting damaged. An insulated thermos is a good item to have for the school year, especially when you choose one made from durable double-wall stainless steel.
You’ll also want a girls’ or boys’ lunch bag that’s seamless and resistant to leaks. A waterproof interior makes cleanup easy if any liquids do happen to spill inside the bag. When it comes to zippers, the YKK brand is durable and long-lasting.
Some lunch bags are designed to clip onto compatible elementary, middle school, and high school backpacks, and some even have additional compartments for carrying snacks and other items. For maximum durability, choose a lunch bag made from 600-denier polyester. This fabric is often used for backpacks for kids because it’s water-resistant, won’t rip or tear, and is easy to clean.
Experiment with different lunch ideas to find the ones your child likes best. You can even get them involved in the lunch prep process to teach kitchen skills and enjoy some quality together.