Ideas for your child’s lunchbox- and yours too!

Check out “30 days of lunch box recipes with NO REPEATS!” by following this link: and see more recipes below!
Whole-Wheat PB&J
An old favorite gets a healthy spin with a WW bagel.
1 tablespoon peanut butter, 2 teaspoons jam on 1 mini whole-wheat bagel + 1 oz. whole-grain chips (about 16) + 1 small banana
Stats: 467 calories, 2.6g sat fat, 413mg sodium
For the Rabbits
Give salad greens some oomph with lots of lean protein.
Mixed greens, 2 oz. rotisserie chicken, 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes, 1 hard-cooked egg, 2 tablespoons oil-and-vinegar dressing + 2 cups 94%-fat-free popcorn + 1 orange, peeled
Stats: 444 calories, 4g sat fat, 460mg sodium
Let’s Get Mediterranean
Make-ahead couscous can yield several lunches.
CL Couscous Salad (3/4 cup) + 2 tablespoons hummus + 8 whole-wheat pita chips + 1 cup fresh grapes
Stats: 430 calories, 2.2g sat fat, 715mg sodium
The Cafeteria Club
Save the cheese for the skewers, and opt for tasty guacamole instead of mayo for the wrap. Slice the wrap into medallions and skewer on toothpicks for less mess at lunchtime.
Wrap: 1 oz. oven roasted turkey breast, 1/2 oz. low sodium ham, 1 slice crumbled center cut bacon, 1 tablespoon guacamole on half a whole wheat wrap (such as Flatout) + tomato mozzarella skewer (cut one lower sodium part-skim mozzarella stick into fourths and skewer with cherry tomatoes alternately) + 8 vanilla wafers
Stats: 439 calories, 6g sat fat, 795 mg sodium
Pizza + Carrot Crunch
Low-fat ranch doubles as a dip for both pizza and veggies.
½ CL Pizzadilla + 10 baby carrots + 1 tablespoon low-fat ranch + 1 (4-oz.) cup unsweetened applesauce
Stats: 250 calories, 3.4g sat fat, 594mg sodium
The Pita Pocketeer
Low-fat Greek yogurt is the base for this tangy chicken salad. Chocolate kisses are perfectly portioned treats.
CL Creamy Chicken Salad (1/2 cup) with mixed greens in half a 6-inch whole-wheat pita + 1 medium apple + 4 milk chocolate kisses
Stats: 446 calories, 4.6g sat fat, 451mg sodium
Beefy Sammie + Fruit Stick
Sandwiches can pile up sodium. Balance it with no-salt sides.
Sandwich: 2 oz. lower-sodium roast beef, lettuce, 2 slices tomato, 1/2-oz. slice white cheddar, 2 teaspoons light mayo on whole-grain bread + 2 pineapple and strawberry fruit kebabs + 1/2 oz. unsalted peanuts
Stats: 456 calories, 6g sat fat, 508mg sodium
Arnold Palmer Sandwich
Combine finely chopped hard-boiled eggs and pickles with mustard and mayonnaise, then spread on a slice of multigrain bread. Combine drained canned tuna, finely chopped celery and onion, mayonnaise and lemon juice, then spread on another slice of bread. Sprinkle with torn basil leaves and assemble.
BLTA Wraps
Mash an avocado with lemon juice, then spread on a whole wheat wrap. Top with crumbled bacon, chopped tomatoes, and thinly sliced romaine lettuce. Roll up and wrap in parchment or wax paper to secure.
Turkey Salad Rolls
ToggleCombine diced smoked turkey, toasted almonds, halved seedless red grapes, thinly sliced celery and mayonnaise. Transfer to an airtight container; pack with a whole wheat hot dog bun for your talented kid to assemble. Or not.
The Elvis Burrito
Spread peanut butter on a toasted whole-wheat wrap, then sprinkle with crumbled bacon and drizzle with honey. Place a whole banana at the edge of the wrap, then roll, pressing gently to break the banana and form a cylinder shape. Or, slice the banana, scatter, and roll.
Turkey-Cheese Pita Pockets
Spread a creamy cheese, such as Boursin, inside a whole wheat pita, then fill with roast turkey slices, baby spinach leaves and cucumber slices.
Mini-Bagel Breakfast Sandwich
Spread the bottom of a split, toasted mini-bagel with cream cheese, Canadian bacon or pancetta, a scrambled egg and a tomato slice. Spread more cream cheese on the bagel’s top slice before setting into place.
Ham & Cheese Quesadillas
Spread mustard on a whole wheat tortilla, then top with slices of Jarlsberg cheese and ham. Add a layer of baby spinach leaves, then fold to enclose and cook on a Panini press or in a hot skillet until the tortilla is golden and the cheese melts. Let cool slightly, then cut into wedges before packing.
Just about every preschooler’s a little dipper. And that’s not surprising: Dipping makes healthy snacks tastier — not to mention more fun to eat. For a savory dip that will also get your little one to eat vegetables, try hummus (most kids love it), black-bean salsa (ditto), or even pesto (really!) with crackers or veggies like baby carrots or bell-pepper strips. Or offer up chicken strips and honey mustard. You can also create a fruit-and-yogurt dip: Serve up slices of fruit with a mini-cup of cinnamon-sprinkled vanilla yogurt (squeeze a bit of lemon juice on apple slices to keep them from turning brown — an instant preschooler turnoff).
Do Breakfast for Lunch
Let’s face it, breakfast foods are usually tops with kids — and yet most never get around to sitting down for that morning meal. So pull a switch. When time’s short (when isn’t it?), hand your preschooler a cereal bar to nibble on the go, and pack that healthy hot breakfast for lunch. Slice a multigrain waffle into strips, and serve with an applesauce or yogurt dip. Spoon hot oatmeal (made with milk for extra nutrition) into a thermos and sprinkle with berries and almond slivers. And don’t forget the savory side of breakfast (for lunch): How about a mini breakfast burrito? Or scout out the frozen-food aisle for nutritious breakfast pockets. The bottom line on breakfast-for-lunch? A mix of complex carbs and protein will help energize your little bunny for the rest of the school day.
Eat the ABCs
Now that your child is in preschool, she’s probably learning her letters. Why not keep teaching her at lunchtime? Use an alphabet cookie cutter (or a knife) to slice a sandwich into the shape of, say, the letter C. Then add other foods that start with C, like a container of cottage cheese, some corn and carrots, a cheese stick, dried cranberries…you get the picture. Even better: Invite your preschooler to help you come up with some healthy lunch-box ideas for different letters of the alphabet. (M is for melon and and meatballs. P is for peppers, peaches, and pasta.)
Be a Smooth-ie Operator
Ditch juice boxes for a nutrient-packed smoothie. Simply throw some vanilla yogurt, a splash of orange juice, and a handful of frozen fruit — berries and bananas work well — into a blender and puree until smooth. Portion the drink into small, lidded cups, then stash them in the freezer. When you want to pack one in your kid’s lunch box, throw it in fully frozen with a straw; by the time lunch rolls around, it’ll have defrosted enough to sip. Coupled with a whole-grain mini bagel, it’s a super-nutritious and delicious school-day treat.
Honey, Almond Butter & Banana
Spread 2 slices of whole-wheat bread with almond butter or peanut butter. Top 1 bread slice with a drizzle of honey (for kids 1 and up) and a layer of banana slices. Cover with the other slice, butter side down.
Pear & Avocado
Mash 1/2 ripe avocado in a bowl. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread the avocado evenly on 2 slices of sourdough bread. Add a layer of thinly sliced Bosc or Asian pear to 1 bread slice. Cover with the other slice and press gently to adhere. Swap in pomegranate seeds for the pear, if you like.
Apple, Cheddar & Peanut Butter
Split a focaccia square in half crosswise. Spread the cut side of 1 half with peanut butter. Top with a layer of cheddar-cheese slices and then a layer of thin apple slices. Cover with the other half, cut side down and press gently.
Strawberry & Goat Cheese
Split an English muffin and lightly toast the halves. Spread each half with softened goat cheese or plain whipped cream cheese. Top with a thin layer of strawberry jam, followed by a layer of thin strawberry slices. Place the top half of the muffin over the bottom half, and press gently.
Slice It Right
If it seems like that sandwich you packed in the morning makes a soggy return uneaten in the afternoon, swap in Pepperidge Farm Goldfish—shaped bread. It’ll remind him of a familiar snack and get him to eat up. $3 to $4; grocery stores.
Turkey Pinwheels
Serves 1
Spread dollop of store-bought hummus on whole-wheat tortilla, then layer a slice of turkey and some spinach leaves. Roll up and cut.
Serve with:
Cheese cubes
Fruit salad
Mini Pizzas
This kid-favorite gets a healthy makeover to fuel your child’s busy body all day long. Make these the night before to save time in the morning. Top English muffin halves with jarred marinara sauce (if your child won’t object, add chopped steamed broccoli or spinach to the sauce.) Sprinkle pre-shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Let cool, then wrap up.
Serve with:
One half cup of blueberries
Individual chocolate pudding

Easier lunchbox planning/shopping:

Involve your kids in the planning. If you can get your kid to suggest a healthy lunch, odds are, she will actually eat it. In our house, Holden is boycotting jelly so I give him a PB sandwich with no J. He will also eat a hard-boiled egg as long as I provide a little salt to go with it (and promise not to draw on the shell – I thought it was cute but he didn’t want to break the drawing).
◦Shop for foods that will last all week and prioritize to use the freshest ones first (blueberries and baby carrots should last but raspberries might need to be used right away).
◦Stock up on healthy non-perishables. I keep these foods on hand for when the fresh foods are starting to turn: almonds, raisins, rice cakes, wheat crackers, canned pumpkin (sprinkle cinnamon, include a spoon!), and granola.
◦Make ahead what you can so you can streamline the packing process (savory muffins, hard-boiled eggs, half-sandwich for tomorrow?)
Easier lunchbox packing:
◦Pack lunchboxes the night before to save time in the morning.
◦Choose a variety of protein, carbohydrate, fruit, and fat.
◦Balance a variety of colors.
◦Avoid cookies and sugary treats. I’m sure I sound crazy, but if you don’t offer them, the kids won’t expect them.

Can you suggest some lunchbox ideas? We would love to add them to this list! Email Erin at your child’s favorite lunchbox recipes!