Oh my! Kid lunchboxes are hard. Add into the mix trying to make a vegetarian lunch that the child in question might actually eat, nut-free zones, individual allergy restrictions, no microwaving at school, and the morning rush . . . and seriously, you are well within your rights to just hand over the lunch money. There's no one-size-fits all answer, but here are some quick ideas to mix and match into your life.
rolled balls of cooked rice | veggie chik'n nuggets | monteray jack sticks | purple carrots | mandarin orange
bagel with cream cheese, strawberries, and jam | sunflower butter | microwaved sweet potato | grapes
microwaved and buttered edamame | plain yogurt with honey and figs | sunflower butter and jam sandwich
smoothie with equal parts spinach and frozen berries blended with water | cheddar cheese | veggie bologna slices | crackers | apple
refried beans | buttered brown rice | cheese sticks | strawberries and dried mango | spinach
4-min microwaved corn in husk | veggie dogs | cream cheese and jelly rolled in wheat tortilla l frozen peas
cheese quesadillas | microwaved black beans | red bell pepper | oranges and strawberries
sunflower butter and strawberry sandwich | banana | mozzarella sticks | microwaved green beans
hummus | pita | mini peppers | dried apricots and figs | veggie straws
Use your leftovers. I try to set aside some item or ingredient from dinner the night before that my kid will eat. Sometimes I'll cook something for dinner that he won't eat (a pilaf, a salad, anything with spices, really), but I know he'll eat a component of it (plain rice, plain carrots, plain sweet potato... a pattern is emerging). So, if I think of it, I'll reserve some of that ingredient for lunch, and then I've at least got something to work with in the morning.
Food groups and colors. Speaking of the morning, when I'm out of ideas and time, I just try to think of the good old 4 food groups (really I like to treat the fruits and vegetables as their own separate groups, to make 5) and find something in the fridge that my child will likely eat that falls within each group. If I can try to get a mix of colors in there too, I declare success.
lt's not always pretty. When I'm really out of ideas and time, my kid gets a sunflower butter sandwich, a yogurt or go-gurt, a banana and a hurried goodbye.
lt's not you. After some effort, my kid luckily eats some vegetables, and has been eating a packed lunch since daycare, so he's used to it. But honestly, there are a ton of vegetables and other foods he currently refuses to eat, so I try to work with what I've got. Sometimes, the lunchbox comes home empty, sometimes not. Whatever.
No snack? To those who might be thinking, no chocolate? No treats? That's right -- usually there's no candy or junk food in the lunchbox. But don't get the wrong idea, it's because the junk food assuredly comes later...the packaged snack at aftercare, the fruit bar or cookie I often bring him for the walk home, and, oh yes, because I am one of those mothers who bribes her kid into trying vegetables with promises of dessert, there's often dessert after dinner!
You have to eat it too! After years of packing my kid a lunch that was always way healthier than mine, I decided that I needed to follow the golden rule. So I now try to eat most of the same food that I'm packing my kid, in some form or another. (If nothing else, it saves some time and money.)
Visit back soon, as we'll add more ideas and more real life lunches to the gallery!
Need further inspiration? Check out these pages for more ideas: