Lunchboxes! Oh, my goodness these horrible little things are the bane of every parent’s life. Coming up with a variety and different lunchbox ideas that your child eats, enjoys and that are reasonably healthy can be challenging! Forget the sleep ins, fun relaxing holidays and go with the flow days – not having to do lunches is the greatest thing about school holidays.
But now that school is back and lunchboxes are terrorising our mornings, Darwin Family Life has pulled together our best ideas for healthy lunchboxes that are stress-free, and also certain to get eaten.
Different Lunchbox Ideas that the Kids Will Love
Whether your child is a fussy eater or has dietary restrictions that you have to stick to, getting them to eat what you put in every day is a constant battle. These tips will totally make things easier.
Get Them to Help
If your kids are going to school, they are now old enough to help make the lunches – they can at least assist if they can’t do it all.
A good idea is to get your child to pick their own snacks, as they are more likely to eat things they have prepared or chosen themselves.
Give them restrictions such as:
- at least one fruit or vegetable item
- at least one dairy (or dairy-replacement if your child has intolerances) item
- and then one ‘treat’ item only after that.
You can prep them together while making dinner and pop everything in the fridge for the next day to just grab and go.
No One Likes Warm Food
Put a freezer brick in your child’s lunchbox to keep things lovely and cool on a hot day. You could also buy (and then re-fill and re-use) some water pop-tops from the supermarket to freeze, then your child can drink the cold water later in the day.
Sandwiches are Lame
Kids get sick of eating the same food every day – and let’s face it, so would you! Sandwiches are easy for Mums to make, but often boring and repetitive to eat, which is why they come back home again all squished and sweaty.
It’s time to think outside the sandwiches box. Some of these are also a great help if your child is eating a gluten-free diet.
Try these ideas instead
- corn tortillas made into sushi sized rolls with whatever filling your kids like
- “sandwich sushi” roll out a piece of bread with a rolling pin, cut the crusts off and then spread with cream cheese and top with other fillings the kids like (eg thinly sliced carrot/cucumber, ham, tuna, corn etc) Pictured above.
- put small pita pockets in the lunchbox with a separate filling that can be spooned in at lunchtime, like bean salsa, tuna salad or egg mix.
- brown rice salad with chopped celery, capsicum and sultanas
- cubes of kabana and cheese with cubed cucumber, sliced lettuce and red grapes/cherry tomatoes
- cold potato or sweet potato salad with cooked chicken or tuna and mayonnaise with some crackers/cruskits or saladas
- a couple of hard-boiled eggs
- small steamed corn on the cob, container of frozen peas
- hummus or another vegetable dip with sliced cucumber, celery and carrot
- fill a thermos with last night’s leftover bolognese, some steamed vegetable dim sims, homemade soup or baked beans.
- quick and easy homemade scrolls! Check out our recipe here. So many different topping ideas you can do. The good old classic vegemite and cheese is almost always a winner!
Get Some Fun Containers and Improve Your Plating Up
Look for a lunchbox that has bento-style sections in it, or you could try this Kmart hack to DIY your own.
Asian speciality stores can be an amazing place to find tiny reusable containers for things like salads, dressings and condiments. Kids really love getting a bunch of tiny containers in their lunchbox, it makes the whole meal a fun experience.
Apples and other Fruit
It is always difficult to find fruit that kids like and will eat in their lunchboxes. Many kids will eat fruit if it is slightly more enticing, such as if it is sliced already, if it is cold or if mixed with other ingredients.
Popping a whole apple in the lunchbox is sometimes a hard sell (although one of my sons can easily eat 3 whole apples each day!! It’s crazy). But there are so many ways you can make an apple more inviting, and you have got the fruit portion of lunch totally covered. First of all, find a type of apple your kids like. Pink Lady, Royal Gala and Jazz apples are all good choices as they are crisp and sweet.
If your child prefers their apple sliced, try one of these tips:
- slice it into a container and add a few drops of lemon juice or sprinkle some cinnamon on it to stop it from browning
- put slices into a sandwich bag and then using a straw, suck out all the air before sealing the bag (like a DIY vacuum sealing machine)
- Keep the apple core as a rectangle piece in the centre of an apple-shaped puzzle. Slice four sections around the core and then pop them all back together before wrapping it or securing it with a rubber band. (You can watch a video here)
Just to name a few other fruit options:
- Cut up Kiwi fruit
- Watermelon, rock melon or honeydew melon cut up into pieces
- Mandarins or orange slices
- frozen berries (mine love blueberries in particular! but there are mixed berry options or raspberry and strawberries too)
- Mango (when in season)
- Stone fruits like Apricots/peaches/nectarines (when in season)
- Passion fruit
Lunchbox Ideas for Food Intolerances
Most schools and preschools today are a nut-free zone, but an increasing number of centres are requesting that lunchboxes not contain some other ingredients as well.
If your child has an intolerance to any food type or is on a restricted diet, you might find it difficult to put together a healthy balanced lunch for them every day (that they will actually eat).
Larger supermarkets are getting better at stocking food for specific dietary restrictions, including snack and lunch options.
The health food aisle of bigger supermarkets should contain options that are gluten-free, sugar-free, egg-free, dairy-free and vegan so if you have a little hunt around, you should be able to find things your kids like.
Brands like Messy Monkeys and The Happy Snack Company offer a range of tasty options and are worth checking out.
There are some lunchbox ideas for dietary restrictions on these websites as well:
Stay at Home Mum – 15 Nut and gluten free lunch box ideas for kids
Kidspot – gluten free lunch box recipes
Live Love Nourish – How to pack a healthy lunchbox 30 gluten dairy nut free ideas
We hope these different lunchbox ideas have given you some inspiration for your kids lunchboxes to try! Let us know which ones your kids love.