Back to school means back to daily lunch-making, but last-minute lunches can add unnecessary stress to the school week. Add in today’s nut-free school environments, and it can be hard to think of creative lunches that don’t involve PB&J sandwiches, especially when you’re in a time crunch.
Use these simple themed lunch ideas to get your creative juices flowing, and to introduce new tastes to your little one’s lunches. You can use simple ingredients that you can find at your local grocery store without breaking the bank, Even better? They all use ingredients you can find at your local grocery store that won’t break the bank.
The Big Dipper
Incorporating an element of play into lunchtime can make this lunchbox a hit with children of all ages. Ingredients are incredibly simple, and you have endless possibilities here: you’ll need things to dip, and things to be dipped in.
To Dip: Chicken strips, sliced or mini vegetables, pretzels, apples, graham crackers
To Dip In: Ranch dressing, ketchup, mild salsa, marinara, hummus, Greek yogurt, nut-free butter, cream cheese, bbq sauce, nacho cheese
The Bento Box
If “cute” is the way to your child’s heart, the Bento Box lunch is for you. Think fun shapes and interesting patterns for this one: sandwiches cut into butterfly or car shapes, fruit slices shaped into stars or hearts, vegetables in flower shapes, or even grab-and-go foods like goldfish.
When food is shaped like fun, your preschooler is more likely to pay more attention to their lunch and get the nutrition she needs for the rest of her day.
The Roll-up Lunch
The Roll-Up lunch is another great option for tactile children who love playful foods. You have endless options here as well: tortilla pinwheels, rolled-up lunchmeat and cheese, pizza rolls, sunbutter and banana wheels, and more.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with the entire lunchbox: you can go traditional with fruit roll ups on the side, but you can also include zucchini rolls or cucumber with cream cheese for added variety.
My girls love taco roll-ups, just mix up some cream cheese, taco seasoning, black olives, green onions, cheddar cheese, and salsa. Spread it on a tortilla, and then cut into pinwheels.
Breakfast for Lunch
It’s practically a universal truth that breakfast is the favorite meal of the day. When in doubt, why not send breakfast for lunch?
What to Include: Waffle sandwich with maple syrup and sunbutter, croissant sandwich with ham & cheese, pancake pieces, hard-boiled egg, cold sausage links, cantaloupe slices, yogurt, cereal.
The Color Coded Lunch
We all know how much preschoolers love their white, starchy foods, but playing with colors can be a great way for you to entice your child to try a variety of new and nutritious lunch foods.
White: Grilled chicken, couscous, white rice, jicama sticks, Greek yogurt, applesauce, white chocolate chips.
Red: Pepperoni, ham, cherry tomatoes, watermelon, apple slices, strawberries, raspberries.
Green: Spinach pasta, avocado toast, honeydew, cucumber slices, peas, celery sticks, green apples, kiwi.
Orange: Pasta with marinara, bell pepper slices, orange wedges, carrot sticks, cheddar cheese cubes.
Blue/Purple: Roast beef, mashed purple sweet potatoes, blue corn tortilla chips, rainbow carrots, purple cauliflower, blueberries, grapes.
Leftovers for Lunch
Who said lunches had to be new? The leftovers assortment is a good way to feed your child more of what he or she loved at last night’s dinner, and a great way to avoid food waste. Just be mindful whether your child will have access to a microwave, if leftovers need to be heated. If they don’t you could purchase a thermos for them to put in their lunchbox.
The Cool Mom Lunch
Sometimes, you just don’t have time to make lunch—and that’s okay. The cool mom lunch is a perfect solution for busy families who just need a break from the pressure of creative school lunches that just get eaten or traded away anyhow. Your child certainly won’t mind a change of pace.
What to Include: Cold pizza, pudding cups, this morning’s drive-through order, whatever you want.