Without a doubt, the pictures of my preschooler’s lunch box contents are among the most popular on my Instagram and Facebook feeds and are also the ones my readers comment that they find most helpful. I remember when I was first embarking on cleaning up our eating habits, I would often hit a brick wall when it came to lunch boxes. Being creative isn’t something you can force, so on the nights I had no flipping clue what in the world to pack in my kiddo’s lunch box, I would scroll through some of my favorite kid-friendly food blogs (100 Days of Real Food and Weelicious are among my tried and true favorites) for inspiration.
When packing Alice’s lunches (or preparing any meal for my family), I have a few self-imposed rules I try to follow:
1. At least 1/4 of the lunch content is a fresh fruit and another 1/4 is a vegetable.
2. When packing breads, pastas, rice, or crackers, always ensure they are whole grain.
3. Use as much organic/seasonal/local foods as possible.
4. Only pack water and the occasional fruit/veggie smoothie to drink.
5. When including a treat, it is occasional (2 times a week is my norm in lunch boxes) and it is very small (a few dark chocolate chips, a small homemade cookie or brownie)
6. Use as little processed food as possible.
Just like the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to figure out what to feed them.
Peanut butter and honey “quesadilla” on a homemade torillia , simple fruit salad of raspberries and mango chunks, and a tin of sliced rainbow carrots and green peppers.
Half of an ear of steamed organic corn, brown rice with Cuban black beans, sliced grape tomatoes and diced avocado, and some blueberries.
Dinner leftover inspired lunch! I looooovvveee packing leftovers for lunch, as it means less work for me. I often cook a double batch of something so I have enough for lunches the next day or to freeze. My daughter’s school has the ability to warm her lunches just prior to her eating them, so that makes my life even easier. However, I know many people do not have that luxury so I also try to include lunches that are already hot in a thermos or can be enjoyed cold.
Sunflower seed butter is an option for lunches if your child has a nut allergy and/or if they can’t bring nut products to school due to a peer allergy. Be warned, though, that organic sunflower seed butters are tricky to find and/or they often have additives. I occasionally make my own (such as for this lunch) or you can use your best judgement when reading ingredient lables.
Homemade french toast cubes (leftover from a weekend breakfast) with a drizzle of maple syrup, sliced purple carrots, yellow grape tomatoes, and red grapes.
Cashew pieces, cucumber & peanut butter finger sandwiches, a clementine, raspberries, and a dark chocolate oatmeal cookie
When Alice was a toddler, I used to make her lunches in a muffin tin because it gave her I lots of little options. I like to make portable versions of “muffin tin meals” by using reusable silicone muffin tin liners to turn a large container into an instantly divided one.
Vegan Mac & Cheeze made with whole wheat pasta and peas (in a thermos, hot and ready for lunch time), sliced cucumbers, and an Asian pear.
Pumpkin pancake sandwich with peanut butter, kale-blueberry-apple-banana-almond milk smoothie, raspberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
Homemade veggie pizza on a whole wheat crust, pomegranate seeds, peeled rainbow carrots (or “Olaf noses), and beet hummus .