It’s back-to-school time! That means crafting your kiddos’ daily lunches again -- so why not consider making lunchtime more fun when you work these adorable and healthy ideas into their lunch boxes? You can even get the littles at home to help. They’re sure to keep them smiling all day while providing a burst of energizing nutrition at the same time! Some of these are so delicious that adults in the house may want to have extras around for their lunch, too!
*For some of our favorite creations, an insulated container would be ideal. Something like a bento box, stainless steel lunch container, or a thermos would be great, so long as it is insulated. Look for whatever works best for you with this in mind: you’ll want something sturdy to protect the shape of some creations, which will keep some cold, and others hot. (Just so you know, we don’t receive anything if you click on a link below. We just want to provide some fun, healthy ideas for your family!)
To make any of these recipes healthier, opt for sprouted, whole grain or sourdough bread. Check ingredients to be sure there aren’t a ton of added sugars. (Peanut butter, jelly, yogurt, and even bread can be terrible culprits of hidden added sugars.)
1. Woodland creature sandwiches
It just takes a few extra minutes to make these adorable, protein-rich goodies for your kiddo’s lunch box. All you’ll need are a few cookie cutters, a pinch of fruit, some different colored breads and a couple of high-quality proteins of your choice, and voila! A critter-filled lunchbox to surprise them at the lunch table.
Want to try some variations on these? Basically, anything you can cut with a cookie cutter (or a knife, if you’re a little bit artistic), and that keeps its shape in a lunchbox can work. Check these out:
2. Butterfly snack bags
Pack healthy fruits, nuts, crackers, and cereal mix in super cute style when you use this fun idea! Paula from Beauty through Imperfection shares her method of beautifying otherwise boring lunchbox contents with pretty painted butterfly clothespins.
You’ll need 8 simple supplies (including scissors, ziplock baggies, and the snacks themselves), several of which you likely have at home already. Set aside an afternoon crafting with the kiddos before they start school, and they can help you make these -- then it will be extra special when they see them in their lunches for the first time! It can help them remember to recycle their snack bags, too.
3. Lunch kabobs
Forget last year’s sandwich and fruit and take things up a notch with lunch on a skewer! There are so many different kinds of kabobs you can make, and as long as your kiddo can handle a skewer without hurting themselves or their tablemates, this idea is good to go. Here are a few ideas for starters, and how to make them (follow the link):
PB & J kabobs ← How to make the kabobs pictured
Mini alphabet melon skewers (super cute for kids learning to spell their names)
4. Pizza muffins
Step aside, blueberry and banana nut! There’s a new muffin in town, and it’s taking over your kids’ lunchboxes. Pizza muffins have everything you normally put on pizza, neatly packed into a flavorful, healthy lunchbox muffin. No muss, no fuss, no microwave needed.
There were actually a few of these savory lunchbox muffin recipes that caught our eye, so we’ll keep a short list below in case you want to try them instead.
Frittata bites (slightly different than a bonafide muffin, but tasty and protein-rich!)
5. Banana sushi
Give them a nice dose of potassium and vitamin B6 with this yummy mid-day treat. A fresh variation on the old school peanut butter and banana sammie, this healthy lunchbox creation makes a great side to just about any main you pack it with.
*If you want to keep your bananas looking fresh until lunchtime, try gently tossing them in a little fresh-squeezed lemon after you slice them (but before you construct the sushi rolls, of course).
You can also turn these into a healthy dessert by adding 1 dark chocolate chip to the center of a slice
6. Colorful bento box ideas
Based on a Japanese tradition of packing healthy boxed meals on the go, bento boxes are now a hot new trend for American lunchboxes, especially fun if you buy the dividers and sauce cups to go with them. You don’t have to buy the expensive kind -- just make sure they’re made of a safe material like stainless steel or BPA-free plastic and start crafting creative lunches--and keep it colorful!
Here are some of our kid-friendly favorites:
7. Healthy pinwheel sammies
If you can slather or sprinkle ingredients across an open tortilla or soft piece of flatbread, you can roll it up, slice it, and make pinwheel sammies. Some of these work with puff pastry as well. There are a million different ways to make them, including bread-free options like these turkey, bacon, and ranch pinwheels. So, take a look at some favorites below and get creative!
Avocado cucumber pinwheels (breadless)
8. Homemade lunchables
It’s easy to make your own lunchables. Basically, all you need is:
2 healthy proteins (i.e. lean turkey and organic cheese)
1 carb (potato, quinoa, beans, banana, and carrots are great sources of nutrient dense carbs- or you can go simple with whole grain crackers or bread)
1 or 2 fruits and veggies (applesauce, celery slices)
1 drink (water in a reusable