28 Ways Jazz Up Your Kids School Lunch
Tips for Fun and Healthy School Lunch
1. Cookie cutter sandwiches: Make these with your kids. Slice the crusts off the
bread and use cookie cutters in fun shapes. Pack a few extra to share with friends.
2. Nuts to You! One of the most boring things about brown bag lunches is the lack
of variety and texture. Adding nuts or sunflower seeds to salads, soups and
even sandwiches makes for crunch appeal. Try some toasted, spiced pecans in
your bag instead of chips.
3. Mail Bags: This is fun for kids: include some mail for them. A note from you,
a newspaper clipping, even a piece of junk mail you don’t plan on opening (kids
love to open things!) How about printing out something fun from the Web and
4. Stickers: If you use brown paper bags, decorate them with stickers, especially
at holidays. This is not just for kids, because adults love to show off that
something special sent from home, too. And there’s such a variety of theme-oriented
and playful stickers these days.
5. Alphabet stamps: My mom used to take alphabet rubber stamps and ink pads and
decorate my lunch bags with words and sentences. Try making up riddles, or jumbled
words for your kids to unscramble.
6. Joke-a-Day: Do you have one of those joke a day calendars? Keep the old ones
and throw ‘em in your family lunch bags. The day may be gone but the joke’s
7. Silly Pasta Salads: Pasta now comes in all sorts of fun shapes: basketballs,
grape clusters, Christmas trees…Make pasta salads using these silly shapes,
and the kids will especially love them. Throw together some leftover pasta,
some veggies, ham or whatever else your kids like, and you’re set. Pack some
dressing to add at lunch time.
8. Grill an extra chicken breast while you’re using the barbecue. Chill it, then
cut the meat into strips. Pack some containers of dipping sauce (sweet and sour,
honey mustard, barbecue) to go with it. Or, if you have some leftover turkey,
cut it into cubes and pack it in a plastic container. Send along a container
of cranberry sauce for dipping.
9. Pack some homemade bean salad in a plastic container. Add a muffin or a buttered roll to go with it.
10. Sprinkle shredded cheese on a tortilla, top with another tortilla, and cook
on an ungreased griddle until the cheese is melted and it’s lightly toasted
on each side. Let cool, then cut into wedges like a pizza. Pack some salsa for
11. Spread a tortilla with cream cheese, sprinkle with chopped raw vegetables, and
roll up. Cut into 1 in. (2 cm) slices and pack in a plastic container. Or do
the same thing with peanut butter (if there are no peanut allergies at your
child’s school) and banana or jam.
12. Pack some delicious hummus in a plastic container. Cut a pita up into wedges
for dipping along with some carrot sticks, celery sticks, broccoli, cauliflower,
green pepper – whatever your child likes. Send along a few potato or tortilla
chips – just to make it seem like party food.
13. Make some salami roll-ups. Spread thin slices of salami with mustard or cheese,
lay a pickle spear on top, roll up and secure with toothpicks. Pack into a plastic
14. Cut up some cheese and meat (chicken, ham, kolbassa, whatever) into cubes and
pack in a multi-sectioned plastic container. Use some fancy toothpicks to spear
the cubes. Or send along a few crackers.
15. Cut a pita bread in half, and pack it in a plastic bag. Send along assorted
things to stuff in the pocket like shredded lettuce, tuna salad, alfalfa sprouts,
canned chickpeas, grated cheese, chopped hard-boiled egg, and a little container
of salad dressing to drizzle on top.
16. Contrary to popular myth, cold pizza is not disgusting. Wrap a slice or two
in plastic for lunch. Or make a bagel pizza. Cut a bagel in half, spread with
spaghetti sauce and sprinkle with shredded cheese and pepperoni. Bake until
the cheese is melted, then let cool completely and wrap in plastic.
17. Make a banana bread sandwich. Spread homemade banana bread with peanut butter
or cream cheese, cut into long fingers and pack in a plastic container.
18. Spread a tortilla with refried beans and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Fold
in the sides, roll up, and wrap in plastic. Send along a container of shredded
lettuce and some salsa to add at lunch. Or make a chicken taco instead. Spread
some salsa on the tortilla, top with shredded, cooked chicken and shredded lettuce.
Fold up and wrap.
19. Make some mini-quiches using frozen tart shells or your own homemade pastry,
or pick some up at the deli counter. Pack a couple in the lunch box – they’re
20. Make a mini-submarine sandwich out of a hot dog bun, some sliced meats and cheeses and shredded lettuce (hot peppers? olives?). If you really want to go all the
way, pack a small container of salad dressing to pour over the fillings at lunchtime.
21. You’ve heard of ants on a log – what about ants in a log? Stuff lengths of celery along the crease with peanut butter or cream cheese. Insert the ants (raisins, by the way) into the stuffing, and then squish another peanut butter- or cheese-stuffed celery on top – trapping the ants inside. Wrap tightly in plastic.
22. Zip Those Chips: Instead of costly pre-made single serving packs, use sealable plastic bags and even mix up your favorites. Some of them, like those tasty bean chips, vegetable chips and garlic bagel chips, don’t come in single server packs.
23. Stop the Sog: If you are using moist vegetables or condiments, bag them separately then add them to a sandwich at lunch. No more yucky bread.
24. Fast food packets: Next time you eat fast-food, pick up extra packets of ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, salsa, etc. They are handy for adding flavor to your meal. Condiments can make a sandwich soggy, so adding them fresh from the packet will make your meal tastier.
25. Baby-wipes: Those premoistened wipes can clean messy hands gently. Keep a box
in your kid’s desk or locker. Also good for wiping up your desk.
Pick a fun container: What you carry your lunch in can make a difference in
how you perceive your food. Presentation of a homemade lunch is just as important
as it is when served on a plate. Kids especially know this and the right lunchbox
can make the difference in being accepted by one’s peers or not
26. Wash your lunchbox: Bacteria can grow anywhere, so be sure to clean your box
or bag out regularly. Safety first.
27. Ice packs: a number of reusable ice packs exist, but you can also freeze those
little individual juice containers and let them thaw until lunch time.
28. Thermos: Whether for chilled or hot foods, prepare your thermos by either filling it with either iced or boiling water beforehand. It will more efficiently keep your foods the correct temperature — not just more pleasurable to eat but safer. Remember: keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to avoid food poisoning.
Tuck these in a lunch box:
• Vegetable sticks with a small container of salad dressing for dipping
• Fresh fruit
• Celery sticks filled with cream cheese or peanut butter and raisins
• Fruit yogurt
• Crackers–plain or with peanut butter or cheese
• Cheese sticks
• Graham crackers
• Fortune cookies
• Dried fruit
• Fruit leather
• Tortilla chips with a small jar of salsa
• Small bags of popcorn
• A note from you
LisaMetzgar, PhD,she received her BA in Biology from UCSD, is a certified Holistic Health Practitioner, and received her Ph.D. in Holistic Nutrition.
Lisa has taught body mind retreats in San Diego, Seattle, and Australia and currently has a practice in Reno, NV where she does nutrition counseling.Lisa's passion is to educate families about a healthy lifestyle.
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