Eat Right: Healthy Lunch Box Ideas
Back-to-school for New Jammies kids means new teachers, new school clothes, new friends and new experiences. It also means brainstorming new healthy lunch ideas for culinary variety to make sure the kids are eating right.
For an easy rotation of sandwiches with snacks, ham or turkey with cheese are easy to assemble the night before school. Peanut, almond or sunflower butter (great for kids with nut allergies) with homemade low-sugar jelly sandwiches are perfect for variety and specific dietary requirements.
Organic pastas such as penne noodles, ravioli and macaroni and cheese, including brands such as Annie’s, can also be made ahead of time to pack a convenient and nutritious lunch. Annie’s also makes organic gummies and fruit snacks, cookies, popcorn and granola bars to include as healthy lunch box snack options.
Bento Boxes, which are BPA- and phthalate-free and 100% recyclable, are extremely popular, especially this colorful divided lunch box, as they can help with portioning and organizing. We love Bentgo Kids, an innovative bento-style lunch box designed exclusively for active kids on the go, because you can put liquid dips in it and they won’t leak into other compartments with special sealed lid.
“What makes Bentgo Kids so much fun is the endless combinations of nutritious foods you can pack in the five convenient compartments,” says the company. “The largest compartment is the perfect size for a half sandwich or salad. Three mid-size compartments are great for fruit, veggies and other snack favorites. The smallest compartment is sized just right for dipping sauces. Bentgo Kids’ removable compartment tray allows you to mix and match the three fun colors to suit your child’s unique preference.”
Bentgo is also a purchase with a purpose, as the company is a proud supporter of Feed the Children. Try this Bentgo Kids All-in-One Lunch Box.
“Your purchase makes a difference in the lives of hungry children in America and around the world,” says Bentgo Kids.
For sustainable lunch packaging, we also love Two + Two re-usable and washable sandwich wraps and snack bags. Don’t waste ziplock bags and throw away plastic! These are made in New Jammies home state of Colorado in Aspen, and are food-safe and eco-friendly.
“This young company is run by two creative moms with a passion for style, sewing, Mother Earth, and doing what’s best (and cutest) for their little ones,” says Two+Two. “Products keep food fresh and uncontaminated with a proprietary lining that is free of lead, BPA, PVC and phthalates. The various sizes of eco-friendly reusable bags accommodate any and all packing organizing and traveling needs.”
Fill the snack bags and lunch boxes mentioned above with fresh-cut veggies, including carrot and celery sticks, cauliflower and broccoli pieces, and cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices from the garden, as healthy options. Dips such as hummus and homemade ranch with Greek yogurt can make veggie eating even more enticing for kids at lunchtime.
Cheese sticks in different varieties, including string cheese and cheddar, can keep things interesting from day-to-day. Fresh fruit that travels well, especially oranges and tangerines, red or green apples and ripe bananas, plus sugar-free applesauce and fruit cups are filling and great for adding important Vitamin C. Frozen yogurt tubes that thaw by lunch are good to include for a fast dose of Vitamin D.
For foodie kids who like to mix it up and try different dishes, black beans and rice sprinkled with Monterey Jack cheese provide a tasty protein-filled option. Add salsa for fun and color. Roasted veggie quesadillas made with whole-wheat tortillas are also easy to make ahead and transport in the lunch box.
This recipe for Chic’ Penne from KidsHealth.com can be made ahead on the weekend and eaten cold throughout the week, or frozen for future lunches, after-school snacks and quick dinners after sports practice or club meetings:
Prep time: 55 minutes
1 box whole-wheat penne pasta (14 ounces)
3 cups of raw broccoli florettes
¾ cup of precooked chicken strips (4 ounces)
½ cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded (2 ounces)
½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 ounces)
3 tablespoons skim milk (1.5 oz)
2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cook pasta according to directions until crisp-tender. Drain pasta.
3. Place drained pasta in a 13×9 baking dish.
4. Place broccoli in a stockpot of boiling water or a steamer for about 5 minutes.
5. Rinse with cool water.
6. Add the drained broccoli and the precooked chicken strips to the pasta.
7. Sprinkle shredded cheeses over pasta mixture.
8. In a mixing bowl, combine milk, chicken broth, salt, and pepper.
9. Pour milk mixture evenly over the pasta mixture and mix in with a spoon.
10. Cover baking dish with foil.
11. Bake 30 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and cheese is melted.
EatingWell.com offers some fun Bento lunchbox ideas, including this one for a Deconstructed Cobb Salad Lunch for Kids.
½ ounce slice low- or reduced-sodium deli turkey
½ ounce slice low- or reduced-sodium deli ham
¼ cup chopped romaine lettuce
2 tablespoons chopped tomato
2 tablespoons chopped cucumber
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
½ avocado, cubed
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 hard-boiled egg, thinly sliced crosswise
1 slice crisply cooked bacon
1. Stack turkey and ham slices on top of each other.
2. Tightly roll up and slice crosswise into 4 to 6 rounds.
3. Place in a small container.
4. Toss lettuce, tomato and cucumber in a medium container.
5. Place oil and vinegar in a dip-size container and nestle into the salad.
6. Toss avocado with lime juice and place in a medium container along with egg.
7. Place bacon in a small container.
For more recipe and menu ideas, visit the KidsHealth.com Recipes page. Bon appetite!
New Jammies was born as an environmentally responsible company offering 100% certified organic cotton and flame retardant-free children’s pajamas. Learn more at newjammies.com.