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As a big proponent of eating mostly “real food”, making kid lunches for all three of my kids on school nights is just part of our routine. But, it can also be a LOT of work to keep up with on top of sports schedules, homework, making dinner, and housework in the evenings! So, over the years, I’ve come up with a regular rotation of 20 easy, healthy lunch box options that my kids love.
I buy most of these ingredients or convenience items each week at Hy-Vee, so we can have them on hand for lunches. The products I recommend below are ones that I feel have a higher nutritional value and/or avoid many of the processed ingredients and the yucky stuff (trans fats, HFCS, additives, etc) that often come in pre-packaged foods.
Here are 20 Easy and Healthy Lunch Box Ideas That Kids Will Love…
1 – Make-Your-Own Lunchable
Making your own lunchable is so easy that your kids can do it. Plus, it’s much healthier when you control the components that go in. Here’s all your need to include in your pack or this cool little stainless steel Bento Box:
Hy-Vee carries this great Organic Uncured Beef Summer Sausage by Organic Prairie that my kids love and I feel better about serving them. Thin slice some of this sausage to include.
Uncured Turkey Pepperoni
Another meat option that works for homemade lunchables are these Applegate Uncured Turkey Pepperonis for an easy lunchable topper. They are delicious and free from preservatives!
Save money and buy a block of cheese to slice up like Kraft Colby Cheese Brick.
I honestly like Triscuits the best. They are affordable, whole grain, and only contain 3 ingredients. They make for a solid cracker sandwich foundation, too.
2 – Homemade Yogurt Parfaits
I send Homemade Yogurt Parfaits often with my kids. You can easily divide the ingredients in a stainless steel container like this one (featured above) or use a medium-sized glass container with lid. Here’s how we make ours at night ahead of time.
Layer 1: In my glass container, I fill the bottom with our favorite Chobani Greek Vanilla Yogurt. I usually buy the large container to save money, but you can certainly buy the individual servings for convenience!
Layer 3: I top the fruit with granola lastly. There are so many great options in store aisles, if you don’t want to make your own. One thing to watch out for is how much sugar packaged granola contains. Some that are a bit lower in sugar are:
3 – Hot Turkey (or Ham) and Cheese on Wheat Bread
Kick this basic sandwich up a notch by sending it warm. Did you know you can wrap a sandwich like this in foil, heat it in a 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes in the morning, wrap it in a kitchen towel for insulation, and pop it in the lunchbox? I do this several times a week and my kids love the melty cheese and slightly toasted bread in a hot (well, really it’s just warm by lunch) sandwich.
Here are the components I use:
4 – Tomato Soup
My kids love when I make a big batch of Tomato Bisque, top it with a little grated Parmesan, and send it in their stainless steel BPA-free thermos. And I love knowing that they are getting at least a few servings of vegetables just from the soup alone. But, if you don’t have time to make your own, there are some really great organic options at Hy-Vee. My favorite is this one:
5 – Whole Wheat Mac and Cheese
I like to make a large portion of mac and cheese for dinner one night and send all the kids with leftovers the next day in their thermoses. It’s always a hit! If you don’t have time to make our delicious Homemade Mac and Cheese with Sneaky Sweet Potato, try this one in the HealthMarket section at Hy-Vee:
My daughter often requests this in her lunch. I do recommend to make this the morning of or to leave off the bananas if making ahead.
Some great wraps for this are…
I love this lunchbox option, because you can make a bunch ahead of time and freeze them. They are so easy to throw together and wrap individually in foil. To send in the lunch, thaw overnight in the fridge and in the morning, just heat them in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes and wrap in a towel to keep it insulated in the lunch box. Below is all you need to fill up this healthy, substantial wrap. Feel free to leave out any ingredients your kids don’t like.
1 – Whole Wheat Wrap – I love this healthier soft wrap, which I mentioned above…
2 – Kidney or Black Beans – Go for canned beans that are in a BPA-free can like…
4 – Salsa – Just grab your favorite, but be sure to read the ingredients to avoid preservatives and additives. Hy-Vee Organic Salsa is a good choice.
5 – Cooked Brown Rice – I just cook up some Hy-Vee Instant Brown Rice.
8 – Homemade Peanut Butter Crackers
You can easily skip the packaged cracker packs and make your own. I just have my kids make these at night. Here are our favorite products to get the job done:
Back to Nature Classic Round Crackers – It’s hard to find a truly healthy cracker at the store that tastes good, so I settle for this delicious one with no preservatives, additives, or trans fat.
Peanut Butter – Look for organic or just peanut butter that only has peanuts in it. You can always grind your own peanut butter at Hy-Vee or my kids like this brand (but it does have some added sugar):
9 – Turkey and Cheese Roll-Ups
This lunch is so easy to make. Just spread some cream cheese on a tortilla and add turkey slices. Roll up and slice into “sushi rolls” like the picture above. They fit nicely in a Stainless Steel Bento Box. Like I mentioned a few times already, I really love Tumaro’s Multigrain Wraps and Applegate Naturals Roasted Turkey Breast.
10 – Cereal, Milk, and Fruit
Yep, you read that right. Occasionally when I am in a huge hurry or out of options, I send a well-sealed thermos with milk, a healthier dry cereal in a medium-sized glass bowl with lid, and a spoon so the kids can pour the milk over it. Add in some fresh blueberries or strawberry slices to put on top and it’s actually not that bad of a lunch…and my kids think I’m the bomb. Here are some of our favorite healthier (not perfect, but at least a little healthier than most) cereals:
Multigrain Cheerios – I know these aren’t perfect but at least they have some whole grains and aren’t too sugary.
11 – Sugar Snap Peas
I don’t know about you, but finding vegetable options to go in the lunch box isn’t easy. But, my kids do down these sweet, crunchy sugar snap peas. I like that they come in a convenient, pre-washed pack in the produce section.
12 – Petite Baby Carrots with Hummus
Another favorite vegetable of kids are carrots, but my kiddos particularly love the petite baby carrots with a little hummus for dipping.
It’s hard to beat the flavor of Hy-Vee’s Original Hummus in my mind, but if you want a completely whole food version of hummus you can always make your own.
13 – Finger Food Fruit
There are a few no-brainer fresh fruits to include in the lunchbox, and fresh is always a better choice than the little fruit cocktail cups. Great grab-and-go fruits are Clementines (aka Cuties) or Apples (Fuji or Honey Crisp are the only ones that are worth it to us!), because other than rinsing them off, all you have to do is toss them in the lunch box.
15 – Unsweetened Apple Sauce
Skip the dessert and offer apple sauce as a sweet treat, especially the unsweetened kind to avoid more sugar and additives. You can buy it in bulk, like the Hy-Vee UnSweetened Apple Sauce, or in pre-portioned containers, like the Musselman’s Unsweetened Natural Apple Sauce. I prefer to save money and dish them out in advance into 1 cup glass containers. It’s so easy and reduces waste.
16 – String Cheese
What kid doesn’t like playing with their food? That’s what makes string cheese so fun. Plus, the Sargento Snacks String Cheese has no additives or food dye and tastes great! I love throwing these in lunch boxes for a quick protein-rich addition to the meal.
17 – Trail Mix
There are several excellent pre-made trail mixes in store at Hy-Vee to choose from. A few recommendations:
Back to Nature Harvest Blend Trail Mix (or other varieties)
Hy-Vee Dark Chocolate Cranberry Mix (or other varieties)
However, it’s so easy to mix up your own nutritious and tasty trail mix according to what your kids like. Here are some of our favorites to include in a homemade trail mix:
18 – Granola Bars
Not all store-bought granola bars are created equal. Many are actually loaded with as much sugar and additives as a candy bar…some are even worse. So, I look for granola bars that have all recognizable ingredients and are lower in sugar. Here are a few of our favorites:
19 – Hard Boiled Eggs
Sometimes I’ll boil and peel half a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week and stick one or two in a kids’ lunch. It’s a great source of protein and so many other important vitamins and minerals–almost the perfect brain food! Hy-Vee carries a great selection of local eggs in the HealthMarket.
20 – Popcorn
Popcorn is full of fiber and a much better side option than chips in a lunchbox. Our family’s favorite store-bought pre-popped corn is Skinny Pop Naturally Sweet Popcorn. But, it’s hard to beat the taste and price of this Homemade Popcorn recipe. Just use your favorite popping kernels (here are mine), make a big batch, and store in an air-tight container for up to three days.