Much of a child’s growth, development and learning happens at school – that’s why we send them. Of course their lunchbox food is important but giving your kids healthy lunches for school can feel as difficult as cooking the perfect three-course meal. The challenge is putting together a balanced, healthy lunch while providing something that your kids will actually eat! It has to also be appetising for them, or you might find your children will throw their lunch away instead of eating it.
A healthy balanced wholefood lunch can be the difference between a child concentrating or feeling tired and sleepy in the afternoon at school. There are so many options when putting together a nourishing healthy lunch box. It doesn't matter if your child enjoys variety or the same thing every day, as long as it has some protein, vegetables, healthy fats and fruit. Depending on your child’s activity level or how long they are spending at school, you may also want to include an extra snack. Make it a colourful lunch that's appealing to look at and is packed with nutrients.
Before the food, focus on the container, the lunch box itself. You want to avoid storing food in plastic containers and instead opt for glass at home, or at least pick BPA-free options. However, sending a little one off to school with a heavy glass container can be a little impractical.
A stainless-steel lunch box, is the perfect solution. They are durable, lightweight, easily available and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
To keep foods cool, pack the lunch box in an insulated lunch bag along with an ice pack. To keep hot foods like soups or stews warm, try an insulated thermal container.
Besides having a lunch box, it’s great to have some of these tools on hand to make it easier to pack fun lunches.
- Silicone Cupcake Liners: not just for muffins, these holders are great for sectioning off different foods from each other (sliced vegetables in one and fruit pieces in another).
- Small Shape Cutters or Cookie Cutters: these are great for fruits, veggies, even cutting out shapes from an omelette.
- Small Dip Containers: great for dips, sauces or small treats.
- Ice Pack: helps keep your child’s lunch cold.
- Water Bottle: to send cold water for lunch.
School Lunch Tips
- Schedule a good time to pack school lunches – this may be the night before or the morning of. Find a time and stick to it.
- Get your kids involved – have them pick a few vegetables or fruits they want to eat in their lunches for the week. They can help chop the veggies, make the pinwheel, or even have them pick out the fun dip containers or food picks used.
- Utilize leftovers – make sure you take advantage of using any leftovers that will work as a cold lunch like cooked chicken, meatza, meatballs and sauces.
- Plan it out – even if it’s a rough idea, plan your kids’ lunches for the week.
Kid Friendly Lunch Box Ideas
Here are some of our favorite school lunch ideas that are great served in a lunch box for school or at home.
Chicken, served hot or cold is always a hit. Chicken legs contain more healthy fats than breasts and are easier to eat on-the-go. Baked chicken wings or coconut flour crusted chicken strips along with a Paleo friendly dipping sauce or flavored avocado oil mayonnaise are easy options too.
Tuna, egg and salmon salads are easy to throw together using wild canned fish or free-run eggs, avocado oil mayonnaise, diced onion, celery, pickles, and your favorite seasoning. Wrap these salads in lettuce leaves, pile them on leafy greens, or serve with a side of crunchy raw vegetables or your child's favorite home-made root vegetable 'fries'.
Check out our salad guide for more inspiration on creating a lunchbox worthy salad.
Leftovers such as BBQ chicken, burger patties, or thin-sliced steak are delicious as a lettuce wrap, and served with burger fixings and some home-made root vegetable 'fries' on the side. Leftover meatballs and Paleo friendly pizza or meatza are also great leftover options.
Egg muffins are always a tasty option and a great way to use up leftovers and ensure your child (or you) are eating some vegetables. The combinations and possibilities are endless. Try adding crumbled cooked sausage, chopped bacon or even leftover meatballs or meat sauce to the mixture for added protein. Many sweeter Paleo muffins are also low in added sweeteners and full of nutrients. A side of nut butter for dipping works well too.
Sandwiches, Wraps and Rollups
Try thinking outside the bun. Using thinly prepared burger patties, grated vegetable patties or large Portobello mushrooms can provide for creative 'sandwiches'. There are also a variety of grain free wraps available or you can use a large lettuce, chard, or other green leaf as the 'bread' wrapped around quality deli meats, tomato, onion, avocado, and other fillings of your child's liking.
Quality, additive free deli meats rolled into a tube or wrapped around avocado or other veggie strips are also fun and easy to eat.
Note: It is best to avoid deli meats preserved with nitrates and other chemicals.
Soup or Stew
Soups and stews are a great lunch box addition especially as the weather gets cooler. Using an insulated thermos keeps the food hot for several hours.
Breakfast For Lunch
Make deviled eggs or simply hard boil eggs packed whole or halved seasoned with salt and pepper. Adding some cooled bacon, pre-cooked Paleo friendly hot dogs, sausages, or sausage patties served with condiments on the side for dipping creates a great meal of 'breakfast for lunch'. You can even pack in some raw or lightly steamed broccoli or cauliflower as a side.
Sustainably sourced canned salmon or tuna in olive oil work well as a quick on-the-go option too. You could even try your hand at making sushi rolls using cauliflower rice, avocado and canned fish mixed with mayonnaise or some sashimi-grade fish. Wild smoked salmon pairs well with Paleo crackers. Keep the lunch box is an insulated bag along with some ice packs to keep cool. Fish food is brain food!
If you are challenged to find the time to cook and prepare, Pete’s Paleo Meals make packing a lunch box super simple by delivering everything you need right to your door. For older children, a meal can be warmed at school (if that is an option), packed in an insulated container or enjoyed as leftovers.
Choose from this week’s menu here >>>>>>>>
AND, check back in soon for more exciting lunchbox news from the Pete’s Paleo Team
- Raw fruit with single serving packs of nut butter or seed butter.
- Chia pudding made with coconut milk or coconut or plain full fat yogurt if dairy is an option for your family. Top with some berries and/or seeds.
- Raw vegetables (cherry tomatoes, crunchy beans. snow peas, baby carrots or sticks of carrot, celery, cucumber, radishes and capsicum) or root vegetable 'fries' along with a side serving of paleo friendly dips including cauliflower hummus, guacamole, baba ganoush, beetroot dip and egg salad.
- Homemade, Paleo friendly granola or granola bars can be made nut free by substituting seeds for the nuts.
- Home-made fruit or vegetables chips, toasted coconut flakes and dehydrated kale chips make crunchy snack alternatives. You could also try nori chips or ½ an avocado seasoned and eaten with a spoon.
- Dried meats. Look for Paleo friendly ingredients and options like free-range turkey jerky, chicken jerky, pork bites, grass-fed beef jerky, bison bites, lamb bars, or dry your own meats in a dehydrator.
- For the occasional sweet treat, you could also include a Paleo friendly cookie or bar, home-made or store bought.
- Gelatin fruit gummies are another nutritious sweet treat option.
Whatever lunch you pack or carrying device you use, just make it fun and exciting for the kids. Write notes to them and make sure to pack one item they will be excited to find. It’s hard enough to be different, but if the other children see that your child’s food is colorful and exciting because they always have something cool like dips or wrapped food, then the other kids will be curious (read: jealous) instead of mean about your child’s difference and your child will look forward to enjoying the delicious lunch you lovingly prepared.