Already in a Lunch Box Rut? Try These Tips to Shakeup Your Kid’s Midday Meal

By Dina El Nabli | September 15, 2015
Muchables lunch box by Michelle Dudash
Michelle Dudash put together these healthy munchies in a bento-style lunch box. (Photo by Michelle Dudash, RDN)

The beginning of a new school year always feels like a fresh start for our family. The kids get excited about their new backpacks and lunch boxes and I can’t wait to test out Pinterest-inspired recipes with them.

A couple of weeks later, homework and busy schedules kick in. I start to lose steam as we run from school to soccer to piano to golf. I pack a plain turkey and cheese sandwich (on organic sprouted multigrain bread) and my son comes home asking for something more dinnerish (but not leftover) for tomorrow's lunch. The lunch box rut is real. And it's only September. 

We asked some of our favorite authors and clean eating bloggers for their best advice when it comes to packing healthful lunches your kids will want to eat all year. From time-saving tips to strategies that will get them to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, here’s what they shared:

Make-Ahead and Freeze, Lisa Leake, 100 Days of Real Food
"My #1 piece of advice for packing real food school lunches is to make recipes in advance (such as muffins, soups, breads, and even those quiches you are featuring) and freeze them. There’s no need to have one big cooking day each month, but instead while you’re making dinner or even waffles on the weekend consider doubling the recipe and adding them to your school lunch stash in the freezer."

See Lisa's Recipe for Make-Ahead Mini Quiches

Assemble Their Favorite Munchies in a Bento-Style Lunch Box, Michelle Dudash,
"Rotate their favorite fruits that are in-season. Most kids love in-shell edamame, which counts as a vegetable and a protein. Turn dyed Easter eggs into a year-round craft that your kids can show off to their friends and eat, for protein, iron and choline. Popcorn makes for a great side dish that is a true whole grain."

See Michelle's Recipe for Four Seasons Fruit Pizza

Give the Kids a Job, Katie Morford,
"Divide and conquer when it comes to packing lunch. Farm out part of the job to the kids, say packing fruits, vegetables, and sides, while you run under the main course. Or reverse roles, and enlist them to make sandwiches or fill containers with leftover pasta."

See Katie's Recipe for Sweetie Pie Quesadillas

Get Creative with Sandwiches, Laura Fuentes,
"I love filling sandwiches with hummus, pesto, and veggies and make a club sandwich. Eggs are also a terrific option. I like making pesto egg salad and stuffing a sandwich or a wrap with it. I just started making coconut butter and jelly sandwiches and they've been a huge hit as well."

See Laura's Recipe for a Peaches and Cream Wafflewich

Pack a Colorful Punch, Leah Brooks, author of Baking with Kids
"Kids love to snack so assembling a lunch of a variety of nibbles of varying textures and colors is a great way to introduce new fruits and veggies in a fun way! Deconstruct salads by making lettuce spears, carrot sticks, and cucumber 'dippers' and have a tasty homemade vinaigrette as a dipping sauce. Better yet - involve them in making the dressing by letting them taste test and adjust seasoning.”

Throw in a Fun Treat, Ashley Fox Whipple, author of Super Cute Crispy Treats
"I do my best to pack a nutritious lunch with a few fun elements that the kids enjoy. Fruit and veggies cut into shapes a big hit. I also try to switch things up from time to time so lunch doesn't get boring. A fun little treat on special occasions is my other secret to creating a good lunch that my kids are excited to eat."

Get More Mileage from Their Water Bottles, Katie Morford,
"Fill your water bottle and freeze overnight. It can double as an ice pack and will defrost enough by lunch time to provide icy hydration. Be sure not to fill bottles to the tippy top since water expands as it freezes. It's also best to avoid this with glass bottles since they can crack in the freezer."