When it comes to packing kids’ lunches, think inside the box!  The hottest trend in lunch-packing is the bento box approach, which comes from the Japanese tradition of serving a meal in compartmentalized boxes, making the meal look even more appealing. You can even get special kids’ lunch boxes specifically made for this method. When deciding what you want to put in your child’s lunch, just consider what looks good together – kind of like you would match your clothes. For example, bright orange bits of cantaloupe alongside sliced strawberries and blueberries look appealing, something which piques your child’s interest.

1. Mock Sushi Roll-Ups – Kid Style

This is a new trick on the plain old sandwich. Kids seem to like things in bite-sized chunks and sushi roll-ups are perfect for satisfying that tendency. You can use anything you want to create these fun-filled, healthy sandwiches, but here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

Ingredients:

  • Whole wheat tortilla or bread
  • Choice of protein, e.g. deli meats, canned tuna or salmon, or leftover grilled chicken
  • Shredded carrots
  • Cucumber strips
  • Kale, spinach, or red leaf lettuce strips
  • Cheese slices
  • Mustard, yogurt mayo, light mayo, or light Miracle Whip

Directions:

  • Lay your bread or tortilla out on a flat surface.  If you are using bread, cut the crust off, then slightly flatten out the slice using a rolling pin.
  • Spread your condiment of choice across the entire piece of bread or tortilla.
  • Layer your ingredients, starting with the meat, and following that with your other ingredients.
  • Roll it up and then slice it into sushi rounds.

Alternative:  Use any nut-butter (or seed butter), all-natural fruit preserves, and fresh sliced banana instead of meat and veggies.  If you choose this option, give the meal a little protein boost by adding a side dish of stevia-sweetened Greek yogurt with strawberries or blueberries.  Top it off with sugar free granola.

Food fact: In addition to protein, peanut butter also gives your child potassium, healthy fats, magnesium, antioxidants, and B-vitamins, all of which work together to boost your child’s immune system and build healthy bones and muscles.

For more sushi roll-up and healthy lunch ideas, check out Lunch Box Blues.

2. Sandwich and Cheese Shapes

You can give your kids’ sandwich a new look by changing a few ingredients and their presentation.  For example, instead of using a tortilla or bread and rolling it up, cut your sandwiches into fun shapes. Serve it with a cheese medley on the side, also cut into fun shapes.

Want to see more sandwich shapes for your kids?  Check out Funky Lunches.

3. Multi-Textured Apple Wedges

You can get your kids to eat more of any fruit if you make everyday fruit look and taste a little more interesting.  Think about creating different textures and blending different flavors. We found this great apple-dessert/side/snack idea from Super Healthy Kids.

Ingredients:

  • Apple
  • Lemon or lemon juice
  • Cream cheese or plain yogurt sweetened with stevia or honey
  • Nut or seed butter (such as sunflower butter)
  • Topping ideas:
  • Granola (go for unsweetened)
  • Chocolate (dark chocolate is healthier due to its anti-oxidant properties)
  • Coconut
  • Dried cranberries (check your labels for the sugar free option)
  • Raisins
  • Chopped nuts
  • Toasted wheat germ
  • Ground flax meal

Directions:

  • Start with an apple and a twist of lemon. The idea is to give the apple a lemony flavor, which you can do by slicing your apple and a lemon and then refrigerating that in a sealed container overnight or by soaking apple slices in lemon juice for a few minutes.
  • Remove your apple from the fridge and slice it up.
  • Add a layer of nut or seed butter and press that into a bowl of toppings.
  • Change up your layers and toppings for variety.

Food Fact: Apples contain phytonutrients that help regulate blood sugar.  This means that your kids will be energized throughout the day rather than suffering from rapid increase and decrease in blood sugar.

4. Dragon Roll-Ups

These cute little roll ups we found on Care.com not only have fresh vegetables in them, but also pack a healthy dose of protein. Again, this is just a new twist on food you probably already have in your home.

Ingredients:

  • Choice of deli meat, though ham his the sturdiest for these roll-ups.
  • Sliced cheese
  • Cucumber strips (you can also try zucchini) for the dragon teeth.
  • Red pepper strips for the dragon tongue.
  • Cream cheese
  • Raisins

5. Sandwich-on-a-Stick

Rockinmamma.com has come up with yet another way to serve up your child’s sandwich: on a stick. Let’s face it, eating food on sticks is fun, even for most adults. Again, you can vary it in an infinite number of ways.  Rockinmamma just separates her sandwich ingredients and puts them separately on a stick. Easy enough!  If your child likes condiments, then serve those as a dip on the side. Check out more sandwich-on-a-stick options at Super Healthy Kids.

We hope you will try these choices and then make up some of your own. Include the kids in the process so you can start teaching them healthy eating habits now.

6. Grocery List

Carbohydrates

  • Whole grain tortillas
  • Whole grain breads, bagels, and/or muffins
  • Whole grain crackers

Protein

  • Whole cut deli meats (not water based)
  • Canned fish, such as tuna or salmon
  • Nut or seed butters (almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower butter)
  • Anything you have for leftovers such as chicken or lean beef
  • Greek yogurt (sugar free – use a sweetener like stevia or honey)

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Bell Peppers of all colors
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Carrots
  • Leafy greens, such as spinach, dark lettuces, or kale

Condiments

  • Hummus
  • Mustard
  • Low fat mayo or miracle whip
  • Yogurt mayo

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