Healthy Back-to-School Lunches

If back to school means back to the daily challenge of how to keep kids fueled with healthy lunches they’ll actually eat, this blog post is for you! We have ideas for what to pack, how to involve your kids, and snacks to make in-between-meal times easier as well.

Variety and nutrition: The keys to a happy lunchbox.

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Sandwiches will always be a go-to lunch choice, but there are plenty of other options if you think outside the bread. You can keep kids interested with a variety of foods in each lunch meal and pack in plenty of nutrition at the same time. Fruits and vegetables bring both the color and the nutrients, and are easy to prepare in just minutes.

Following are just a few ideas for inspiration:

Think rainbows: You don’t have to include every color in one lunch—just vary your choices from day to day. Cut fruits and vegetables into chunks, then alternate them with turkey or chicken and cheese on skewers to add some fun.  

  • Red: Apples, cherries, tomatoes and strawberries
  • Blue: Grapes, raisins, plums, blueberries and blackberries
  • Green: Kiwi, leafy greens, honeydew melon, peas and broccoli
  • Yellow and orange: Carrots, apricots, oranges, pineapples, pears

Include a kid-friendly dip: Make sure those fruits and vegetables are eaten by including something tasty to dip them in. Check out these great dip ideas from SuperHealthyKids.com, such as guacamole, hummus, spinach dip, pesto, peanut butter fruit dip and more.

Pack in the protein: Make sure kids can power through the afternoon with these easy protein ideas:

  • Canned tuna
  • Edamame
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Grilled chicken (see below!)
  • Simple bean salads
  • Chunks of lean, low-sodium deli meats and cheese chunks
  • Peanut butter and honey sandwiches

Make it easy on yourself.

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A little pre-planning and advance preparation goes a long way toward taking the hassle out of keeping kids’ hunger at bay all day:

Cook extra dinner portions: Grilling chicken for dinner this week? Include more than you need for dinner and save the leftovers for lunch appearances. Rice, pasta, and beans will keep well throughout the week and can be mixed with a handful of vegetables in the morning.

For the ultimate convenience, cook in bulk on the weekend and freeze individual portions that can be packed in the morning and thawed by lunchtime.

Stock up on healthy “convenience” foods: No time to plan or prep? Keep these items from Native Sun in the pantry for breakfast, lunch or easy after-school snacks:

Annie’s Homegrown Pizza Poppers: These organic, bite-sized snacks will see kids through that stretch from lunch to dinner.

Bobo’s Toast’r Pastries: A healthy, delicious breakfast is always ready with these wholesome pastries. Great for snacks, lunch, or to take on the go, too.

Bob’s Oatmeal Cups: Single-serving organic oatmeal cups are ready in just three minutes. Add a spoonful of chopped fruit or nuts for a super-fast, healthy breakfast or snack.

Environ Kids Cereal: Kids love these cereals for the taste—you’ll love them for their natural, organic ingredients.

Santa Cruz Apple Sauce: With just three clean ingredients—organic apples, water, and Vitamin C—you’ll want to keep these easy-to-pack, four-ounce cups in stock at all times.

Munk Pack Oatmeal Fruit Squeeze: These fun treats check all of the boxes—non-GMO, gluten-free (including the oats), BPA-free packaging and delicious.

Lastly, don’t forget nature’s convenience foods that don’t require any prep time and are always ready to go. Keep an eye on Native Sun’s weekly sales to save on ready-to-go items such as oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, nuts and more.

Let your kids help!

Involving your children in both the planning and prep will encourage them to take an interest in what they’re eating. Older kids can help with washing, cutting and storing fruits and vegetables, while the smaller ones can take on the task of arranging items in their lunchboxes the night before, prepping easy items like ants on a log, and being allowed to make a couple of choices on their own on what to include.