We all know what those school-made lunches are like these days. Stale, covered in grease, lacking in nutrients, and frozen. Not ideal for a growing kid. Or anyone, really.

 

Packing your kids’ lunches can only take a few minutes out of your day, and it makes a huge difference in their health and happiness. Plus, it can be a sweet way to remind your child that you’re thinking of them during their day at school.

 

First, ditch the paper bag. Invest in a sturdy lunchbox (you know it’ll get tossed around mercilessly) with little mess-free dividers, or put in your own small individual reusable plastic containers. Those will keep the food from spilling, getting smashed, and generally creating a mess; plus you’ll save money on disposable baggies.

 

Here are a few easy packed lunch ideas that are both health, easy, and kid-approved delicious:

 

Mediterranean-Inspired

 

A handful of olives, sliced red peppers and cucumbers, cubed cheeses, and some whole wheat crackers or bread with a side of hummus will keep your kid full and alert throughout the day. Add some grapes for a serving of fruit, and you’ve laid out a whole mediterranean-themed meal!

 

Sneakily Healthy Pasta Salads

 

For many kids, their favorite meal consists of almost exclusively starches. Mac ‘n cheese, spaghetti, ramen, etc. But those are often full of empty carbs and sodium and are completely lacking in nutrients.

 

But a make-ahead pasta salad is a great way to work some veggies into your kids’ lunches without trying to force them to like carrot sticks. These five healthy pasta salad recipes are insanely easy, and you can make them ahead of time so they’re ready to go in time for school with no rushing around.

 

Jazz Up the Sandwich

 

Maybe your kid never gets tired of a PB&J or ham and cheese. But maybe you’re tired of them crashing from that sugar high. You can make sandwiches interesting for kids who are sick of the same old thing, and you can make them healthier, too.

 

Start by thinking outside the basic bread. Try…

  • Bagels
  • Pita
  • Flatbread
  • Tortilla
  • English muffins

 

If you’re both tired of the standard sandwich format, switch it up with some of these ideas…

  • Whole wheat tortilla wraps with turkey, veggies, and cheese
  • Hummus wraps with feta and falafel
  • Lettuce wraps with chicken, avocado, and a spicy peanut sauce
  • Mashed beans spread on a tortilla with healthy taco toppings and a side of salsa for dipping

 

You can always include the ingredients for them, add some pieces of pita, and let them assemble it themselves. That way nothing is soggy, and lunch is never boring.

 

Tips to Keep Lunches Healthy and Tummies Happy

 

Don’t forget to keep your kids hydrated! Sending them to school with a refillable bottle of water is the smartest, cheapest, and healthiest option, but a low-sugar juice every now and then makes for a good treat.

 

Get creative with lunchtime! Just remember to always include in every meal…

  • A source of protein
  • Plenty of veggies
  • Some fruit

 

Remember to include some sort of healthy fats to keep them full. Dairy, avocado, eggs, and other staples can take care of that.

 

Give them a little treat with each meal, too. It can be as simple as a piece of chocolate or a little package of their favorite healthy snack foods. Write down a quick little “I love you” note, or wish them well on a test, and slip it in the lunchbox before they head out the door for a sweet lunchtime surprise.