What’s for lunch? Easy & nutritious school lunch ideas!

Can a sack lunch be easy, nutritious and affordable? I think so! As a working mother of three, I don’t have time for anything complicated or time consuming, but my kids need sack lunches for school packed almost every day.

I have a simple formula to help us create diverse lunches throughout the year: one item from each food group (protein, fruit, vegetable, grain, dairy and a small treat).  We pack 2 types of lunches, hot and cold. Hot lunches are packed in a small thermos so the food is all ready to eat as soon as lunch starts with no need to wait in line at the microwave. I have put everything from soup, to last night’s leftovers, to kids’ favorites of chicken nuggets or mini-corn dogs in their thermos. Check out this website on how to select and use a thermos: momables.com

Cold lunches are even easier, especially since we pack them the night before and keep them ready and waiting in the refrigerator until morning. I have bento style lunch boxes to help my family pack nutritious meals and keep us all on track.

Here are a few ideas from each food group that are kid-tested and approved in our family!

  • Protein: lunch meat, leftovers (chicken, pork chops, steak, etc), meatballs, peanut butter or other nut butter, nuts, hummus, eggs, chicken nuggets, mini-corn dogs
  • Dairy: cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese sticks/slices/curds
  • Grain: crackers, pretzels, noodles, rice, bread, buns, popcorn, breakfast food (muffins, oatmeal, granola, pancakes, waffles, bagels, English muffins)
  • Fruit: apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, melons, berries, peaches, pears, mango, cherries, pineapple, plums, kiwi (we use fresh, canned, and dried fruit)
  • Vegetables: carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, peppers, peas, green beans, celery, olives, pickles (we use raw, cooked and frozen vegetables)

For more healthy lunch ideas with lots of pictures check out 100daysofrealfood.com

Sarah Stensland is mother to three active children, and works part-time as a physical therapist. She LOVES collecting recipes and planning menus, and is passionate about good nutrition. Her kids depend on Grandma and Grandpa to put a little sugar in their diet!