10 Tasty Ideas for Children’s Cold Lunches

When children think that food looks good, they are more apt to eat it. According to a local program in Alaska called “The Children’s Lunchbox”, their studies have found that when children eat a wide variety of foods as a child, they grow up being a less picky eater.

Making your child’s lunch on a daily basis gets kind of old. As a daycare provider for 8 school aged children, I see the same kinds of foods being sent with the kids in my care on a daily basis. These lunches consist of a sandwich, usually meat, cookies, chips and a juice box. Not only are these not real filling meals, they are full of processed foods and they contain a lot of sugar!

I am going to give you ten tasty ideas for fixing something a little bit different for your children, and it will be appealing to the eye and palate because the meals will contain different textures (smooth, crispy, crunchy, etc), and there will be a variety of colorful foods as well. The lunches are balanced and kid proven.

According to the USDA Food Program, children of school age (ages 5-12) need 6-8 ounces of milk, 1/2-3/4 cup of fruits and vegetables, 1/2-1 slice of a bread or equal amount of grains, and 1 1/2-2 ounces of meat or a meat alternative such as peanut butter, cheese, beans, etc.

Meal One:

Ham & Cheese Sandwich (using OroWeat Sandwich Thins). If you have not seen these new breads, they resemble a hamburger bun, but they are denser and thinner, and are made of whole grains. The round shape adds a new look, and kids love them! Add a cup of fruit cocktail and carrot sticks.
You now have a lunch that is colorful, and healthy!

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Meal Two:

Chicken Wrap, using an 8″ flour tortilla, 2 ounces of chicken, and 1 piece of lettuce. Serve with a small cup of apple sauce, grapes, and snap peas.

Meal Three:

Taco Salad. Layer taco meat, refried beans, shredded cheese, and lettuce. Mix this all together and send a small container of salsa for the children to add to it just before eating. Many kids don’t like the look of a layered Taco Salad, but when it’s all mixed up, they love it. Add a fresh pear and grape tomatoes for the fruit and veggies.

Meal Four:

Tiny Tuna Sandwich. Using 2 ounces of tuna fish, mix with salad dressing to make a tuna salad, only serve it on potato bread! If you have never tried it, you need it, the taste of the two flavors is amazing, and kids love it! Serve with apple slices and thinly sliced sweet red peppers (yup, kids like the sweet crunch of red peppers!).

Meal Five:

Pilot Pizza. Buy a box of Pilot Bread, and layer 1 tablespoon of pizza sauce, 3 slices of pepperoni, and 1 ounce of shredded mozzarella cheese. Place in a plastic container (like a sandwich container), so it won’t get smushed. Kids like these cold, or many cafeterias have a microwave and your child can nuke it for 10-20 seconds. These don’t get soggy! The Pilot Bread is more like a soft bread than a cracker when prepared this way. Add a peach and carrot sticks.

Meal Six:

Chicken Sesame Salad. In a small bowl with lid, add chicken, shredded cabbage, some dried Top Ramen noodles, and put in a small container of Oriental dressing. Serve with rice crackers and tropical fruit.

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Meal Seven:

Yogurt & Muffin. Add to the lunch 6 ounces of yogurt, 1 ounce of string cheese, and a muffin or granola bar. Serve with peaches and snap peas.

Meal Eight:

Chicken Penne Pasta. Make a salad from diced chicken, penne pasta, and sweet peas. Moisten with salad dressing or mayonnaise. Serve with peaches and carrots.

Meal Nine:

Turkey Sandwich. 2 ounces of turkey, 1 piece of lettuce, on 2 slices of multi-grain bread, with 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise. Serve with 100% juice and cucumber slices.

Meal Ten:

Chef Salad. Make a salad out of lettuce with grated carrots, turkey, cheese, and 1/2 boiled egg. Add some croutons and a small cup of desired dressing for children to add just before serving. Serve with fruit cocktail and celery sticks. (Ranch dressing also doubles as a dip for the celery).

Spice It Up!

Your children will love you for making their lunches something that they look forward to each day. There are a lot of insulated lunch pails on the market today, take advantage of them! Foods have a four hour window from the time you take them out of the refrigerator until they are eaten. Most of these insulated pails keep foods within that safe range, even more so if you chill a packed bag overnight, or add a small ice divide to keep the foods even colder.

I have some daycare kids return home from school to my facility with meat sandwiches still in their lunch pails, and they want to eat them. Foods by this time are no longer safe to eat, so please do monitor what your child does with their leftover lunch.

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There are a ton of possibilities for making a child’s lunch attractive to the eye, enjoyable to the palate, and healthy for their growing bodies. I hope I have given you some new ideas to get you started, and have inspired you to think outside of the box!