Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lunch Box Basics for Big and Small “Kids”

I am the official “lunch maker” in our house. I actually love the ritual of getting up early and making hubby’s and the toddler’s lunches with love, unless I’m really tired; then I have less virtuous thoughts at 5:30 a.m…. Winking smile Anyway, while I love making lunch, it can be quite challenging to come up with “fresh” ideas and not bore hubby and the toddler. While hubby will eat pretty much any lunch, the toddler is getting a bit more picky and really likes variety. I therefore came up with a list of lunch box items that I choose from. Planning a little at the beginning of the week really helps to keep lunch interesting, new, and stress-free. I also try to involve the toddler as much as possible in making his lunch by letting him choose what fruits and veggies to buy for his lunch at the farmers’ markets. Finally, I try to prep as much as possible the night before.

Lunch box “tools:”
  • A sturdy, preferably isolated lunch box (mini ice packs are also useful to keep things cold)
  • Lots of little containers of different sizes for salads, sliced fruit, condiments – I prefer glass containers
  • Utensils
  • Napkins
  • Water bottle – ours are stainless steel 

Lunch box “main courses:” 

Wrap 02Brussels Sprouts 06
CSA Lunch 04Summer Salad 0001
  • Wrap with hummus and veggies
  • Wrap with chicken, salmon, or egg salad
  • Quinoa salad with roasted veggies and sesame dressing
  • Pasta salad with roasted veggies and chicken
  • Brown rice pasta salad with tomato/basil/almond pesto
  • Couscous salad
  • Greek salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, olives, and feta
  • All kinds of variations of sandwiches (different rolls and “fillings” keep things interesting; I also change out the veggies I add to my sandwiches and alternate between tomato slices, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, arugula, roasted veggies (eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms…) ….)
  • Leftovers!!!! – That’s my favorite one as I can just pull it out of the fridge and put it in the lunch box!!!!
  • And many, many more…
Lunch box veggies: 

Tomatoes 03
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery
  • Mini tomatoes
  • Bell peppers strips (red and yellow are nice and  sweet)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • And many, many more…
Lunch box “crunchies:”
  • Snapea Crisps – sundried peas – we just recently discovered them and love them!
  • Tortilla chips
  • Popcorn
  • The list is really endless…
Lunch box veggie and “crunchies” dipping sauces:
  • Hummus
  • Greek yogurt with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and dill (or any other herb you like)
  • Any other dipping sauce you like. If you have mini containers on hand, taking a dipping sauce is easy and often makes a “boring vegetable” much more enjoyable.
Lunch box fruits:

Lunch box fruit
  • Bananas
  • Apple slices
  • Orange slices
  • Grapes
  • Watermelon slices
  • Pineapple pieces
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Blueberries
  • Kiwi
  • Fruit salad – make sure you use enough lemon juice to keep the fruit from turning brown.
  • Any other fruit that’s in season. Don’t limit yourself! Cutting fruit up, putting it in a container, and eating it with a fork makes pretty much any fruit lunch box friendly.
Lunch box “extra protein:”

  • String cheese
  • Almonds (string cheese and almonds go REALLY well together)
  • Hard-boiled eggs with a mini bottle of Tabasco
  • Greek yogurt  
Final Lunch Box Tips
  • Prep as much as possible the night before (wash water bottle, refill and put in fridge, put non-perishable food items, utensils, and napkins in lunch box, wash fruits and veggies, and pack refrigerated items and put them in fridge, etc.)
  • Making a big bowl of whole grain or brown rice pasta salad with some protein is a great way to get several healthy lunches prepped for the week on Sunday night.
  • Think “outside inside the box.” Pretty much anything can be made into lunch. Often you just need a few containers and you are good to go.
  • Spruce up your water by adding lemon and/or orange slices, frozen berries, mint leaves, and/or cucumber slices.
  • Choose colorful napkins and fun containers to brighten up lunch.
Questions: Do you pack your lunch? I usually am able to run home for lunch in between teaching, but I do pack a lunch every day for hubby and the toddler. What’s your favorite lunch? I really like leftovers. They are easy, and I really don’t mind eating the same food a few days in a row. In fact, I like the predictability… Smile

Be well,


  1. I enjoy leftovers from the previous evening but Harold is into the sandwich/soup/raw fruits and vegetables. He enjoys sardines packed in mustard and cottage cheese as well as nuts.
    If I packed for youngsters, I would definitely treat them to a bento lunch at least once a week.

  2. Considering what I posted on my blog today, this is PERFECT for me! :)

  3. I use to pack lunch every single day for myself and my boyfriend, I love throwing together fun salads and sandwiches. And I am planning on having a little workshop at my gym about lunch box ideas. So this post is amazing!

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you times a billion times infinity...

  5. I absolutely ADORE this post! It's perfect. I really struggle with packing my lunch, mostly I just don't put the effort in and am left scrambling to find something to take. Saving this post!

  6. Anonymous2/09/2011

    Great tips! I like how you change up the greens, grains and veggies. I like variety too. This week I did a Mediterranean lentil salad, Asian soybean salad and of course, pizza leftovers. Maybe I need a kiddo lunchbox though :)

  7. I always love having great ideas to spice up my lunches. I pack mine almost every day so its great to shake things up and try something new. Thanks for all the ideas.

  8. Man, can you pack my lunch each day, too? LOL
    Seriously, the choices look so thoughtful and delicious. ;)

  9. great post! i might have to steal some of these tips for my husband, he's always lost for ideas when it comes to lunch. me, i never get bored with a huge bowl of spinach and a tin of salmon. haha...maybe that's why i'm not a food blogger. :P

  10. That is one lucky boy! I use to pack lunch for my kids. I would send hot food in a thermos. Home made food! They loved it.

    I like you, enjoy leftovers for lunch or a simple soup and sandwich, salads in the summer, fresh fruit and yogurt for dessert,

  11. Great suggestions and tips. I usually pack lunch when I have leftovers. Other times I run to the commissary, which is next to work, and hit up the salad bar and pick up a fruit cup. Otherwise I am at home and can eat something here. When I worked at the hospital I often packed my lunch, but we had a monthly allowance so I used that up too.

  12. I always pack my lunch. Chicken/Turkey or Tofu, Brown rice and veggies. Tuna and yogurts for snacks...I need to start bringing some fruit!

  13. What a great post! I pack my lunch but some days I am more creative than others. It is funny when I put more planning into it, I get super excited for lunch. I guess that is when you can tell you are a foodie. :)

  14. Anonymous2/10/2011

    Great post! I really enjoyed reading this because I can relate, I get up every morning and pack lunches for myself and the hubby and I really enjoy it most mornings. It's really fun to get creative and try new things. Leftovers are the best! I try to make a couple of meals a week that I can use for lunches the next day. I have been loving to pack some big salads lately. Usually the husband gets some kind of protein, starch, veggie combo that I make lots of on sunday and then just portion it out.

  15. I want you to pack my lunches!! Please??? :)

    I always put leftovers in tupperware for individual servings and that + fruit is what I take to work along with silverware. I need an actual lunch box, though...I'm using a bag from Whole Foods right now and it's just not cute!

  16. Anonymous2/10/2011

    These are great ideas and tips for lunches! I've been pretty boring with my lunch ideas for my daughter so far, so this is definitely very helpful!

  17. This is an impressive list of healthy lunch box ideas! The toddler must be one of the healthiest eaters around. I work from home so I'm lucky to be able to eat last night's leftovers. It's tough finding a good healthy place in midtown Manhattan.

  18. I was actually just thinking that I need to get more creative with my husbands sandwiches. I usually take leftovers for myself but he can't reheat as easily. Thanks for all the ideas!

  19. I'm SO impressed!! Wow, sometimes I struggle to stay motivated when it comes to packing lunches. I feel like I am constantly packing lunches, actually, and I don't even have kids! I pack both my lunch and Nick's lunch every day, and I do plan ahead most of the time. Your lunches sound much better than the ones I pack for Nick and I. Sometimes I do leftovers, but usually it's just three fruits/ veggies of any variety, yogurt (for me) a smoothie (with almond milk (for him) granola (for me) and a granola bar (for him) PBJ (for him) and carrot sticks with almond butter (for me). Yep, every day is the same! We both have access to free healthy food at work, so our packed lunches aren't too big. Nick eats a veggie burger at work every single day!

  20. Andrea please come over and live for a week for me: I love your lunches and would love it if you make them for me.

    I'm so boring at lunches (I think most of the Dutch people are). I make the lunches too for the both of us. The hub gets sandwiches, milk and fruit. I bring sandwiches to work and usually buy a salad and something to drink at the restaurant at my work.

  21. I meant: live for a week with me :)