Your goals are twofold: feed them something nutritious they’ll actually eat and expand their budding palates. Sure, there are countless recommendations out there for the best kids lunches, but we feel that real life is messier than a Pinterest board, and sometimes you need a dose of inspiration from real (not virtual) caregivers. So we asked around the office for brown bag lunch ideas and got tips on what to pack for lunch for both the 10-and-under set and grownups alike. We’ve also included some favorite tools to make lunch prep even easier.
Send Lunch as a Kids Bento Box
OXO Senior Brand Voice Manager Rebecca makes bento-style lunches for her daughter Iris because she likes to graze on a bunch of little bites instead of a big meal. For school, she’ll use Silicone Baking Cups to divide things up. Eating at home? Use a Divided Plate for that bento-esque feel. Some of Rebecca’s greatest hits include:
- Baby carrots or carrot sticks with dip, like homemade hummus or Ranch
- Ham and cheese roll-ups
- String cheese
- Dried cranberries mixed with dark chocolate chips for dessert
Let Kids Help Prepare Kid-Sized Versions
Former HR Manager Jess made hundreds of lunches during her two years as a nanny. She took care of a four-year-old, so these lunches are equally good at home or on-the-go. Good tip: Pull out the kid-friendly cooking tools and let your tot help prepare the meal—they’ll have a blast and be more invested in eating it. Here are a few of Jess’ faves:
- Peanut butter and jelly pinwheels in a wrap
- Mini Tacos: they fit nicely side by side in our On-the-Go Lunch Container
- Rice bowls with avocado slices (hello 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer!)
- Tomato soup and grilled cheese
- Mini pancakes with almond butter (Let the kids help with this one! Use a healthy pancake recipe and this Batter Dispenser so lunch is easy and less messy.)
- Bean and cheese quesadillas
Make “Toddler Tapas”
Senior Creative Project Manager Holly’s family loves snack-style lunching (something we like to think of as “toddler tapas”). These types of meals make successful school lunches because it allows kids to pick what they feel like eating from a variety of healthy, nutritious options.
- Sliced apple (sliced with an Apple Divider), cheese, and crackers
- Smoothies: Here are some of our favorite 3-ingredient recipes. Good tip: By taking out the removable valve in this Transitions Sippy Cup, toddlers can sip smoothies without fruit getting stuck in the straw—less frustration means a happier family!
- Yogurt and homemade granola: Holly likes to make make granola by baking rolled oats mixed with maple syrup in the oven. It’s delicious, nut-free and perfect for school lunch, especially in our On-The-Go Snack Container. Here’s a similar recipe from the blog Cookie and Kate that you can adapt accordingly.
Get Pinterest-Worthy Levels of Creative
Benat, Senior Product Manager, surprises and delights her seven-year-old Amelia with creative spins on her favorite snacks, much to the chagrin of other parents we imagine. The great thing about these lunch ideas is that although they look Pinterest-perfect, they’re each surprisingly easy to prepare.
- Skewers (best for big kids!) with strawberries and grapes (de-stem a bunch of strawberries with this handy Strawberry Huller)
- Skewers with salami and mozzarella
- Apples or watermelon cut with cookie cutters
- Snacks like crackers, cheese, hummus and hard boiled eggs in Baby Blocks paired with little cocktail forks
- Fruit and yogurt mason jar parfait (this was the talk of the classroom!)
From kid-friendly meatballs to our favorite weekday bean salad, there are countless healthy lunch ideas beyond the fallback PB&J (although that’s good too!) Got any other ideas for kid’s lunches? We’d love to hear ‘em!