Need creative ways to get your whole family to eat more fruits and vegetables at lunchtime? I have you covered with these three easy lunchbox ideas that are perfect for adults and kids
Do you ever struggle trying to find creative, healthy lunchbox ideas that your family will actually eat? Me too! In fact, I find trying to come up with healthy lunch ideas to be one of the most challenging parts of the back to school season. My goal when packing lunches for work or for school is to make sure to include at least one vegetable and one fruit option in each meal. But after about a week, I find myself getting less creative and making the same old sandwich combos over and over again. And like we all know, if you are bored with what you are eating, you are less likely to eat it. So, to add some creativity to lunchtime, I partnered with Sunsweet Growers to bring you three healthy lunch ideas that are perfect for adults and kids. And I promise – these healthy lunchbox ideas are ones you haven’t tried yet!
This post has been created in partnership with Sunsweet Growers. As always, all opinions are my own.
Think beyond the sandwich
If you are eating lunch at work (or eating with the kids on the run), you probably want a portable meal you can eat on the go. I know I do! But the typical sandwich with a side of an apple can get old after a while. And I don’t know about you, but I want a lunch I can get excited about. That’s why I like to think outside the sandwich and make colorful lunch combos that are just as portable, but a little more fun and satisfying. I used to think it would be impossible to take a salad with me, but using a compartmentalized lunchbox makes it completely doable. I just take a bento box and use the largest section to create a garden salad topped with nuts and cheese for a filling entrée. Then round it out by pairing it with a side of hummus and whole grain crackers. Of course, in my book, no lunch is complete without a side of fruit which is why I am so excited about Sunsweet’s new convenient portable Fruit Packs made with 100% real dried fruit and no added sugar. I love pairing them with my salad to add an additional source of fiber and a little sweet satisfaction, but they are also a staple in my gym bag for when I need a quick afternoon nutritious energy boost. You can get them now in three delicious varieties – Amaz!n Prunes, Dates, Apricots – which make the perfect addition to any lunchbox.
Finger foods make any lunch more fun!
In my house, if I want my family to try a new food all I have to do it make it a little more ‘fun’ by putting it on a stick. We make kebabs out of almost everything and they are always a big hit. But finger foods don’t have to just be for kids. To make your own lunch seem more entertaining, use toothpicks or skewers and create healthy kebabs for a side dish or the main entrée. I keep a stash of wooden skewers in my kitchen at all times and anytime I am struggling to think of a way to make lunch more interesting, I just take them out and make up a new food combo. My current favorite pairing is to alternate cubes of gouda cheese with prunes and dried apricots for a savory-sweet combo that keeps me full for hours.
Prunes are one of my lunchtime must haves since they are lower in naturally-occurring sugar than most dried fruit and contain 3 grams of fiber per serving- which means they help to fill me up and give me steady energy for hours. Combining this with a source of protein, like in the cheese cubes, is a great way to make sure your lunch doesn’t leave you hungry. With kebab lunches, I like to round my meal out with other healthy finger foods, like baby peppers and carrot sticks I can dip into hummus and a side of chopped nuts. The combinations are really limitless, which means you can have different lunch options every day and never get bored.
Just a tip if you have little ones at home like me– swap out the wooden skewers for paper straws – you can still put your little one’s food ‘on a stick’ but without the worry for them poking themselves.
Healthy food art made easy- who can resist a meal that smiles back at you?
Raise your hand if you have a picky eater at home. I have three of them – including my husband! Although my goal is to include a fruit and a vegetable with every lunch I make, my bigger goal is to ensure that those veggies and fruits actually get eaten. And that is no easy task in my house. I have found that if I make the food seem more fun by creating ‘art’ instead of a meal, my family is more likely to accept it. Now before you get too excited- by accepting it, I mean they will at least look at it, touch it, and not scream about it being near them – sometimes they also eat it (#winning!)
For a child to accept a new food, they need to be exposed to it multiple times. It can take as much as ten or more exposures before your child will accept a new food. So even though the fruit and veggie art may not be consumed 100% in the first offering, keep trying. I have found presenting new foods as ‘art’ makes them much less intimidating. And eventually, they do get eaten.
Want to give it a try? This featured healthy lunchbox food art was created using whole grain bread to make a cheese sandwich. The face was created with broccoli hair, cheese eyes (using Sunsweet Amaz!n Diced Prunes for the pupils), a cherry tomato for the nose, and a sliced cucumber for the mouth. I paired it with a silicon fish mold filled with diced prunes (along with sliced strawberry to create the mouth and one candy eye) and a handful of fresh raspberries.
The result? The sandwich, prunes, and raspberries were all gobbled up. The broccoli was left uneaten, but he did touch it, which is a step in the right direction!
The bottom line on packing healthy lunches for the whole family
Packing a healthy lunch box doesn’t have to be boring (or even time consuming). By keeping some basic essentials on hand, you can pack a well-balanced lunch in just minutes and make it one everyone in the whole house will enjoy. My healthy lunch staples include having wooden skewers, compartmentalized lunch boxes, and Sunsweet Fruit Packs on hand at all times. With these three must-haves, I can pretty much ensure any lunch I make will be a winner.