Although you’ll see these lunch ideas don’t look exceptionally fancy, I think the point is this: you don’t have to spend a ton of time or money giving your children healthy lunch choices. But you do have to spend some. After the pizza debacle (“a slice of pizza still counts as a vegetable”) bubbled up when congress blocked proposals for changes in school lunches, I was reminded we still have to have a significant responsibility to watch over our children’s lunches. Don’t leave lunch in someone else’s hands unless you’re reviewing the menu. At our sons’ preschool we sometimes feel they do a better job than we do (!) so this is not a post to trash school lunch programs. Some schools really are doing an exceptional job. Is yours?

Trouble is, sometimes I look at example lunch ideas for parents and I feel overwhelmed.

They look so beautiful and ornate, I know it wouldn’t happen in our home. So think basic to start, and as you get in the routine of making lunch for and with your child, expand what you make. Check in with your child about their likes and dislikes, talk to them about not trading food (good luck), and do your best to keep things cool (and/or warm) when possible with a thermos. Proper temperature (as any foodie knows) can be a game changer. That one thermos you buy today may save you many dollars later on.

Consider doing a lunch “make-over” with your child. Even small changes, like substituting trail mix for cookies (more fiber and protein) or milk for a juice box, can go a long way. Every single day makes an impact.

Here’s 20 recipes that felt do-able to me. And here’s a site with “lunch time opportunities.” 

And try this recipe that a nutritionist shared with me…
Brown-bag burrito recipe

  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 8 (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Cooking Instructions

  1. Rinse beans in cold water, drain well.
  2. Combine beans, salsa, cumin and chili powder in large pan. Cook over medium-high heat for about ten minutes, mashing beans slightly with back of wooden spoon. Stir occasionally, adding a little water if mixture looks too dry.
  3. Spoon bean mixture into tortillas. Top with cheese. Fold each tortilla into an envelope shape, ensuring both ends are tucked in. Eat warm or wrap in plastic to take for lunch.

I don’t make school lunch yet. So tell me what I’m missing and your secret tips. And yes, that was a misspeak; apples belong in the fruit category! :-)