How to Make Healthy Kids' Lunches Fast -- Without Recipes or Even Sandwiches

Chow on 08.30.12
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Photo: Amy Suardi/Frugal Mama

I don't do recipes for everyday dinners anymore, and I don't do recipes for my kids' lunches either. Those chicken ceasar wraps with watercress and almonds that I see in parenting magazines sound delicious. But they're just too much effort (and ingredients, and time, and fuss) for every day.

Yet, I want to give my kids healthy lunches that they'll eat. My solution? A bento-style food container whose little compartments make a chunk of this and a handful of that look fun. (We like the simple containers by Easy Lunchboxes.)

No chopping, no spreading, and almost no slicing means I save time and money because prepared foods and cafeteria meals are always more expensive. 

So if you're looking for some more ideas on how to make healthy lunches fast, try this one-two-three formula:  one protein + one grain + one fruit or veggie.  I think that equals a good-enough lunch -- and one that I can usually assemble in a few minutes with what I have on hand.  

Here are some simple, whole foods that we use to make schoolday lunches:

Simple Protein Foods

1.  Hunk of cheese

2.  A few slices of deli meat

3.  Handful of seeds or nuts

4.  Chunk of tofu

5.  Dollop of peanut butter

6.  Hard-boiled egg

7.  Small can or pouch of tuna 

Simple Grain Foods

8.  Half of a bagel

9.  Handful of crackers

10.  Rice cakes

11.  Cup of popcorn

12.  Folded tortilla

13.  Toast with butter

14.  Pretzels or chips

Fruits and Veggies

15.  Handful of berries or cherries 

16.  Celery, cucumber, or carrot rounds

17.  Banana or clementine or other peel fruit

18.  Leftover cooked green beans or broccoli

19.  Whole apple or crunchy pear

20.  Cup of cherry tomatoes

21.  Dried cranberries, apricots or raisins

Complicated is fine for special occasions, but I like simple for everyday. To me, it means less stress and more time for being together.  Kids can be finicky eaters, but with the huge variety of whole foods out there, it's not hard to keep things interesting by constantly changing the combinations they find in their lunchboxes. 

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