Kids Lunch Ideas

Updated on April 15, 2010
S.B. asks from Carmel, IN
8 answers

My almost 6 yr old son will be finishing Kindergarten this year and will be going to an all day camp program for the summer. He eats lunch at school on the days the cafeteria serves something he likes (chicken nuggets and corndogs). The other days he takes his lunch to school. The only thing I have packed for him all year is Lunchables (won't eat the cheese) and then I throw in an assortment of "sides" like fruit, chips, etc. So far I haven't had too much concern since he only takes his lunch 1-2 times per week. With the summer program coming up he is required to bring his lunch daily. Not only do I not want to spend the $ to buy Lunchables every day, I'm sure it's not the healthiest choice. Any ideas how to give my extremely picky eater more of a variety? He is a visual eater so it has to look good before he will even try it. (He does not like dairy - not allergic but does not like milk or cheese). He will eat toast and bread with butter on it but won't eat a sandwich. He will eat a hamburger but without the bun and only if its made with mustard, tomatoe and lettuce. If you are missing any of the ingrediants he won't eat it. He loves green beans but only the kind we make at home. He does not like them anywhere else. (just to give you an idea of what I'm up against!). He does like quite a bit of foods that are made in the oven but since everything needs to be in a cooler/lunchbag it cannot be something that needs to be heated up. Any suggestions would be great! Thanks!

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answers from Houston on

I've often packed a thermos of soup or a favorite homemade casserole-remember to send a spoon. Pack a salad (my son loves Caesar salad w/ lots of crotons)- remember an icepack and fork with this. You could easily do a homemade version of lunchables with lunchmeat cut to the size of the crackers you choose. I alternate his 3 favorite fruits- apple slices, grapes, and watermelon chunks(with extra napkin). Keep some variety so it's not the same thing every day.

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answers from Dallas on

Wow, you do have your hands full. Well, we do our own homemade lunchables when we go out on play dates (one friend of ours eats them all the time, I won't buy them, so this is how I compromise with my son). I get some wheat crackers and a variety of meats and cheeses. I have a biscuit cutter that is the perfect size for the crackers and makes everything look like a flower. It's cheaper and we are putting better quality ingredients on there. All the little left over bits go in casseroles or we snack on them. Maybe that's compromise for you. A little goes a long way and you could easily cut enough for a whole week all at once. You wouldn't be wasting money on the cheese he throws away either. This way you are saving money and you aren't having to fight him on what he eats. My four year old helps me make ours, getting your son in on the act may make him less resistant to the change as well. Maybe his fillers could be switched out for pretzels or popcorn. We also make mini fruit skewers...I put grapes, pineapple chunks, pieces of strawberry (whatever we have on hand) on toothpicks. They are so pretty and little, even our pickiest of friends will give them a try. GL!

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answers from Indianapolis on

MAKE IT FUN!! Let him pick out something new at the grocery store every week or every other week.....PREFERABLY from the produce section. Make it an EDUCATIONAL it grows, where it grows, what good nutrients does it have, etc? The MORE you understand WHY, the more apt you are to do, try, etc.

How about wraps instead of a sandwich? String cheese wrapped w/ a slice of turkey and whatever condiments he wants....boiled eggs, nuts, most all fruits, avacado.

Set some "house rules" for eating. We have a "courtesty bite" rule. If someone took the time to prepare, you at LEAST need to show them the courtesy and respect to try it. In addition, you need to remind them that it may become their new "favorite thing." When they hesitate, I ask them if they like kiwi (or something I know they like). When they respond, "YES", then I ask how they know.

Of course, they tell me they tried it. POINT MADE. We even "suggest" a three bite rule before you make a decision. I ALWAYS tell them I appreciate their effort and willingness to try it, even if they decide they don't like it.

Start letting HIM make some food choices at the store AND in meal prep. When choosing which vegetable.......ask him....peas or green or kiwi, etc.

I've taught nutrition for DECADES and know that the earlier you TEACH them, the healthier they'll be AND the better prepared they are to make good food choices. Food choices are something you must make EVERY day of your life, so it's something that needs to be TAUGHT.

BTW.......Lunchables are one of the top 10 WORST foods according to the Nutrition Action Newsletter.

Sounds like this might be an EXCELLENT time for you to learn some things TOGETHER! I ALWAYS tell the kids, "It's FUN to learn & try new things".



answers from Minneapolis on

I second the "make your own" Lunchables idea -- I do that for my 6-year-old a lot. Will your son eat cream cheese? My daughter LOVES turkey roll-up sandwiches, which I make on a soft taco-sized tortilla. Spread one side of the tortilla all over with cream cheese and then lay a few slices of turkey down the middle. Roll the tortilla up around the turkey; the cream cheese "glues" the edges together. My daughter likes it best when I cut it into slices so it looks like little pinwheels. You can also add slices of red pepper, lettuce, etc -- the pinwheels look really pretty that way and might be more appetizing. My daughter also likes to help make her lunch and she's much more likely to eat foods that she helped prepare. Good luck to you!



answers from Atlanta on

My 4 year old is picky too and I have been trying to come up with some ideas myself. We do a lot of rolled up lunch meat (ham, turkey, chicken) cut into 1 inch pieces and held together with a tooth picks. You may not want to send tooth picks to school, so instead try using a pretzel stick. I also buy diced ham and the tyson precooked chicken (oven roasted). Pair the ham or chicken w/ a wrap or piece of bread (my son won't eat the meat on the bread or in the wrap). For veggies, try carrots, grape tomatoes, black olives or sliced cucumbers (with our without the skins). Fortunately my son loves fruit and will eat just about any kind. For variety, I also buy the fruit strips from target (not fruit rolls ups, the strips or bars) or dried fruit. He's crazy about yogurt - we do the go-gurt tubes as well and lots of yogurt drinks. He also loves popcorn so as an added treat, I'll send him a little baggie of popcorn. Hope this helps!



answers from Indianapolis on

Since he likes lunchables, just keep doing that - make your own. I put crackers, cheese, and some meat (it varies) in plastic containers. I add grapes or carrot sticks and a juice box and that's lunch about twice a week for my girls (neither does sandwiches of any kind).

I also noticed that my picky eater (4 year old) started eating a huge variety of things - at preschool. But not at home. By lunch time she's hungry and will eat pretty much anything put in front of her. Peer pressure has something to do with it, too - she sees other kids eating different things and she's more likely to try them. But at home she's still super-picky.

You can buy a wide-mouth thermos that's about 4-5 inches high. It's the perfect size for mac & cheese, casseroles, etc. I just put hot water in it while preparing lunch and heating food to get it pre-heated a bit, then dump out water, put in hot food and get lid on quickly. It's still hot at lunchtime. We have Thermos brand but I'm sure there's others - you can find them next to lunch boxes at places like WalMart or Meijer and they are only a few dollars.



answers from Steubenville on

we bought a thermose at walmart for my kindergartner to take his luches in at school. he takes soup, raviolis, heat it in the micro for 1.5 min, and it stays warm til lunch. besides that, what about poptarts? he don't like peanutbutter? or plain jelly sandwiches? there is also nutella spread, makes a tastey sandwich also..kinda like choclate..make your own lunchables? ritz crackers, peperoni, or cut up bologna for him. Celery with a cup of peanutbutter to dip it in. does he like salad? pasta salad? a good or healthy lunch doesn't need to always have a sandwich or main thing , a bunch of fruits and vegis, with some cookies or chips. good luck..:)



answers from Nashville on

Wow! That's gonna be tough!!! LOL Have you tried taking him to the grocery store with you (at a time where you can really go slow and spend time there). Maybe if he goes with you and look at all the foods/choices together, he will find some things that he's willing to eat. Sometimes, if you make it all their idea, they're much more cooperative. ;0) My 6yr old daughter is pretty picky, too. I'm in the same boat.....kindergarten is almost over and she will be in an extended school program during summer and is also responsible for bkfast, lunch and snacks each day. She loves the build your own pizza lunchables and peanut butter sandwiches. We struggle to get variety into her diet as well. Lots of times, she will make a lunch out of yogurt and apples w/ the fat free caramel dip. We buy the "go-gurt" tubes and put them in the freezer. Pop one in their lunchbox in the morning and by lunch time, it is thawed into yogurt again. Pair that with some cheesy crackers and a fruit and that's pretty decent. Good luck to you!

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