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Monday, September 26, 2016

Easy, Healthy, Kid-Friendly Lunchbox Meal Ideas

Now that school is in full swing, I thought this would be a good time to share a few of the lunches I have been packing for my preschool-age daughters over the past few weeks. Anyone who has experience packing lunches for young children knows that it can be really hard sometimes to come up with good lunch ideas, so hopefully you will find some inspiration to make your life a little easier, and your lunchboxes a little healthier and more exciting!

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In my daughters' school, I have several guidelines to keep in mind when I'm packing lunches:
1. No nuts
2. No pretzels, popcorn, or candy
3. Hot dogs and grapes must be cut length-wise
4. Nothing that needs to be heated up for more than a minute or so

In addition to the school's guidelines, I am trying to pack lunches that:
1. Are filling
2. Contain lots of fruits and veggies plus some protein, since most of their snacks at school are crackers and other carbs/grains
3. Are enticing enough for the girls to actually eat (which, in my case, means they need to be colorful, and non-repetitive)
4. Can be prepared/packed quickly

I know most parents in the United States are working with similar guidelines, and it can be tricky to come up with new ideas for lunches (because we all know how young children feel about eating the same lunch that they just had, like, last week!). Here are some of the lunches I've been packing so far (please excuse the poor lighting- I pack the lunches in the wee hours of the morning when it's still dark outside!);

Amongst all of them, though, my favorite trick is the "rainbow lunch":

This is not the only menu with which you can do the rainbow colors, obviously. I usually don't plan these things out in advance to be rainbow, but occasionally when I start pulling things out for lunch I realize that I have all of the colors and a rainbow lunch is born ;)

Of course one of the factors that makes packing these types of lunches easier is the lunchbox itself. You really need lots of different compartments or containers for young kids' lunches- we all know how atrocious it is for most kids if different foods touch each other (gasp!). I use these lunchboxes, which I love, but you could use any bento-style lunchbox, or even different tupperware containers or baggies, and get the same effect.

The other thing that makes it easier for me to pack the lunches is my menu board. I put together a list of foods that I can easily pack and separated them up into categories. Each week when I make my grocery shopping list, I check off a few items from each category to add to my list, avoiding the things I bought the week before. You can download a free copy of my menu board (in 2 different designs) to print for yourself here.

I actually took all of these lunchbox photos straight from my Instagram account. If you want to get more lunch inspiration, head over there to follow me! I've been posting my lunchbox creations once or twice a week (along with plenty of other photos from random snippets of my life).

What are your favorite simple and healthy lunchbox meals? Share your ideas below so we can all get some fresh inspiration! Want more? Subscribe here to the Organized Chaos newsletter and get ideas and resources for home and school sent straight to your inbox.

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