Real Food Tips: 10 Ways to Switch Up Your Kid’s Lunch

This is the first post in my new “100 Days of Real Food Tips” series. Enjoy!

Think Beyond the Sandwich Bread…

  1. Pinwheels (pictured)

Rolled up whole-wheat tortillas filled with:

  • Cream cheese*, thin cucumber slices, and dill
  • Goat cheese* and roasted red bell peppers (sold as pimentos)
  • Peanut butter* and banana slices
  • Sunflower butter* and all-fruit spread (similar to jelly)
  • Egg salad
  • Hummus, cheese, and grated carrots

*Easiest to spread when the tortilla is warm…don’t forget the fun toothpicks!

  1. Apple Sandwiches (pictured)

I got this idea from Williams-Sonoma and all you have to do is slice the apple*, cut out the core with a small round cookie cutter, knife or corer, and fill with:

  • Peanut or sunflower butter
  • Raisins
  • Raw rolled oats (optional)

*Can also squirt apple with a little lemon juice so it doesn’t turn brown

  1. Whole Grain Crackers

Top with all the usual sandwich fillings or use two crackers to make little sandwiches.

  1. Whole-Wheat Waffles, Banana Bread or Biscuits
Whole-Wheat Zucchini Muffins

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Any of these options would be a fun stand-in for the typical sandwich bread. The waffles and banana bread would be especially delicious with some plain or flavored cream cheese in the middle.

  1. Whole-Grain Muffins

Forget a sandwich all together and send in some homemade whole-wheat muffins – like zucchini (pictured) or blueberry – in place of bread. Most muffins can be made in advance and pulled out of the freezer the night before school.

Other Lunch Ideas…

  1. Whole-Wheat Non-Deep Fried Donuts (pictured at top)

When I brought home a little plug-in donut maker (similar to a waffle maker) from Target my husband said, “Oh great, another appliance to find room for.” But my children devour these little donuts and feel like they’re getting an extra special “treat” so I think it was well worth the purchase. You can also make an extra big batch of these mini-donuts and freeze the extras for later. If you buy one try this recipe for 28 donuts: 1 cup whole-wheat flour, 3 tsp baking powder, 1 egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 4 tablespoons oil (I used coconut oil).

  1. Fruit Kabobs
Whole-Wheat Pizza Toast

Incorporate fruit and cheese that you know your child likes as well as one new item. Everything is more fun on a stick!

  1. Whole-Wheat Pizza Toast

This is much faster than making regular pizza from scratch and just as delicious. Simply top regular whole-wheat sandwich bread with sauce and cheese then pop it in the toaster oven….and voila!

  1. Warm Lunch in Thermos

A Thermos is a great way to switch things up when it comes to packing lunch. Try soups, oatmeal, brown rice or whole-grain pasta dishes, and leftover dinners.

  1. Homemade Freezie Pops or “Gogurts” (pictured)
Homemade Smoothie Pops

I’ve been talking about these reusable freezie pop holders for a while now, but I love them so much I just couldn’t leave them off the list. I fill them with everything from smoothies to plain yogurt mixed with homemade berry sauce to store-bought applesauce and then stick them in the freezer. They are usually semi-frozen by the time my daughter eats lunch at school and she devours them every time!

If you have any other fun lunch ideas you’d like to share please leave them in the comments below.

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152 thoughts on “Real Food Tips: 10 Ways to Switch Up Your Kid’s Lunch”

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  1. Hi, I have a mini donut pan (room for 6 donuts). Any idea how long to bake them with your donut recipe and what temp?
    Also, the donuts pictured look like they possibly have like a cinnamon topping or something? Or is that just my eyes? :)

  2. Any chance I could get the correct link to the donut maker from #6? I know my kids would love this idea and so do I! The link in this article brings me to a generic Target page. I searched the Target site but no luck. Thanks! Skye

  3. Your donut dough made extremely yummy waffles. I added a good dash of cinnamon and upped the syrup (actually I used honey). Froze then did cream cheese and dried apricot sandwiches. Thx for the inspiration

  4. What brand of fruit spread do you use or would you recommend? I can’t seem to find one without sugar and am open to suggestions. The best I can find is the Smuckers all natural.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Caroline. Crofters brand has a good selection. If you can’t find it in stores, you can find it online. :)

    2. They have one made with just fruit juices. I think it is smackers. Read the label. There are several on the same shelf made with only juices.

  5. Hi,
    I made the blueberry scones…My first item from this website. My 15 year liked it. I added more honey then I liked it. Any comments on the apple sandwiches? I wanted to know if any teenagers may have liked it or just kids in general…never heard of sunflower butter…on a mission to find it

  6. Your kid lunch ideas are great! I also pack lunches for myself and my husband regularly. I often take leftovers that I can heat, but that’s not possible for my husband who is always on the road. He’s also not thrilled when I pack things in a thermos because he says they’re luke warm at best by the time he gets to them. I’d love some other ideas for him other than sandwiches. Unfortunately, muffins, cold pizzas and cheese and crackers don’t really cut it for my husband who is constantly on the go!

    1. Trying filling your husbands thermos with boiling hot water before adding his lunch to it. This way your container is hot before adding the food. It works for me every time .

  7. We are about to try making our own veggie sushi at home for my dd’s lunches. We’ll let you know how it works out but since she already loves sushi I figured the next logical step is to try it at home in hopes that it can become a regular. I am using a youtube video to guide me but it looks pretty straightforward (famous last words……)

  8. Here’s a donut recipe I use in the donut maker:

    1 cup protein powder (vanilla)
    1 cup of baking mix–the gluten free
    1 egg
    1 cup almond milk (can use reg)
    1 cup apple sauce–unsweetened
    1 tsp vanilla
    2 tsp baking powder
    Chocolate chips

    Mix together and chill in the refrig and then use.

  9. We make “pizza skewers”. We save a little extra sliced sausage from pizza or sauce, and alternate sausage, fresh mozzarella cheese balls, and little tomatoes on the skewer. Then I make small breadsticks (just use your pizza dough recipe, brush tops with a little olive oil, garlic & Parm cheese, and bake). It’s one of the kids favorite lunches, and they like helping to assemble too! :)

  10. Hello! I love your website, how beautiful! I know I have a lot to look at, here, that should be very helpful to me and the family! God bless you all.
    I believe in the all natural route, although, I don’t practice what I preach, all of the time. I love your pinwheel ideas, the Kids really enjoy that, here, too. You may have mentioned this, but our Kids love it when I serve them fruits and/or vegetables in a rainbow fashion. I love hummus, too and celery also goes wonderfully with it.
    My Son is very stubborn and will only eat raw carrots, for a veggie, these days! He used to eat everything, but now, he’s almost 10 and “set in his ways,” heehee. Any suggestions? My Kids seem to see/smell/sense any suspicious additions to food, that I may add, but he loves things made w/ tomatoes, including salsa, even though all the veggies are apparent.

  11. I just purchased the freeze pop molds and filled them with a yogurt smoothie, excited to surprise the kids with those in their lunch. I found it tricky to fill them without spilling everywhere. Any tips? Do they totally defrost by lunch time or they still sort of thick like a smoothie?

  12. Lovely blog! We make Dal ( lentil soup) quite often. So, mixed with white or brown rice, they are perfect for thermos lunch boxes. I am also try the new Lunch Bot hot cases. They are ok in terms of temperature maintenance, but my child I think likes the wide mouth much better. Better connection to the meal, than diving in dark in the other thermoses.

  13. Was reading all these Wonderful ideas. I saw the post about the tie-dyed napkins and thought, that a 100% cotton Man’s handkerchief would work or the bandana’s you see at Your Local Craft store would be great for napkins for kids lunches.. they may even use them if they are in their favorite color.