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

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. This is a simple/silly question, but what is your girls’ preferred cheese to eat on a sandwich with hummus? My daughter loves hummus but I can’t really imagine what cheese would be good with it on a sandwich

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Jen. Oh my goodness there are just so many cheeses that go well with hummus but it completely depends upon the cheeses that you/your kids like and the type of hummus you are pairing it with. Cream cheese and hummus is a nice combination as is gouda, provolone and cheddar, especially if there is a nice layer of veggies in between. :) Enjoy. ~Amy

    1. I don’t personally use gluten-free flours so I am not sure what the replacement ratio would be. You should check out Deliciously Organic’s blog because she has lots of advice and experience with this! I hope that helps :)

  2. what’s the best way to freeze the muffins? I’ve been wrapping in wax paper and putting in freezer bags, but they don’t seem to taste the same. Is there a better alternative?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Erin. That is pretty much what I do as well. You will find that both texture and moisture can be a bit different after freezing but I never find the taste to vary too much. Did you freeze them immediately after cooling? I wouldn’t recommend refrigerating because that can really dry them out. I’m afraid I haven’t helped. :( ~Amy

  3. this my frist time been on here .need help on food meal for dieb type 2 the food i looking for no salt ,no sugar low of fat / i been baking on whole wheat flour apples sauce for sugar
    i would like the whole dounut recipt .my huband love dounut the store very fating and full of sugar
    . i buy new applicad newave oven love it
    and a new bleander mart tell please help betty lucas

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there Betty. I am not exactly sure what you are asking. Avoiding processed/packaged food can go a long way in helping you avoid hidden ingredients and in helping you manage your Type II Diabetes. It is very important that you follow the advice of your physician first and foremost. This website may be helpful: http://www.joybauer.com/type-2-diabetes.aspx. I do know you are looking for the Whole Grain Donut recipe: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/12/21/recipe-mini-whole-grain-donuts/ for your husband. Wishing you good health. ~Amy

    1. My son is also allergic to eggs. I use ground flax seed as an egg replacer, and it works great. 1 tablespoon of flax mixed well with 3 tablespoons of water is equivalent to 1 egg.

  4. Has anyone tried a different sweetener with the baked whole wheat donuts? My daughter is not a maple syrup fan. Would honey or agave syrup work?

      1. Amy- curious about the agave. Any particular reason you avoid it, or is it that you guys just prefer honey? Thanks!

  5. Hi there,
    How do you package the frozen yogurt for your daughter’s school? We have used Gogurt and things like that in the past because they are so convenient to pack. Does it stay in the mold and go straight in her lunch bag? Would love to hear. Thanks!

  6. Hi –
    Any comments on the sunbeam donut maker compared to the bella one?
    It seems that both look good, not sure which one to buy. Thanks

  7. I also make baked donuts with pumpkin puree or adding flax seed. Sometimes we change them up to “donagels” by cutting them like a bagel, toasting and using cream cheese on them. My daughter loves them.

  8. Hi! Our kiddos are 6, 4, 2 and they LOVE the mini donuts! I add a tablespoon of cocoa powder for chocolate ones. Yum! We just started grinding our own flour… So we use our vitamix to grind up fresh organic soft white flour for these… Makes em taste even better! Thanks for the recipe! :) – The Holcombe family

  9. Me again. Do you avoid nonstick surfaces in general? I do, so I consider this donut maker to be a ‘cheat’ in the nontoxic department. Would love to have your thoughts on this. I tried to kick teflon out of the kitchen but finally got an ikea nonstick just for eggs.

    1. I avoid nonstick for the most part, but not 100%…probably only 85 or 90% of the time. For eggs it’s possible you weren’t cooking them at the right temp. Also, it helps to let the eggs sit for a minute or two before you start stirring them in the pan. Good luck!

    2. Try cooking eggs in a cast iron pan that has been seasoned (oiled). My mom used one for years and nothing sticks to it and you just wipe it clean. The drawback is it’s so heavy!

    3. Try a cast iron frying pan for the eggs. I’ve used mine for about 7 years now and still non-stick. I bought mine in Target, brand name “the lodge”. It is made in the USA and only cost around $10. In addition I also use their Dutch oven, square pan for grilling (on the stove), and basically all their line. You can take them camping with you as well.

  10. Hey Lisa! I am intrigued by the “Whole-Wheat Non-Deep Fried Donuts” and plan to try them. Just wondering if you’ve found or developed any other recipes? Thinking I may try putting fruit in them just because.

  11. I found a Bella donut maker on clearance at Target last week! Finally got around to making a batch and I decided to modify your recipe. We had delicious pumpkin donuts!

    Here is what I did for Pumpkin Spice 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, 2 tablespoons coconut oil, 3 tablespoons canned organic pumpkin puree, 1/2 tsp (up to 1 full tsp.) pumpkin pie spice, pinch of salt. I made another batch without the pumpkin pie spice and just eyeballed it with some cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and they were just as good. :)

  12. I inherited from my mom pans for donuts to bake them in the oven, any suggestions on what temperature and how long to bake them in the oven?

    1. I found online a temp of 325 and bake 8 to 10 minutes, and they came out perfect! I added apples and cinnamon to mine, yum!!

  13. I am always looking for good/different ideas for school lunches. I’d love to get away from wheat as much as possible for my daughter so the apple slices are a great idea. Also, do you make your own tortillas or buy them? The only ones I can find at the store that don’t contain processed soy are by Alvarado Street, which my daughter isn’t crazy about.

  14. The apple sandwiches are wonderful with cheddar cheese and turkey. I’m gluten intolerant and loved this idea as a bread alternative.

  15. We made bite-sized banana sandwiches the same way you made the apple sandwiches, and froze them. They were a big hit at lunch time!

  16. Hey Lisa and crew — Just wanted to say that I LOVE your site! You have done all the hard work and are making it SOOOO much easier for me to transition my family off of processed food. For example, this weekend we made your whole wheat crepes and whole wheat waffles which were both a hit (no one knew they were a healthy version!) With school starting in a week, I’m excited to try many of your school lunch and snack tips — I will feel so much better about what my kids are eating during the day! Thank you!

  17. I read about the apple sandwiches a few times before I actually tried them. I guess I wasn’t sure they were all that special. Once I made them though, I got it! I made some with peanut butter and some with cheddar cheese and they were so delicious! People at work looked at me funny, but after I took the first bite I realized they were probably just envious of my amazing healthy snack ;)

  18. I love this website! All the wonderful recipes, information, and ideas…. I started my family on a healthier way of eating about a year and a half ago….. well what i thought was healthier…. we were still eating alot of processed foods…. this website opened my eyes to so much…. My only problem now is that i can’t seem to get my two year old to eat…. she never has liked many fruits and only one veggie. she is constantly crying and saying she is hungry but refuses my many offers. she wants cereal, goldfish, cookies, or waffles…. we have slowly weeded that stuff out of our pantry. what should i do?

  19. Just found this website from Pinterest.com and I love it! I am a teen girl who has been really into healthy eating. Ive been looking for healthy meal ideas so im glad i found this website!
    I was also wondering if you knew how many calories a 15 year old female who is moderatly active and weighs 105lbs would need. I have been curious about that.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Keri. I don’t know but there are many websites that can tell you that information. Good luck. Jill

  20. Thank you so much for your cool website. I too found you on Pinterest. I have a son with ADHD and this site gives me so many great ideas into to tempting his appetite. Thanks so much for your hard work.

  21. Hey Lisa,

    I am super interested in getting those reusable smoothie pop makers. However they are made in China along with the ones from Kindervelle. I don’t usually buy those kinds of things from China since it worries me about what they put in their products. I was just wondering if you were concerned at all about that.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I am sorry to hear they won’t work for you…”made in china” is not something we are personally over-concerned with at the moment…

    2. Casey, if you google the Kinderville Little Bites they are actually independently tested and certified and sold by a lot of the “green” companies online, I think they are your best bet if you’re looking for safe silicone molds. (There are stainless steel ones out there, but I would imagine they are made overseas as well.) I personally went with Kinderville because they were the smallest ones I could find, I wanted something to fit inside our Lunchbots containers. Thanks to Jill for turning us on to the wonders of homemade popsicles, you’ve saved us hundreds of dollars I’m sure! (I used to eat a sugar free fudge pop every*single*day for my chocolate fix!)

  22. Lisa- your website is so amazing! I’ve been trying to get out of processed foods and into more real foods. It’s so overwhelming though. I love doing make ahead meals. Do you have recipes for those? It looks like most of the recipes that I’ve seen are made that day. That’s not possible for me, typically what I do for our dinners is prep everything on Sunday’s, freeze it and pop it into the oven day of… But lunches are a different story. We have a lot of sandwiches because I don’t know what else to do. I like the apple sandwich idea but how long would that last? Even if I made it the night before would it be good the next day?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Julie. Most of the meals can be made ahead of time and frozen. As for the apple sandwich, squeeze a little lemon juice on it and it will prevent if from turning brown. It should be fine if you make it the night before. Jill

  23. I stumbled onto this website my sis in law posted on Pinterest. So far, I like what I have seen. I was drawn to the apple slice sandwiches. I was curious as to what was put in them. I found quite a few other ideas also. It will be a little while until I will need to pack a lunch for my daughter, but will definitely have to try some of these. We have recently changed our eating habits and I need some great ideas to lure my kids in to eating better. Thanks. I have put your website on my bookmarks bar.

  24. I love all your lunch ideas! I just started working in an office (I’m a senior in college), and I couldn’t think of things for lunches, and this helped greatly! Thank you!

  25. My kids love Boars Head sandwich meat wrapped in romaine lettuce. We don’t even keep bread in the house anymore.

  26. Theresa Bridenbaker

    Hi Lisa, this is a wonderful site with great info. My husband and I just started the DASH diet a week or so ago. With high blood pressure and diabetes in both our familys we decided it was time to change things. We have a 14 year old son who eats pretty good and hasn’t complained about the change in eating habits but I have a really hard time packing his lunch. He has carried his lunch to school for most of the 8 years as he doesn’t like the “junk” they offer in school. I think the main problem i have is getting the vegies incorporated into his day. He loves almost all vegies, but not many in raw form. Any suggestions?

  27. Hi Lisa!! Love your site – great info. Just had a quick quesiton about the donuts – Have you ever added anything to these to change up the flavor? Such as blueberries, apples, pumpkin, strawberries, chocolate? Just wondering how I can change it up every now and then for the kids. I love flavored donuts and would love to make a “real food” version…

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I have not tried that yet myself, but others have told me it works great. Have fun experimenting!

      1. I just made these whole wheat donuts and they were a hit! It was our first time using our little donut maker and my first time trying out coconut oil, a great way to kick off our summer holiday after preschool let out yesterday. Thanks for the great recipe. What kind of donut maker do you have? Ours is called “Babycakes” and the recipe only made 14. No big deal, but I guess it must be on the large size…

  28. Hi Lisa,
    Just found your blog today & want you to know how much I love it! Also, several reviewers on Amazon complained about the smell of the homemade smoothie pops. Have you had any problems with that?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Welcome to the site! We have not had an issue with a smell in our smoothie pop holders, but we do wash them thoroughly.