11 Things You’re Probably Not Packing In Your Kid’s Lunch… But You Should!
It’s easy to get stuck in lunch-packing rut during the school year. Here are 11 things you’re probably not packing in your kid’s lunch, but you should be! These are easy, nourishing, delicious, and help get out of the sandwich + chips routine! Plus, get my tips for prepping school lunches to make mornings less crazy!
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I know lunch-packing can be a real pain for a lot of parents… and it’s easy to get in a rut.
There’s sooooooooo much more goodness to pack in a lunch than sandwich + chips + dessert! (Although, we all need easy days, Momma, so pack that sandwich with no shame when you need easy!)
However, I hope to show you that there are lots of things to pack in a lunchbox that are also super easy — 11 things you’re probably not packing in your kid’s lunch, but should be!
Maybe you never thought of packing overnight oats or soup? Maybe yogurt or truffles never occurred to you?
Well, let’s break out of the mold! Let’s show our kids (and ourselves) that lunch-packing doesn’t have to be monotonous, time-consuming, or difficult.
Meal Prep Sundays
On Sundays during the school year, I like to take an hour or 2 to prep some items for the week. Having a few things pre-made and ready to grab makes mornings so much less chaotic… and might even give you a couple of minutes extra in bed, Momma!
I love using my Instant Pot for meal prep, especially for hard-boiled eggs and soups (both are included here!). Here are 6 meal preps you can make in your Instant Pot today that will save you loads of time during the week!
And, it’s also super easy to make protein balls, no-bake treats, or even a batch of muffins while the IP cooks something else.
No matter what day of the week you prep, I really encourage you to choose a day and time that you can consistently get in the kitchen and knock a few things out. Have the kiddos come and help you, too!
Hey, you’re gonna prep the stuff one way or another, right? Better to prep when you have the time than at 7:15 in the morning before school!
11 Things You’re Probably Not Packing In Your Kids’ Lunch… But Should Be!
I’ve included these 11 things because they’re out-of-the-box lunch fare. Definitely not your typical PBJ!
These help take the intimidation, confusion, and monotony out of lunch-packing and empower you (and your kids) to include more Real Food in their school lunches!
Also, here are over 60 Nourishing, No-Cook Breakfast Recipes to help make your hectic school mornings less crazy. Many of these, like chia seed puddings, could also be prepped the night before and included in a lunchbox.
I’m also giving my recommendations for a few containers that make packing lunches a breeze. They’re non-toxic and non-plastic. We’ve also tried and tested them in our own school lunches… no leaking!
#1 — No-Bake Protein Balls
These protein balls are a nourishing snack or dessert… perfect for school lunches (or after-school snacking).
They’re special little treats that are also oh-so healthy!
Make up a batch during your weekly meal prep, and put one or two in your child’s lunchbox. Easy, nourishing, and best of all? No-bake!
#2 — No-Bake Treats
I’d like to be the mom who lovingly bakes homemade cookies to slip into their children’s lunches… but I’m not. Well, sometimes I am.
Most of the time, however, I’m all about whatever is easy and quick. And no-bake ANYTHING is always, hands-down, 100% quicker than anything baked!
Then, to change up the flavors, I use fruit or essential oils or chocolate chips or maple syrup. The kids love ’em!
And I love ’em because they’re really low in sugar, have no refined sugar, are allergy-friendly, and have lots of brain-healthy fats to keep my kids going for the last half of their day.
Grab my eBook Nourishing No-Bake Treats, with 15 recipes, for just $5!
Or, here are a couple healthy no-bake treat recipes:
Yes, these are super-duper allergy-friendly and perfect for nut-free/peanut-free schools!
#3 — Yogurt
Yogurt is such an easy and healthy item to include in your child’s lunchbox… if you have the right container for it (keep reading).
Use a protein-rich, organic Greek yogurt if the lunchbox is slim on protein. Or, as a side dish, use a plain, full-fat yogurt (homemade or Nancy’s brand or Maple Hill Creamery brand recommended)
Use a bit of stevia to sweeten without adding any sugar or carbs. I also love adding a couple of drops of lemon essential oil to yogurt, along with stevia, to re-create lemon-flavored, store-bought yogurts, which my kids love.
More ways to dress up yogurt for your child’s lunchbox?
- Berries or frozen berries on top
- Stir in a teaspoon of freeze-dried strawberry or blueberry powder for almost-like-the-store flavored yogurt.
- Add homemade granola
- Vanilla stevia is all you need for vanilla-flavored yogurt!
Best containers for transporting yogurt without leaks?
- PlanetBox Rover: comes with the “Big Dipper” with a lid that’s perfect for things like yogurt, ranch, or hummus
- Wean Green glass containers with snap-on lids
- Thermos Food Jar will keep yogurt cold and leak-free
#4 — Soup
Soup is one of my kids’ favorite things to take for lunch. And, it’s surprisingly easy to send to school.
On Sundays, I like to make a big pot of soup (usually using my Instant Pot so my hands are free for other meal prepping). This soup is meant for lunches for the entire week — for the kids’ lunches, but also for my husband to take to work and for me to warm up for myself at home.
Although the kids’ school has a microwave, we prefer not to use microwaves.
It takes just a few minutes to warm up soup on the stove in the morning. While the soup is heating up, we make tea, prep breakfast, or pack other elements of their school lunches.
Once heated, the soup goes into their Thermos food jars for leak-free transport and a hot lunch once at school.
Kids get meat, veggies, healing bone broth, and the luxury of a hot meal mid-day!
Our favorite soups to pack in school lunches:
- Instant Pot Blended Soup
- Hella Mighty Green Soup
- “Cheesy” Zucchini Soup
- Instant Pot Green Chile Chicken Chowder
- Vegetable Beef Stew
- Zuppa Toscana (my kids’ favorite!)
- Best Tomato Basil Soup Ever
- 35+ Dairy Free Keto Instant Pot Soup Recipes
#5 — Boiled Eggs
Ok, so boiled eggs are pretty much the easiest thing ever you can include in your child’s healthy lunchbox. They’re a fantastic source of protein, so they’ll help keep your kid’s blood sugar stable for better learning after lunch.
Yes, kids have an afternoon slump too if they eat too much sugar and not enough protein for lunch!
Like I said above, Sundays are my meal prep days. So, I pull out the Instant Pot and make a dozen hard-boiled eggs. We use these eggs whenever we need protein throughout the week — whether in the morning for breakfast or in the lunchbox (just not both on the same day). 😉 Here’s how!
#6 — Leftovers
Momma, leftovers are lifesavers… especially when it comes to packing your child’s lunchbox!
As long as you have a Thermos food jar, you can warm up pretty much any leftovers to send and they’ll still be hot when it’s time for lunch.
How much easier would your life be if you could quickly heat and send to school with your child:
- soup (see above)
- spaghetti or lasagna
- chicken spaghetti
- beef stroganoff
- beans (My kids LOVE beans and cornbread for lunch!)
- fried rice (or fried cauli-rice) or stir-fry
If your kids will eat room temperature food, quiche is another life-saving leftover that can be packed in a school lunch, too.
#7 — A Hot Drink with a Boost
Maybe a hot drink isn’t in order in August…
But come January?? Your kids will be delighted to have a mug of hot tea or cocoa… and you’ll love including those hot drinks, especially if you “boost” them up by adding some collagen or gelatin or both!
(We use this grass-fed collagen and this grass-fed gelatin. Save 10% with my coupon code ALLTHETHINGS! Learn the difference between collagen and gelatin here.)
My teens take stainless steel travel mugs to school everyday during the winter. Their school allows them to carry their drinks from class to class (as long as they’re covered), so my kids actually drink their hot tea in the morning before lunch.
Yummy hot drinks to pack in a Thermos:
- Chai-Spiced Hot Chocolate
- Immune-Boosting Hot Tea
- Instant Paleo Golden Milk
- Matcha-Moringa White Hot Cocoa
We add a scoop of our favorite grass-fed gelatin to their tea for a gut-healing boost of protein and amino acids. I know this is one way that I can keep my kids’ immune systems strong during the school year, while also providing other valuable nutrients.
Collagen and gelatin are 2 supplements our entire family uses, and they’re so important for our kids’ health. Here are my 5 Must-Have Supplements To Support Your Teenager’s Health.
#8 — Waffles
… aren’t just for breakfast!
Waffles make a fantastic addition to a school lunch… especially if you make high-protein, low-carb waffles like these.
My kiddos are delighted with just a plain waffle spread with butter alongside the rest of their lunch.
Furthermore, we aren’t really a bread-eating family, so I often use waffles to make sandwiches. They’re sturdy like bread and hold up to nut butter and honey or jam, mayo and turkey, or pretty much anything else I put in them.
#9 — Salad
Salad is such an easy and nutritious item to include in a lunchbox — and not just for adults!
Just imagine how easy this lunch is:
Warm up some soup you’ve already prepared. While it’s warming, put together a quick salad (nothing fancy; just use whatever you have). Maybe you add some yogurt on the side or boiled eggs to your salad. And… done!
That’s less than 10 minutes of prepping, y’all… and it’s not a sandwich with chips and a banana. 🙂
I love PlanetBox’s Rover “Little Dipper” container because you can pack the salad dressing on the side and add it at lunchtime.
#10 — Overnight Oats
… aren’t just for breakfast!
These are simple, no-cook additions to a lunchbox that’s full of protein and probiotics. Plus, I can almost guarantee that your kid will be the only kid at the school eating kefir! 🙂
#11 — Custard/Pudding Cups
And I don’t mean the plastic cups that start with J and end in ELLO. 😉
Again, I use my Instant Pot to prep custard cups in individual serving jars to grab and quickly add to a lunchbox. I change the flavors up, and my kids’ favorites are:
- Lemon Pudding Cups (dairy-free)
- Paleo & Keto Strawberry Rhubarb Custard Cups
- Keto Orange Creamsicle Custard Cups
- Paleo Cauliflower Chocolate Pudding
- Paleo & Vegan No-Cook Chocolate Pudding
Here are a few examples of my kids’ lunches from the past 2 school years, taken from my Instagram feed:
I hope this broadens your perspective when it comes to what you pack in school lunches.
So give these 11 things a try and see if it helps you out of that rut and gets your kids eating more variety at school!
What out-of-the-box foods do you include in your child’s lunch? Share them with us in the comments!
Originally published August 15, 2018. Updated links and photos on August 12, 2020.