How to Build Healthy Brown Bag Lunches for Your Kids


Many of you may already know that I am a mother to 3 school-aged children. I am constantly trying to find new creative ideas for meals for my kids. For a few years the most difficult meal for me to find ways to make more interesting and healthy was my kids’ school lunch.

I have never been a big fan of cafeteria lunches, not even when I was a child in school. So when I was getting ready to send my oldest child off to school, I knew that I would be making her lunch each day. At first, her lunch was simple; just a sandwich, some chips, a dessert, and a drink. Sometimes I would throw in some fruit along with it, but other than that, it was the same thing every day. Luckily my oldest child is a very good eater and not a big complainer. She ate it without a peep about it being boring. However, as a mom I knew that she was getting bored with it quickly.

I knew that I had to try some new things to keep her happy at lunch time. At first, I just tried making different types of sandwiches, and putting little notes in her lunch on a napkin. That worked for a while, but then I had to really begin to get creative. In my opinion every child’s lunch needs to have a few key ingredients to make it healthy. These ingredients are a main dish, at least two side items, and a drink. Most children would boycott without some sort of sweet treat to eat along with their lunch, so I always make sure to include a dessert as well.

In the remainder of this post, I will give you some ideas for each of the key parts of a child’s lunch. You can pick and choose from any of these ideas to make the perfect lunches for your child.

Main Dish

Instead of just making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, take your kid’s sandwiches to the next level. If you have a picky eater, this may be more difficult. I have one picky child in my crew, he would eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and nothing else and be perfectly happy with that. however, I know that his meals need more variety for him to have a well-rounded diet. There are tons of ways to make sandwiches more creatively. Sure you can make a different type of lunch meat, or crunchy peanut butter instead of creamy or even try wheat bread instead of white, that is a good first step, but I am the type of person who likes to take things even further.

What about trying something completely new to your kid? One of my kids has fallen in love with pita pockets and asks for them in her lunch quite often. I get the pita pocket and fill it with lettuce, some lunch meat, and ranch dressing. She just loves it! Another favorite for pita pocket filling is leftover salmon patties, lettuce, and a bit of thousand island dressing. Delicious, and really healthy too!

Another way to dazzle your kids with a sandwich at lunch is a wrap. Tortillas are still bread work a lot like bread for me. I just lay it out flat and spread whatever my kids favorite toppings on and then roll it up. Sometimes it is peanut butter and jelly, other times it is lunch meat, then again many times I will make an actual taco or quesadilla and wrap it in foil to keep it warm for them until lunch time.

My final sandwich examples are so much fun for my kids. It makes them feel like they are getting breakfast at lunch time, and for some reason that just makes my children ridiculously happy. Take a bagel or a few waffles, and use that as your bread, then make a sandwich as normal. Fill the bagel or the 2 waffles with your child’s choice of sandwich stuff and I promise it will make their day! When I do this, I like to do it the night before and put it in the fridge so the kids don’t see me making them in the morning. That way when they open up their lunch box in the cafeteria they are completely surprised by it and it seems to just make their day.

Here are just a few sandwich filling ideas, that may help to spark a creative streak in your brain when it comes to changing things up for your kid’s lunch. Instead of peanut butter and jelly try peanut butter and banana or apple slices. Instead of just deli meat and cheese, try adding lettuce, tomato, or maybe even avocado slices. My oldest loves a sandwich with fresh baby spinach, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes, then we use a pesto and cream cheese mixture as a spread. Not all kids will like that, but she just loves it!

Hot Stuff
If you invest in a thermos, the choices of things to send for lunch with your kid increase dramatically. Soup, spaghetti, chili, you name it, you can put it in a thermos and have a nice hot lunch for your kid. Best of all, it is home-made! If you have leftovers from last night’s casserole dinner, you can warm them up and put them into a thermos and your kid gets that healthy casserole that they loved last night again today for lunch!

Cold Choices
If a thermos isn’t an option for you, adding an ice pack into your kid’s lunch box can give you more choices to keep something cool. Sometimes I will send a salad in my kid’s lunches. I feel like a salad needs to be kept cold or else the lettuce may wilt some. Salad isn’t nearly as good if it isn’t crisp!

Side Items

When choosing sides to go into your kids lunch try to remember that there are other things you can pick besides chips. Here is a list of some of the things that I like to use as side items for my kids’ lunches.

carrot sticks and dip
celery filled with peanut butter and raisins
a piece of fruit
fruit cups
fruit slices and dip
dried fruit
cheese and crackers
granola bars

I try to pick more than one of these to put into my kids lunch each day. However, if I am only choosing one then I try to make sure it is a healthy choice.


Sure Little Debbie desserts are yummy and pre-packaged so they are super easy to pack into lunches.I use those at times, but I much prefer to choose other desserts for my kids’ lunches. Pudding and jello are both some of our favorites to mix up our dessert choices. Also, many times I will make some healthy home-made sweets and use those as a dessert. Then at Halloween time, I will use the kid’s candy stash to pop a quick treat in to their lunch box. Desserts don’t have to be healthy all of the time, so I am much more laid back when it comes to our dessert choices. Most kid’s will eat their dessert first while at school. No mom or Dad around to tell them not to, so they feel like they can do it and get away with it. For this reason, I try to make sure whatever dessert I choose to put in to that lunch box is a smaller and not very filling option so they still have plenty of room for the rest of their lunch.

No matter what you do to change-up your child’s lunch, make sure you get your child’s input on the choices. That way they feel like they had a say in it and then they are more likely to at least try the new lunch and more than likely they will like it!


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