Looking for a way to make lunches interesting and simple? This busy mom needed a lunch meal planning solution, so I made one to share! I hope this printable will help you out as it has me.
Quick but Not Boring Lunch Ideas
Things have been busy around here and lunches have been sliding. We were in a rut of hot dogs, sunbutter and jelly sandwiches and lunch meat roll ups. Quick and easy, but pretty boring and not real healthy.
The more I read about the serious health problems associated with Nutrition Deficit Disorder – a phrase coined by Dr. Sears in his book The N.D.D. Book: How Nutrition Deficit Disorder Affects Your Child’s Learning, Behavior, and Healt (affilaite) the more I decided it was time for a change. We had to get out of our rut, start eating better lunches, and it HAD to be simple or I wouldn’t be able to make it happen.
Lunch Meal Plan Printable
Use this blank school lunch menu template to plan lunches for the week.
I made this lunch meal planning template based it on a restaurant here in town that has this great kids menu where the kids pick one item from each category. You can print it out and write ideas in each of the squares. Then just mix and match, choosing something from each square for your lunches.
The categories are pretty self explanatory, and I hope will work for most people’s idea of a healthy lunch. I use “Main Meal” to mean the heartiest part of the lunch, something that includes some protein and hopefully has some “staying power.” The “Extras” Category I use for grains, treats or chips, just “extra” type stuff.
20+ ideas to get your kids eating good food for lunch
I use my Printable Easy Lunch Meal Planner stuck on the fridge with these ideas – it includes each of the four categories to help you know you’re shopping for varied and complete lunches.
Packable Lunch Ideas
You can use the following list to come up with your own lunch ideas any time you need help getting out of a “lunch rut.” The other thing I find helpful is to ask friends what their “boring” lunches are – even if it’s their “boring”, it’s usually new to me.
Simple is fine. Some of the lunches my kids like best are just cut up pieces of meat, veggies and fruit. It still feels like a meal when it’s presented as one.
- Left Overs – Brainstorm dinners or breakfasts that make good lunch leftovers like quiche, pancakes that you can make into a nutbutter sandwich, meatballs, roast chicken, or flank steak.
- Paleo Lunch Roll-Ups – Use lunch meat as the outside and roll in sliced veggies like avocado, bell peppers or spinach. The eMeals blog has a longer list of roll up ideas ideas here– (affilaite link)
- Soups such as split-pea, ham and bean or chicken and vegetable can be sent in a thermos.
- Make up a container of cooked chicken then use it through-out the week with various sauces- BBQ, Pesto, etc.
- Salmon, Chicken or Tuna Salad can be simple with just the meat and mayo, or dress it up with nuts, cranberries, cut veggies. Serve it with lettuce, crackers or avocado.
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Plain items: Cheese, beans, yogurt, chunks of chicken…
- Easy to pack veggie ideas: baby carrots, grape tomatoes, broccoli florets, garbanzo beans, cucumber slices, green beans, snap peas, bell pepper slices
- Include a Dip like hummus or dressing
- Some kids like frozen peas or beans cold.
- Salads that use cabbage, broccoli slaw, or shredded carrots can hold up until lunch without wilting
- Cutting food into interesting shapes like strips or cubes can make it seem new or different – try carrot chips and jicama sticks.
- Mini fruit kabobs on toothpicks
- Apples or bananas with nutbutter
- Any in season fruit
- Simple fruit salad sprinkled with coconut shreds
- Frozen blueberries
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Fruit leathers
- Muffins can be made pretty low sugar with whole grains and can be frozen in batches.
- Rice tastes dyummy cold with a fruit chutney mixed in.
- Larabar (or similar) maybe cut into chunks.
Good luck on your lunch meal planning! Remember it’s ok to make it simple, and repetition feels safe and comfortable to our kids. It doesn’t have to look perfect to be a good meal.
Related Helpful Links:
- Snacks Kids Can Prepare Themselves
- Teaching Kids to Cook: VEGGIES – Dinners that get kids cooking and eating veggies
OK – Now what’s YOUR go-to lunch? You might be tired of it, but I’d love to know what your staples are to see if they give me any new ideas!
Alissa Zorn is an author, and founder of the website Overthought This. She's a coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa is certified through the International Coach Federation and got her Trauma-Informed Coaching certification from Moving the Human Spirit. She wrote Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection, and is always following curiosity to find her next creative endeavor.