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Lunch Makeover: Fast, Healthy Meals for Kids

Kids_PickyEater_300The best lunch is one that’s nutritious and quick to prepare, but also fun and easy to eat. Please your picky eaters with these lunch box ideas from 4 Ingredients: More Than 400 Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes Using 4 or Fewer Ingredients.

Encouraging your children to be involved in choosing foods and preparing their lunch can help ensure that it not only gets eaten, but is enjoyed as well.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
If you shop wisely and choose fruit in season, you can still afford these and many more fresh fruits and vegetables for lunch boxes.


  • Apples: Ask the vendor for the crunchiest varieties, as no one, least of all a child, likes a mealy  apple! The skin of an apple is the best part, nutrient-wise.
  • Apricots
  • Asian pears: Crunchy and juicy — our children love these.
  • Bananas
  • Grapes: Green, red, or purple. The darker the skin, the more antioxidants!
  • Kiwifruit
  • Mangoes: Get lots in season and freeze for use all year.
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges, quartered
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Plums
  • Strawberries
  • Tangerines
  • Watermelon, honeydew melon, or cantaloupe, cubed


  • Bell pepper, yellow, red, or green, cut into strips
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery sticks
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers, cut into strips
  • Green beans, whole
  • Sugar snap peas and snow peas

You read everywhere that experts suggest you include one serving of dairy food in a lunch box every day. One serving is equal to:

  • 1 cup milk: In the summer, try freezing milk overnight. Wrap the container in a cloth for the lunch box to minimize sweating. By lunchtime it will be ready to drink.
  • 1½ ounces cheese slices, cubes, or sticks
  • 1 cup yogurt — plain or with fruit: Try freezing a container of yogurt and placing it in the lunch box. As with the milk, by lunchtime it will have partially thawed and be ready to eat.

Protein Food
Choose one or more of these protein-rich foods as a starter for your sandwich:

  • Baked beans: Choose low salt where available. Consider trying Mexican or barbecue flavors.
  • Bean salad
  • Canned fish, such as tuna, salmon, sardines, or mackerel
  • Cheese
  • Deviled eggs
  • Falafel
  • Fish sticks
  • Homemade lentil patties
  • Peanut butter
  • Plain unsalted nuts (1/3 cup)
  • Sliced cold meats or fish, such as ham, turkey, smoked salmon, chicken, lamb, corned beef, roast beef, ham, meat loaf, or meatballs

Try to include lots of varieties of bread, fillings, and spreads to retain interest in sandwiches. Pack sandwich fillings separately so that children can make their own sandwiches once they sit down to eat. This should preven any “It’s too soggy!” complaints.

  • Breads/rolls: whole wheat, multigrain, rye, corn, pita, sourdough, pumpernickel, mountain, lavash, white fiber-enriched, omega-3-enriched, soy and flax, herb . . . the list goes on
  • Bagels
  • Crackers
  • Crispbreads
  • English muffins
  • Foccacias
  • Mountain bread: Try wheat, corn, rice, or barley
  • Pita bread
  • Raisin bread
  • Rice cakes
  • Scones


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