What’s in your lunchbox? Top ten healthy ideas

healthy peanut butter and jelly sandwhichAlright cold lunch revolutionists, it’s time for the best part. The food! A packed lunch isn’t “healthy” if it’s full of processed meat, chips and soda. Here are my top ten healthier suggestions that will save you time and money:

  1. Buy ingredients from your favorite prepackaged trail mix and make it yourself. Add goodies like nuts, dried fruit and naturally sweetened treats found in bulk bins or larger bags and portion them out for the week.
  2. Create your own Lunchable by slicing cheese or nitrate-free meats to accompany whole grain crackers; Or create peanut butter cracker sandwiches. Good times.
  3. PB & What? You don’t have to stick with the “J”. Add local honey, bananas, cinnamon, raisins or pickles. Careful what “PB” you use. Look for a brand with just peanuts. If I don’t have homemade “J”, I select one that is 100% organic fruit.
  4. Use wraps, crackers, pita or cookie cutter shapes of bread to shake up the sandwich grind. Make thin peanut butter & honey wraps, wrap ‘em up tight and stick them in the fridge overnight. Slice them into pinwheels the next morning. Seriously good times.
  5. DIY flavored milk is easy to make with homemade chocolate syrup or by adding an 1/8 tsp. of vanilla and some honey to a cup of milk. You control the sugar content. 
  6. Pre-chop fruits and veges into sticks and slices to make them more appealing and quicker to eat during 20 min. lunch “hours”.
  7. Think “finger foods” – cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, cubes of cheese and fruit, mini anything (muffins, bagels, cookies, homemade energy bars…)
  8. Turn those cubes of food into kabobs. Create some with fruit, veges or cheese & meat combinations.
  9. Prepare salad bar fixins’ in your fridge to last the week. Then create a mini salad bar in the lunchbox. Ingredients will stay crisper in separate containers.
  10. Who doesn’t love dips? Pack honey, peanut butter, dressing, spreads or sauces to make those carrot sticks go down easier.

School is well under way. You now have some tools for the year to keep that that lunchbox full of love and your pocketbook happy. Incidentally, all these ideas work wonders in adult lunches too.

What do you pack in a cold lunches to keep them healthy AND creative?

Photo: kahanaboy/morguefile

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About Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson is a freelance writer with nearly 20 years of experience in community health education, non-profit program management and mental health counseling. Amy works on projects that promote greener, healthier living through pragmatic approaches. She is an avid fan of reality therapy, small town farmers markets and dishing out home cooking with unsolicited advice. You can also follow Amy’s adventures in realistic wellness.

  • Jubes10

    Cold lunch is seriously good times! Paired with good containers to shelter the food:)

  • aejohnson

    Never separate a cold lunch revolutionist from her snack-sized containers…

  • Alexcost

    I recently developed an allergy to peanuts and other tree nuts and I’ve been really struggling with it. How about some more nut-free options?

  • Amy Johnson

    good idea Alex…sometimes schools actually ban peanut butter due to high allergy rates. Here are a few suggestions…substitute PB with seed butters, (like sunflower seed). Experiment with flavoring your own cream cheese with fresh herbs & savory flavors or sweeten it with honey, cinnamon or jam to spread on bread, crackers, a wrap or pinwheel bits like I describe in #4. Find a good hummus recipe (packed with protein!), use seeds instead of nuts in trail mixes….make a yogurt parfait…
    Most of my list in the article above can work “nut-free”.  I will search for some more to share…please let us know if you have any more suggestions!

  • Al in WI

    Although it seems to be a no brainer, the “lunchable” idea Rocks!!!

  • http://fivegreenacres.wordpress.com/ Mary Jo, Five Green Acres

    My favorite lunch to pack is Last Night’s Supper.  I use my (thrifted) thermos containers all the time.  I pull out the sandwich bit if the supper was not enthusiastically eaten.