A nutrient-dense lunch has tremendous benefits for our kiddos! It is such a wonderful opportunity to load them up with real, whole SuperHero Foods that will build their bodies and minds. I get it…packing a school lunch can be tedious at times. That’s why I’m sharing my approach and formula to keep lunches simple AND nutritious. These lunches have lots of vitamins and minerals, keep your kids energized and balanced for the rest of the day…all while balancing out the macros!
My main rule for a nutrient-dense healthy lunches for kids is to include as many SINGLE-INGREDIENT WHOLE FOODS as I can.
Then I follow this simple formula to pack healthy lunches for kids:
- ONE CLEAN PROTEIN
- ONE HEALTHY FAT
- ONE FRESH FRUIT
- ONE FRESH VEGGIE
- ONE NUTRIENT-DENSE CARB
- A FUN EXTRA
Using our PlanetBox lunchboxes makes this super easy. They’re a bit of an investment, but we’ve had ours for over 5 years, and they’ve been more than worth it. We use them almost every day, and they make packing lunches so much easier.
There are so many benefits that come from sending my kids to school with a well-balanced lunch. Some include: clean energy, stable blood sugar, better focus, no questionable ingredients leaving tummies feeling upset, no artificial dyes that lead to behavior disturbances, limited added processed sugar that leave kids bouncing off the walls.
But what are clean proteins and healthy fats? What’s a nutrient-dense carb? I’ve got you covered with some of my favorite examples for each of these categories.
1. Clean Protein
- Grass-fed yogurt packs a powerful punch with protein and good gut-friendly bacteria. We buy the plain, full-fat kind. I add raw honey, berries, and sometimes, even dark chocolate chips!
- Pastured hard boiled eggs are nutrient-dense. My kids love to peel them, and I always make sure to include salt and pepper on the side for extra flavor.
- Organic nut butter is simply delicious, and we usually pair it with celery or apples.
- Beef sticks are popular in our home and my favorite brand is Paleo Valley. I love that these are also fermented, so it adds a punch of gut friendly bacteria.
- Pastured leftover chicken is easy, and let’s face it, it’s not bad served cold! I tend to add clean barbecue sauce on the side for extra yum!
- Chickpeas are another favorite. We roast them up to be either sweet or savory, using avocado oil or coconut oil for an added burst of healthy fat.
2. Healthy Fats
- Olives are great, easy, and delicious! Plus, snacking on these usually encourages our kids to drink more water because of the salt. Change it up with purple, green and black. Our favorite brand is Divina.
- Raw cheese is super popular in our house, and Organic Valley makes great raw cheese! You can serve these with some pepperoni and crackers or just on its own.
- Seeds are absolutely packed with nutrients. They are so easy and make for a good crunch that kids love! We love Go Raw sprouted pumpkin seeds in both the salted and cinnamon versions. Sprouted sunflower seeds by Thrive Market are a great option too.
- Homemade granola is super nutrient dense. We make our own with coconut oil and add lots of nuts, seeds, and coconut flakes too.
- Sunflower butter is a terrific addition to a sandwich, especially if the school is nut free. Make sure it’s organic and includes only sunflower seeds and (sometimes) salt.
- Olive oil is another nutrient dense favorite. Throw it over pasta, season with salt, pepper, and some lemon juice, or send it in a container alongside some bread for dipping!
3. Nutrient-Dense Carb
- ORGANIC pasta, hot or cold, and we include leftovers!
- Sourdough bread sandwich with butter or nut butter.
- Homemade muffins that are made with eggs and butter.
- Clean or homemade crackers. Hu is one of our favorite crackers and carries a delicious variety!
- Popcorn is also good, and we don’t mind including this especially if the rest of the lunch is nutrient packed whole foods. Make your own at home popped in coconut oil and think of fun flavor combinations. We like salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Lesser Evil also makes a clean popcorn as well.
4. Fresh Fruit
- Kiwis are fun to eat! Cut it in half and send it with a spoon for your kiddo to scoop out!
- Berries are simply divine. Mix it up and be sure to pick out any bad ones first.
- Apples can be made fun to munch. We like to sprinkle some lemon juice on it to prevent browning. Slice it all up and put it back together to make a fun puzzle!
- Grapes are so good. Sometimes I’ll have a kiddo help me in the morning by slicing them in half.
- Mangos are a fav in our house! Slice up half for lunch and save the other half for after school or the next day.
- Oranges can be made simple and fun to eat. You can slice or peel them in advance to make it super easy for your kids to enjoy them!
5. Fresh Veggie
- Bell peppers are packed with vitamins. We alternate between red, yellow, orange and green. Ask your kids which one is the crunchiest!
- Carrots are something we like to slice to make sticks, and also something we send off whole so that the kids can pretend to be bunnies at lunch! Don’t worry about peeling off the skin, especially if you buy organic. Bunnies don’t peel their carrots!
- Cucumbers are hydrating and have the crunch we love! Slice these up and sprinkle with sea salt!
- Snap peas are absolutely simple, crunchy and sweet!
- Sweet potatoes are amazing. Leftover cold sweet potatoes tast like candy. Not to mention, our gut loves them!
- Microgreens are another way to combine powerful amounts of nutrients and fun when eating. They’re small and mighty, and just different!
6. Fun Extras
If the rest of the lunch is made of whole foods, I don’t mind adding a special treat that I call a fun extra!
I stick to things that are minimally processed with minimal ingredients. Some of our favs include Lesser Evil Popcorn, Cult Crackers, Gimme Nori, Hu Hunks, Yes Bar, and Good Stuff Cacao. Much of the time it’s a homemade baked goodie that we made ourselves like raw energy balls, chocolate chip cookies, three-ingredient peanut butter cookies, a muffin, and so much more. Often, what I call a fun extra might also be a healthy fat or fit into any of the other categories too. And that’s great!
I hope this formula helps you send off your kiddos with nutrient-dense lunches!! We’d love to see your healthy lunches for kids on Instagram and learn from you too! Just tag us at @mysuperherofoods