Beyond the PB&J: Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids

I’ll never forget a funny photo I saw a year or two ago. It was two parents sitting in lawn chairs at the end of their driveway with mimosas in hand, clinking their glasses together in an excited “cheers!” In the background, a yellow school bus pulling away from the curb….back to school!

Along with getting back to a routine comes some challenges, and what to pack for lunch is the first thing that comes to mind.

We wonder what to feed our children that is nutritious and will last the day with minimal refrigeration.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is PB&J. The problem is that so many children are allergic to peanuts and lots of facilities are going peanut-free.

Instead of peanut butter, there are some delicious alternatives such as sunflower seed butter and almond butter. They are similar in nutrition, and many times children don’t even notice the difference.

Next, consider shifting the focus from meat and dairy to getting the maximum amount of fresh fruits and veggies into our children’s diet, and then add on from there. What many people don’t know is that many vegetables have significant amounts of protein and highly absorbable calcium, but the added bonus is no cholesterol and fiber that animal foods don’t have. Try spinach, greens like collards and kale, soybeans and white beans to name a few.

Remember that if your kids are not used to eating this way, change starts with you! Try packing both your lunches at the same time. For older children, get kids involved in packing their own lunches the night before and encourage them to try new things. Be as patient as you can. It can take thirteen tries to help your child acquire a taste for a variety of fruits and veggies. You will be amazed at what time, repetition and praise will do.

Here are some more ideas to keep things interesting.

Shelled Edamame Salad

Edamame Salad

Quinoa “Salad” Pre-cook quinoa on Sunday so it will be ready to go; add olive oil and sea salt, then top with any variety of beans, nuts, seeds, fruit and dried fruit or fresh veggies.

Moroccan Quinoa

(Tip: Then repurpose your quinoa for dinner in my Quinoa Florentine!)

Fresh Berries and Coconut Yogurt

Fresh Berries

Tasty Snack Ideas:

  • Cut whole apples and then wrap with a rubber band to prevent oxidation (browning). Serve with a small container of sunflower seed butter.
  • Fresh cut veggies with hummus
  • Trail mix
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Steamed whole-pod edamame with a sprinkling of sea salt

Chocolate Chip Mila Bars
Mila Bars

Blueberry Banana Quinoa Muffins

Quinoa Blueberry Banana Muffins

And finally, my crazy fudgy brownies! You’ll NEVER guess what’s in them.


For these recipes and more ideas on how to get kids to eat those protein and calcium packed veggies, visit my website,, or contact me at [email protected].

About the Author

DawnDawn Hutchins

Dawn Hutchins is a North Florida resident that has been food blogging since 2009, soon after her daughter was born. She is a Holistic Living Coach, health food nut, yoga lover and camping aficionado. Her mission is to promote health in mind, body, and spirit throughout the community and beyond. Through her blog, Florida Coastal Cooking, she provides plant-based recipes, inspiration, and healthy living tips, and offers classes on essential oils for babies and children and coaching on healthy living!


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