Before and After Kid Lunch Makeovers


Add great nutrition to kid lunches with fast, easy ingredient swaps!

Picture this: it’s Saturday afternoon, and you and the kids are just kicking off your shoes after a morning at the park. The kids are hungry, but you don’t have anything prepped. What do you do?

Even though you want your kids to eat a balanced lunch, it’s still tempting to slap together a PB&J and grab a packaged side. But you don’t have to! Easy tweaks and swaps can make fresh food just as quick and easy as opening up a bag of chips.

We put together a fun before-and-after series to give you some ideas for adding great nutrition to the lunches your kids already like to eat. Scroll down to see some lunch makeover inspiration, then give it a try in your own kitchen!

At the end of the post, we’ll show you our favorite tool for assembling good food fast. First, the lunches:

Lunch #1


The Makeover:
Replace a hot dog on a white bun, cheese crackers and a clementine with…
Tuna salad on whole wheat bun with pea pods and a clementine.

Why It’s Better:
Since the WHO recommends eating processed meats sparingly, it’s best to save those hot dogs for the family barbecue! For an everyday lunch, swap tuna salad into the bun. You’ll cut back on sodium and add important omega-3 fatty acids for growing brains. A whole wheat bun brings fiber and B-vitamins to this meal, and fresh pea pods help meet your kids’ daily recommended amount of veggies.

Lunch #2


The Makeover:
Replace peanut butter and jelly on white bread and pretzels with…
Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread and baby carrots.

Why It’s Better:
Whole grain bread provides great fiber and vitamins for kids, and baby carrots are a perfect substitute for pretzels because they are satisfyingly crunchy and they require no prep or peeling… just open the bag and get a colorful serving of Vitamins A, K, and C.

Lunch #3


The Makeover:
Replace boxed macaroni and cheese and deli ham with…
whole wheat stove-top macaroni and cheese with veggies, plus grapes.

Why It’s Better:
This made-over meal serves up essential veggies, fruits and whole grains, and a lot less sodium than the original meal–with little to no extra prep time. Try it: boil one cup of whole wheat macaroni. Just before draining, add ¾ cup of frozen mixed vegetables to the pot. Drain the pasta and veggies, return them to the pot, then add one cup of shredded cheese plus a splash of milk or cream. Stir until creamy, then serve, with grapes on the side. Don’t worry about protein: the cheese has plenty.

Lunch #4


The Makeover:
Replace turkey and cheese wrap and fruit snacks with…
Hummus and veggie wrap, and raisins.

Why It’s Better:
There’s nothing wrong with turkey and cheese, but here’s an easy option that makes veggies and legumes part of the main lunch, so your kids can learn that those important foods deserve a place in the spotlight! Spread a whole wheat tortilla with hummus, then sprinkle shredded carrots and chopped lettuce inside before rolling it up. Real dried fruit like raisins or apricots provide iron and fiber without the added sugars of packaged fruit snacks.

Lunch #5


The Makeover:
Replace cheese and crackers, yogurt tube and veggie snacks with…
Cheese and crackers, fresh berry yogurt, and green beans.

Why It’s Better:
Serving plain yogurt and berries instead of a yogurt tube eliminates two teaspoons of sugar from your kids’ day. And swapping in green beans provides a vitamin-packed whole vegetable in place of the veggie snacks, which are mostly potato starch with a touch of spinach powder for color. Picky eater tip: blanch or microwave whole French green beans, add a little butter and salt, and call them “green bean straws.

There you have it! The takeaway message is simple: you can make big improvements to your kids’ lunchtime nutrition by adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains to their meals.

Speaking of big improvements, here are our favorite tools for making fruits and veggies a priority in every lunch: the kid’s MyPlate and the Healthy Habits plate. Check out a couple of our made-over kid lunches in these fun, colorful plates:


We like to serve sandwiches in the grains AND protein compartments, because a sandwich usually includes both, and it’s fun to talk about why!

And take it from us: if you ever forget to include a fruit or a veggie with your kids’ MyPlate lunch, don’t worry. Your kids will remind you.



Author: Terita

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