Don’t Box Them In: School Lunch, Reinvented

school lunch

Gone are the days when a chunky metal lunchbox sporting your favorite TV character is the standard for school lunch: Now, the sky’s the limit, as parents are looking beyond traditional PB&J — and clunky, one-size-fits-all boxes — for their kids’ cafeteria cuisine. Here are some healthy, creative options. 

Remember Lunchables? Sure, they were processed, high in fat and less than ideal — nutritionally or aesthetically. But Lunchables are having a 2.0 moment, and this time, it’s all DIY. 

The Lunchable concept, turns out, had some merit: Take a container with compartments, put some snackable items inside, send it to school and watch as your kids go from trading to consuming. But in 2018, homemade Lunchables are all the rage. And all you have to do is visit your local Home Goods, Ross or Walmart to find multi-compartment lunchboxes that are perfect for housing your kids’ favorite snacky foods. 

Lunchboxes with compartments are ideal containers for school lunch: Their small sections tend to hold more compact amounts, meaning even if you’re giving the kids a treat, it won’t be all that much.

School Lunch Made Easy

Here are a few tips for making the perfect Bento box school lunch: 

  1. Look for containers with built-in ice packs: Many options include reusable ice packs that lock easily into place, meaning it’s a literal snap to keep cold items cold. 
  2. Use muffin cups if your container isn’t compartmentalized: It’s easy to DIY your own bento box using these inexpensive liners, and they hold the perfect amount of almonds, blueberries, cheese cubes or whatever their preference! 
  3. Think “balance”: Be sure to include some protein in the box, whether that looks like cubed turkey or nuts (if your school allows them). And if you’re including a treat, put it in the smallest container you have. Small children think they’re adorable, which makes up for the overall “lack” of dessert. 
  4. Consider texture: Cashews get soggy if they’re next to baby carrots; crackers tend to absorb the flavor of cubed meats. While the boxes are beautiful, you may want to consider wrapping the items that are either moist or fragrant.

With these school lunch tips in mind, you’re ready to choose your own adventure when it comes to thinking outside the (lunch)box, right? Well here you go: Visit this page on the daily food magazine ‘The Kitchn’ for inspiration, and be sure to play a few games of their video recipe roulette, where you’ll hit “pause” whenever you like and let the auto-picker choose the ingredients for your kids’ perfect boxed lunch.

Trust us — Lunchables never tasted so good as they do when you DIY them!