Packed lunchbox ideas for school snack, school breakfast, or school lunch

September 22, 2021 at 9:59 am (Monthly menu plan)


Now that Alma has started school, she has to bring in a morning snack. They call it “breakfast”, but she actually eats breakfast at home, so I think of it more as a snack. She eats breakfast at home sometime between 7 and 7:30am, snack is generally around 10-10:15am, and lunch she eats at after-school care around 1:15pm I think. Since she only has about 15 minutes to eat snack, I can’t pack anything too ambitious. [Update: She’s since told me that on days they don’t have theatre or gym class, they are usually allowed to eat more of their snack when they come in from recess, at 11am.]

I think pretty typical in Germany is that parents send bread with salami or cheese or something like that, along with a raw fruit or veggie. But Alma is not so excited about getting bread everyday, plus she often has bread with lunch and sometimes for breakfast, so I’d prefer that she gets more variety. So what do I pack? I’ve been trying to stick with the general pattern of a fruit, a vegetable, and something filling (with protein or fat or both), and occasionally something extra yummy (which may be the filling thing, or may be in addition). To get some new ideas I downloaded the free “veggie exposure shopping list and menu planner” from Kidseatincolor, but I didn’t find it all that helpful or comprehensive. So I decided to make my own list that I can look at when I needs some ideas. Below I’ve listed my ideas so far, along with Alma’s assessment. But if other people have more ideas for me, please post a comment!

I’m also taking pictures of many of the snacks (and some breakfasts) that I pack, with before and after photos (when I remember!). You can see them on instagram, here.

For a while Alma was finishing her snack in the car on the way to after school care (when I picked her up at 12:30pm). But lately she has stopped doing that. I assume that she is now more confident in the after school lunch, and is waiting for that instead. Sometimes she finishes her snack if she’s hungry before dinner though.

I’m going to post a separate post shortly about the lunchbox and accessories I’ve been using.

What to pack in the lunchbox

I try to pack some fresh fruit from whatever fruit I have on hand. Alma often eats the fruit, but sometimes she rejects it if it’s not the tastiest / perfectly ripe, or if she likes the other things better. So far I’ve sent her with

  • Summer fruit:
    • Tried with at least partial success: peach, nectarine, plum, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries
    • Haven’t yet tried: melon like cantaloupe or honeydew or watermelon, cherries, red currants, gooseberries
  • Fall/winter/tropical fruit:
    • Tried with at least partial success: apple (sometimes eaten), pear (sometimes eaten, but it has to be the perfect ripeness, not too hard and not at all soft), pomegranate (partially eaten sometimes)
    • Tried and not eaten: red grapes, purple grapes, green grapes, fresh figs, persimmon (but only tried 2x so far), yellow kiwi (1x), green kiwi (1x), kiwi berries (1x), orange (2x), clementine (1x)
    • Haven’t yet tried: grapefruit, mango, banana (maybe if I cut it in half and leave it in its peel so it doesn’t turn brown?)
    • Probably won’t try: pineapple (Alma is not a fan), papaya (not a fan)

In summer I felt like I had lots of options for fruit, but now in early November I feel like most of what I send is rejected. So lately I’ve started only sending fresh fruit a few times a week, and the rest of the time sending fresh veggies and dried fruit.  I wonder if I could send some lightly processed fruit instead of fresh? Here are my ideas:

  • Lightly processed fruit/fruit combo ideas:
    • applesauce or a mix of applesauce and another fruit puree
    • jarred peaches
    • frozen berries (but I worry they would be too messy, maybe in yogurt?)
    • fruit smoothie (I think in cold weather this would not be a hit, maybe once it gets hot)
    • other ideas??

Vegetables are harder.

Vegetables I’ve tried that were eaten, at least partially:

  • cherry tomatoes: ranges between partially eaten and fully eaten. She generally likes them a lot.
  • steamed broccoli: sent a few times, eaten
  • sautéed zucchini: sent once, eaten
  • roasted sweet potato “fries”: partially eaten
  • kohlrabi (with tahini dressing): sent once so far,  eaten happily (“best part of the snack”), sent a 2nd time, eaten partially
  • fennel (with dressing to dip): partially eaten, but she referred to it as kohlrabi 🙂
  • roasted root veg like parsnips or carrots or sweet potato: sent once, partially eaten
  • bell pepper, raw, cut into rings: sometimes eaten, often ignored, I think she’s tired of bell peppers
  • roasted bell pepper: sent once, eaten, sent a second time, ignored
  • cucumber: sometimes ignored, sometimes eaten
  • roasted eggplant: ignored one time, eaten 1x
  • steamed green beans: eaten 1x (with nutritional yeast), sent a second time with hummus and they were ignored

Vegetables I’ve tried that have not been eaten so far:

  • carrot sticks: ignored 2x, despite sending them with hummus or peanut butter to dip them in.
  • carrot ribbons (with a vegetable peeler): ignored 2x
  • guacamole: ignored because it looked “too brown” 1x
  • green peas (frozen): ignored 1x
  • cooked yellow squash: ignored 1x
  • cabbage and fennel with parmesana: sent 1x and totally ignored. This is a dish she usually likes but maybe it’s not good cold? Or maybe she just wasn’t hungry after she polished off the small brownie and the handful of pretzels I also sent.
  • corn on the cob: ignored. She used to love corn on the cob but lately hasn’t been very into it. Or maybe it just wasn’t appealing cold?

Other vegetable snack ideas I have, but I have yet to try:

  • lettuce
  • grated carrot salad
  • mashed sweet potato
  • sauerkraut
  • roasted or raw romanesco
  • roasted cauliflower
  • celeriac salad
  • boiled celeriac (maybe with beluga lentils)
  • roasted brussels sprouts
  • beets (too messy?)
  • snow peas
  • red cabbage or napa cabbage in strips
  • toasted nori
  • seaweed salad or plain wakame?
  • asparagus
  • cooked greens
  • kale salad
  • kale chips
  • raw spinach or lettuce or endive
  • raw turnips

Combos. Combinations of veggies and something filling:

So far I’ve tried:

  • chickpea salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper and tahini dressing: eaten
  • leftover pesto pasta with green beans, broccoli, tomatoes, and bell pepper: eaten
  • roasted chickpeas, cauliflower and sweet potatoes (with light curry spices): partially eaten
  • broccoli, tofu, rice: partially eaten because she was hungry, but she wasn’t thrilled about it
  • ants on a log (celery sticks filled with peanut butter and topped with raisins): eaten, but I was told that “the celery was too stringy”. On a 2nd attempt they were fully eaten with no negative comments.
  • avocado (on bread): mostly not eaten
  • guacamole with something starchy: guacamole was ignored (“too brown”) but crackers (rye crisps) were eaten
  • quiche with greens (like chard quiche): tried once, she just ate the crispy part of the crust, said it was too cold

Other combo ideas I have yet to try:

  • other bean salads (black bean? beluga lentils?): not tried yet
  • veggie muffins (containing a non-negligible amount of vegetables): not tried yet (like these zucchini or squash or sweet potato or carrot muffins or beet muffins)
  • spring rolls with tofu and veggies: not tried yet
  • leftover stirfry: not tried yet
  • tortilla filled with guacamole and/or raw or cooked veggies, maybe also beans: not tried yet
  • black bean and sweet potato burrito: would this be good room temperature?
  • quinoa 3-seed salad: not tried yet
  • Vietnamese cabbage salad with tofu: not tried yet, maybe too wet?
  • cold sesame noodles with broccoli and raw veg: not tried yet
  • rice balls with veggie (recipe my mom sent): not tried yet
  • homemade sushi: not tried yet

Something filling (with protein or fat or both). I’ve divided these up into rough categories.

Beans and bean purees:

  • kidney beans (with nutritional yeast): eaten most of the time
  • chickpeas (with nutritional yeast): eaten some of the time
  • edamame: ignored the first time (“not salty enough”), eaten happily the next 3x when I sent salt separately
  • small white beans: sent 1x, ignored
  • black beans: not tried yet, maybe in a salad?
  • beluga lentils: not tried yet
  • black eyed peas: not tried yet
  • hummus: sent several times, always ignored
  • other bean purees: not tried yet

Dishes made from dal and rice:

  • dosas: not tired yet
  • dhokla: not tried yet
  • idlis: not tried yet

Nuts and seeds:

  • pistachios: eaten
  • macadamia nuts: eaten
  • almonds: eaten
  • pecans: eaten
  • cashews: eaten
  • dried coconut ribbons: eaten (Not shredded. The big pieces. What are they called in English? Coconut flakes? chips?)
  • hazelnuts: sometimes eaten, sometimes ignored
  • peanuts: partially eaten
  • sunflower seeds: ignored
  • walnuts: not tried yet
  • fresh coconut: not tried yet
  • hemp hearts: haven’t tried yet
  • chia pudding: haven’t tried yet, too messy?
  • pumpkin seeds / pepitas: haven’t tried yet, but Alma is not a fan
  • Brazil nuts: haven’t tried yet

Nut and seed butters:

  • peanut butter: eaten
  • almond butter: not tried yet
  • hazelnut butter: not tried yet
  • cashew butter: not tried yet
  • sun butter: not tried yet on its own, but Alma didn’t like it on a rice cake so I’m doubtful
  • pumpkin seed butter: not tried yet, but Alma is probably not a fan
  • tahini: not tried yet, but Alma is generally not a fan

Soy/eggs/seitan/veggie “meat”:

  • tofu crumbles (tofu that was frozen, marinated, then baked in the oven): devoured happily
  • hardboiled egg: sent 2x, came back untouched
  • fried egg slices: not tried yet
  • fried tofu slices: not tried yet
  • raw tofu cubes: not tried yet
  • tempeh slices: not tried yet
  • seitan: not tried yet
  • various other veggie meat replacements: not tried yet. She gets a lot of these for lunch at after-school care so I probably won’t send them

Dairy:

  • aged cheddar slices: devoured happily, at least in fall. In summer it might not be such a hit because she doesn’t like it when the cheese sweats and gets oily.
  • yogurt: tried mango yogurt once, and plain yogurt. Both were ignored. Alma said yogurt is too messy.
  • other hard cheeses?
  • mozzarella balls?
  • cottage cheese: Alma is not usually a fan
  • are there other kinds of dairy other than cheese and yogurt??

Starch plus fat or other ideas:

  • rice cake with peanut butter: devoured the first time, declared “too hard” the second time. Maybe the rice cake was stale?
  • rice cake with sun butter: not eaten, said she didn’t like the sunbutter
  • cheese and crackers (rye crisps): devoured
  • bread and butter: eaten happily
  • bread and cheese: only partially eaten, maybe because she didn’t like the type of cheese, or because I put a little dijon mustard on it?
  • peanut butter and jelly (or honey) sandwich: I sent a PB and honey sandwich in October on her “forest day” when they are in the forest 8am until 4pm. She ate half of it and polished off the second half in the car on the way home, but when I was packing her snack for her forest day in November she said “Please no bread!” But I wanted to send something filling and not too heavy and easy to eat in the forest. So I sent an apple, cheddar, and a mix of almonds, freeze-dried raspberries and pretzels. The cheese, raspberries, and pretzels were eaten, along with a little of the apple and a few of the almonds.
  • granola: I tried sending in some homemade granola (a not-super sweet recipe) and it came back untouched. She did eat it when I sent just the pieces of coconut flakes (lightly covered with sesame/chia seeds and the sweet oil/rice syrup granola mixture)
  • pancakes: not tried yet
  • baked oatmeal cups (“muffins”): sent 2x, not eaten, but the last batch I made was pretty bad. Have to make a tastier combo and try again.
  • bean pasta with ???: not tried yet, not sure if it would be edible cold
  • sweet, non-veggie muffins, like bran muffins, apple muffins, or berry muffins. So far I’ve only tried sending a blueberry muffin from the cookbook Sugarproof and it wasn’t eaten. Alma said she didn’t like the blueberries. She said she doesn’t like “things” in her muffins.

Something yummy. I’m not supposed to send candy or chocolate or cookies or anything like that, but depending on what else is in there and how much Alma likes it I sometimes add something “extra yummy” to the lunchbox.

Dried fruit (if I don’t send any fresh fruit then I usually try to send some dried fruit in its place):

  • a Medjool date: devoured the first time, untouched the second time “It looked funny”
  • dried blueberries: devoured
  • dried mango: devoured
  • dried apples (homemade by my Mom): usually eaten
  • dried peaches (homemade by my Mom): usually eaten
  • banana chips: not tried yet
  • dried apricots: not tried yet
  • prunes: not tried yet
  • raisins: not tried yet
  • freeze-dried raspberries: devoured, and requested
  • freeze-dried other fruit? blueberries?
  • other dried fruit??

Something starchy (If the lunchbox seems a bit low on carbs then I sometimes try to send something starchy as well):

  • herbed cracker sticks: devoured
  • Finn Crisp rye crackers: eaten at least partially
  • pretzels (the little crunchy ones): sometimes eaten
  • pretzels (the big soft ones): not tried yet
  • tortilla: not tried yet
  • tortilla chips: not tried yet
  • cold cereal like cheerios or granola or cornflakes: not tried yet
  • popcorn: not tried yet

Something sweet:

  • half of a fig bar: devoured multiple times, specifically requested
  • sesame chocolate squares: devoured 1x
  • storebought date/nut balls: devoured 1x
  • half a Lara bar: not tried yet
  • homemade “Lara balls”: not tried yet
  • date bites (dates, sun butter, and shredded coconut): not tried yet
  • banana bread or muffin or pumpkin cranberry bread: not tried yet

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