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

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


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, red currants, cherries. They generally are eaten if they’re at perfect ripeness and discarded if they are at all mushy, mealy, or blemished.
    • Not usually eaten much: cantaloupe
    • Haven’t yet tried: other melons like honeydew or watermelon, 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), green kiwi (usually eaten if not too mushy), orange (occasionally eaten)
    • Tried and not eaten: red grapes, purple grapes, green grapes, fresh figs, persimmon (but only tried 2x so far), yellow kiwi (1x), clementine (unpeeled, 3x)
    • 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 (but Alma doesn’t usually like them much)
    • 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 or sautéed broccoli: sent a few times, usually eaten
  • sautéed zucchini: sent many times, almost always eaten. She likes it when I leave the zucchini unsalted and send a little container with salt in it.
  • raw cauliflower: sent once, tossed with olive oil and salt. Fully eaten.
  • roasted sweet potato “fries”: sent twice, partially eaten
  • kohlrabi (with tahini dressing): sent once, eaten happily (“best part of the snack”), sent a 2nd time, eaten partially
  • fennel (with dressing to dip): sent once, partially eaten, but she referred to it as kohlrabi 🙂
  • roasted root veg like parsnips or carrots or sweet potato: sent twice, partially eaten
  • bell pepper, raw, cut into rings or little hearts or long skinny strips: occasionally eaten, often ignored; I think she’s tired of bell peppers and to be honest the peppers we’ve been getting are not the best
  • roasted bell pepper: sent once, eaten, sent a second time, ignored
  • cucumber: sometimes ignored, sometimes eaten
  • carrot sticks: eaten if very hungry, but most often ignored, despite sending them with hummus or peanut butter to dip them in.
  • roasted eggplant: ignored one time, eaten 1x
  • green peas (frozen): eaten 1x, ignored 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 ribbons (with a vegetable peeler): ignored 2x
  • guacamole: ignored because it looked “too brown” 1x
  • cooked yellow squash: ignored 1x
  • cabbage and fennel with parmesan: sent 1x and totally ignored. This is a dish she usually likes for dinner 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?
  • red cabbage, cut into thin strips: ignored

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

  • grated carrot or celery root salad
  • mashed sweet potato or parsnip puree or mushy peas
  • sauerkraut
  • roasted or raw romanesco
  • roasted cauliflower
  • celeriac salad
  • boiled celeriac (maybe with beluga lentils)
  • pan-fried brussels sprouts
  • beets (too messy?)
  • snow peas or sugar snap peas (but the latter are hard to find here)
  • green 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): usually eaten
  • spring rolls with tofu and veggies: sent 1x, wasn’t touched, she complained. She said she only likes spring rolls when she makes them herself. I think she was worried I put something she doesn’t like in them. The next time I let her fill them herself in the morning and she ate them happily. I sent them a third time on a forest day (Waldtag) and they fell apart. I guess there was too much jostling as they hiked. She still ate most of them though.
  • cold sesame noodles with broccoli and tofu and raw veg: sent a few times, usually partially eaten
  • avocado (on bread): mostly not eaten
  • guacamole with crackers: guacamole was ignored (“too brown”) but crackers (rye crisps) were eaten
  • sandwich with avocado: ignored 2x
  • quiche with greens (like chard quiche): tried once, she just ate the crispy part of the crust, said it was too cold
  • sushi: tried once from a restaurant, partially eaten, and once homemade, barely eaten

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)
  • 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?
  • rice balls with veggie (recipe my mom sent): not tried yet
  • leftover soup (in a thermos): Alma asked me in Sept 2022 to start sending her with hot soup. I haven’t tried it yet.
  • kasha and mushrooms: 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, then ignored for a while. Recently I’ve been sending the edamame in the pod and she’s been eating them happily again.
  • small white beans: sent 1x, ignored
  • black beans: sent 1x, partially eaten
  • beluga lentils: not tried yet
  • black eyed peas: not tried yet
  • aduki beans: not tried yet
  • hummus: sent several times, always ignored
  • other bean purees: not tried yet

Dishes made from dal and rice:

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

Nuts and seeds:

  • macadamia nuts: almost always eaten
  • almonds: always eaten last winter, this summer and fall usually not eaten
  • pecans: eaten at the beginning, lately not eaten
  • hazelnuts: sometimes eaten, sometimes ignored
  • peanuts: usually partially eaten
  • cashews: eaten at the beginning, lately not eaten, even if I send roasted salted cashews
  • pistachios: always eaten last winter, this summer usually not eaten
  • dried coconut ribbons: usually at least partially eaten (Not shredded. The big pieces. What are they called in English? Coconut flakes? chips?)
  • sunflower seeds: ignored, sometimes eaten if I send in slightly sweet and salty sunflower seeds (leftover from Tassajara cabbage)
  • 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
  • cubes of pan-fried tofu: usually eaten
  • hardboiled egg: sent 2x, came back untouched
  • fried egg slices/rolls: 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.

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: sent once, partially eaten
  • cottage cheese: not tried yet. In the past Alma hasn’t liked it, but lately she’s been eating it happily. I should try it.
  • are there other kinds of dairy other than cheese and yogurt?? kefir to drink maybe?

Starch plus fat or other ideas:

  • rice cake with peanut butter: devoured the first time, declared “too hard” the second time. Seems to eat this about 50% of the time.
  • rice cake with hazelnut butter and chocolate flakes: eaten happily
  • 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 sandwich: only partially eaten, maybe because she didn’t like the type of cheese, or because I put a little dijon mustard on it?
  • brown rice (or quinoa) and tofu: I put this in a thermos to keep it warm and Alma usually eats it quite happily. Sometimes I add green peas.
  • 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. I’ve since sent some other muffins and they are generally eaten if tasty.

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: usually eaten happily
  • dried blueberries: devoured the first n times, lately only partially eaten, I think she got sick of them
  • dried mango: devoured
  • dried apples (homemade by my Mom): usually eaten
  • dried peaches (homemade by my Mom): usually eaten
  • banana chips: usually mostly eaten
  • dried apricots: usually partially eaten
  • prunes: not tried yet
  • raisins: not tried yet, but Alma is usually unexcited about raisins
  • 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, rejected the next 3x
  • storebought date/nut balls: devoured multiple times
  • Lara bar or smaller German Lara-like bars: devoured
  • 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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