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5 Easy, Cheap, and Healthy Warm-Weather Lunch Ideas for Kids

Making kids' lunches can be a stress and burden. How do you keep thinking of fun, healthy meals and stick to a budget? Here are 5 great ideas to get you started!

5 Easy, Cheap, and Healthy Warm-Weather Lunch Ideas for Kids

Summer is meant to be all about fun, relaxation, and enjoying special time together. We imagine lazy days with nutritious snacks and stories read under old trees.

Unfortunately keeping lunch healthy and fun can quickly become a chore. We all have dreams of preparing nutritious meals for our kids, but summertime can be busy, and keeping up the energy to think up and prepare healthy meals can become too much! Read on for some summer lunch ideas that are affordable, nutritious, and quick enough to actually make for a midday meal.

Sandwiches can be a healthy option

Most kids love bread and the good news is sandwiches can be affordable and simple to prepare. Choose a nutritious, whole grain bread and try some healthier fillings. Try to add a protein and veggies to your plate to make sure those bellies stay full! Egg salad, tuna mayo, nut butters, and cold cuts of meat all add a great dose of protein. Top up the plates with a selection of salad, fruits, or vegetables and you've got yourself a quick and healthy meal. Make the sandwiches for the kids or put out a variety of ingredients and let them make their own.

Kid-friendly pasta salads

Pasta salads make for a great, healthy lunch on summer days. Make them in advance to keep the day running smoothly. Most pasta salads taste even better if they stand for a few hours before you eat them. There's something about the dressing soaking into the pasta that just takes it to the next level! This is a great one to get the kids involved with making. Older kids can follow a simple recipe, while younger kids can help with mixing, peeling, or chopping. The formula is pretty simple.

  1. Choose a pasta shape
  2. Choose a protein (think beans, chicken, bacon, chickpeas, cheese, beef strips, tuna)
  3. Add your vegetables (raw or cooked)
  4. Top with a dressing (think pesto, french dressing, vinaigrette, greek, yogurt, and herbs)
  5. Mix and enjoy

It really is that simple! Pasta salads are a great way to use up extra veggies in the refrigerator and the kids will love helping you pull the meal together.

Summer rolls 

Summer rolls are a super fun option for hot summer days when you don't even want to look at the stove, never mind actually turning it on! They're cheap, healthy, and delicious. You'll need to plan in advance so that you can stock up on a few ingredients. You'll need rice paper sheets, a selection of fresh vegetables, a protein of your choice, and a yummy dipping sauce. Shrimp is the most commonly used protein, but you can easily substitute chicken, fish, or even beef.

Slice up your vegetables nice and thin, precook your protein, make your dipping sauce, and you're all ready to go. The rolls are quick and easy to make. Simply place your veggies and protein on a rice paper sheet, roll it up and dunk it in your favorite dipping sauce. The kids will love how much fun this meal is to eat and you'll love how quick and healthy it is! If you're not sure how to start, this recipe will make everything clearer and give you some great ideas for ingredients and a quick dipping sauce.

Put together your own charcuterie board

Charcuter-what? A charcuterie (shar-cue-ta-ree) board keeps lunch fun and summery. Basically, you put together whatever you like on a board (or plate). Olives, cold cuts, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, salad ingredients, crackers, toast, and various jams, jellies, and preserves are all great additions. You can make it beautiful and extravagant or keep it simple. The kids will love it either way! Use whatever you have on hand or go all out on the planning and put together their favorite foods. 

A simple board could include cherry tomatoes, cheese slices, toasted bread, cucumber sticks, apple slices, and carrots. It's basically a cheese and tomato sandwich but it's at least 100 times more fun for the kids! It's also a great way to introduce new foods. Simply add a new ingredient to the board. Keeping it light and fun and low pressure takes the pressure off and can help picky eaters be more adventurous.

Baked potatoes

Baked potatoes are a winner all year round. Cook them in an air fryer or instant pot if you don't want to heat the kitchen. You can top them with whatever you love. Remember, if you want the kids to stay fuller for longer then you'll want to include some sort of protein in the meal. Beans, chile, bacon, cheese, butter, or sour cream are all delicious, but you can also let your imagination run wild or simply be guided by whatever leftovers you have in the refrigerator.

Peer pressure helps

If you're struggling to get young kids to eat well, then peer pressure can really help. Putting all the food on one plate and letting the kids sit around it and eat together is a great way to get them to eat better. It's social and fun, but seeing everyone else eating and competing for the food can help them focus on actually eating. Obviously, you'll need to keep an eye on the meal and make sure everyone gets enough- you don't want one good-eater wolfing down everyone else's food! 

Sandwiches, charcuterie, and summer rolls are the best options for this type of meal. Put a variety of options on a large plate, board, or tray and let them dig in together. The best part is, there are fewer dishes to wash!

Give me more summer ideas!

Summer is such a special time for family bonding. Make the most of the warm weather with more ideas from Save. Living a good life doesn't need to break the bank or destroy your budget. Get the best ideas on everything from entertainment to food and family life. Learn more about canning your own food, the benefits of reading to your children, and how to save on your electricity bill this summer.