Before you pack another PB & J for lunch, let’s talk about how these easy bento lunches can add variety to your lunch routine without much effort.
While packing a PB & J for lunch is easy and it’s one thing most kids never grow tired of, we as parents want to pack lunches that include a variety of ingredients that add nutrition to their lunchbox and, most importantly, that come together fast!
That’s why I love packing quick lunches like this – it helps me assemble a balanced meal with the variety my kids love, plus the nutrition they need with items I have on hand.
Check out this video with all my tips for packing lunches fast in the morning or the night before.
One of my favorite shortcuts is using Libby’s® Vegetable Cups. They are single-serve veggie cups that fit perfectly into a lunchbox, making them convenient for getting more veggies into your kids’ meals. My kids love them because they come in a cup and somehow that makes eating their vegetables more fun. Crazy, but hey, it works!
They come in a variety of options, including: Cut Green Beans, Whole Kernel Sweet Corn, Diced Carrots, Peas & Carrots, and Sweet Peas, so lunch is never boring. Sometimes, I’ll send the Whole Kernel Sweet Corn and other days the Sweet Peas or Cut Green Beans. You can send them sealed or drain the water and place the veggie cup inside the lunch container; it’s totally up to you!
My kids prefer them drained and inside the lunchbox, so having a bento box or a lunch container with compartments like this one is so helpful because it keeps the ingredients separate and “nothing touches.”
Packing the rest is a breeze; I usually mix and match proteins like deli ham, turkey, or hard-boiled eggs, plus strawberries, sliced apples or blueberries as the fruit.
Lately, my family and I have been making protein roll-ups; deli ham, turkey, or roast beef and cheese rolled up. They are an excellent way to pack in the protein and easier than making a sandwich. Plus, kids love all things hand-held.
Another great shortcut is packing all the lunches for the week, like this one, all at once! Most of the basic ingredients stay fresh for long periods of time, 3- to 5-days, so keeping a homemade lunch in the fridge is the perfect grab-and-go option for busy families.
To switch things up a bit, I sometimes add some chicken salad instead of the roll-ups, or I turn the roll-ups into a wrap or sandwich. Regardless of what the main attraction might be, the veggie cup and fruit are always sent on the side.
I will say that if you pack lunches the night before, your mornings will go a little smoother, but if not, most of these ingredients are easy to keep on hand and in the pantry for easy grab and go options in the morning.
Another reason I like to keep a variety of Libby’s® Vegetable Cups in the pantry is that they make a great side for the kids at dinner, or can even be used to make simple dishes like Easy Peasy Risotto, the ultimate cheesy, creamy comfort food!
There’s really no specific recipe for making healthy and fresh bentos in a time crunch. The trick is to have a variety of ingredients on hand that can fill all the compartments, and when in doubt, make it colorful and fun to eat.
My kids LOVE “Maseca” corn pancakes for breakfast! There gluten free too!
My kids have always liked peanut butter spread on celery sticks
My kids love Macaroni & cheese with chicken and peas. They also love carrots and ranch.
my kids love fresh fruit sliced or some canned,/packaged veggies like corn. they’re also all about the wraps. they love tortillas with turkey, sliced cheddar, ranch & a handful of romaine lettuce.
My daughter likes homemade pizza lunchables. I pack na’an bread, sauce, cheese and pepperonis and she assembles them her way. And there’s room for apple or bell pepper slices too!
My daughter loves broccoli cheese soup in a thermos!
Our favorites are lentil or butternut squash soup, with a fruit side.
Little cherry tomatoes and cut up Babybel cheese; for adults I add a little fresh basil, too.
Wraps or mini omelets!…and when I’m on top of it, for cooked veggies, I keep 2 different kinds in the fridge to allow for choice!
My kids love pizza so we hide some spinach between the sauce and cheese, then top with more veggies and other toppings. They don’t even notice the spinach! We always make mini pizzas and they are a hit in the lunch box the following day too.
My little one just loves lunch meat or chicken with cubed cheese, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers!
My kids prefer bento style lunches with small potions of a variety of things. We always include veggies- favorites are ants on a log, carrots, mini bell peppers with a smear of Boursin or cream cheese, cucumber slices, and their very favorite: edamame pods.
Muffins with banana, applesauce and SPINACH!
Cucumbers & carrots cut into large matchstick size and sliced green bell pepper are lunch box faves. Zucchini or carrot muffins also sometimes make it into the school lunches if they haven’t all been esten by then.
Hard to pick just one – hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks is very popular with my boys. Homemade Mac ad cheese with a side of peas is always a hit as well.
I make taco salad on the weekend so the kids can have a hot lunch on Monday…they love that stuff and I add all of the veggies for the taco salad in a different container and chips in a baggie and they come home singing my praises!!! How super easy!
I’ve done carrots,celery and a dip,cheese and crackers and ham,and yougurt
If I want my kid to eat cold veggies, cucumbers are my go-to. She loves them!
I make chocolate zucchini muffins to get extra veggies in.