29 Plastic Free Lunchbox Ideas For Kids

More and more schools are championing the concept of the “nude lunchbox”. We bring you 29 plastic free lunchbox ideas that your kids will love.

If there is one group of people who need (hell, deserve!) convenience, it’s parents. Especially parents who have to come up with creative lunchbox ideas (that will actually get eaten) five days a week.

Supermarkets are bursting with so-called convenient snacks for kids – squeezy yoghurt pouches, muesli bars, cheese sticks and fruit tubs are all heavily marketed to parents and kids alike, with bright colours and cartoons featured on their packaging.

But not only are many of these snacks filled with hidden sugars and preservatives, they’re also completely packaged in single use plastic.

While at first it may seem daunting to part with your tried-and-tested supermarket snacks, serving up these plastic free lunchbox ideas will not only be better for your child’s health, you’ll also be doing the planet a huge favour.

Here are 29 plastic free lunchbox ideas and recipes for kids that they (and you!) will love.

Fruit

planting-berries-strawberries

This one, of course, is a no-brainer. Fruit is one of the easiest plastic free snacks available – as long as you avoid the supermarket’s plastic wrapped fruit that is.

Just be sure to choose what’s in season. 

Finding berries in anything other than plastic punnets can be tricky but if you head to your local farmers’ market or food co-op you should be in luck. Or make a day trip to a fruit-picking farm, or simply grow your own. You can also dehydrate any excess fruit to be eaten another day. We show you how here

Vegies

zero waste snacks

Like fruit, vegies are an easy plastic free win… the challenge may be in getting the vegies into your child!

Some easy favourites include corn on the cob; kale chips; cucumber sprinkled with cinnamon; and carrot, celery and capsicum sticks dipped in homemade hummus, Greek yoghurt, this tomato salsa, this spiced apricot and apple chutney, this spicy Indian lemon pickle or this warrigal greens and macadamia pesto.

Chia Seed Pudding

29 Plastic Free Lunchbox Ideas For Kids

Another simple snack to whip up, to make chia seed pudding simply add 3-4 tablespoons of chia seeds to one cup of milk (plant-based or dairy) and stir. Let it sit for five minutes then stir for a further five minutes (so the chia seeds don’t all clump up), cover and pop in the fridge overnight.

While chia seed pudding on its own is rather bland, adding half a teaspoon of honey, chopped up fruit, cocao powder or vanilla extract will make it more flavoursome. Or you could add some maple syrup for chia seed pudding dessert.

Popcorn 

zero waste snacks

Were you brought up on the virtues of microwave popcorn? What a disaster all that plastic packaging is! It’s just as easy to make your own with bulk foods store-bought kernels. 

Set aside 1/3 cup of corn kernels. Add two teaspoons of coconut oil to a saucepan on medium heat and add two corn kernels, cover. Wait until they pop, then add the remaining kernels, keeping the lid tipped to one side a little to let some steam out. 

Wait until you regularly hear popping, checking to see the pot doesn’t overflow. Once the rate of popping slows, you’re good to go.

Fermented foods

29 Plastic Free Lunchbox Ideas For Kids

Get your fermentation on and whip up gut-friendly, plastic free snacks that kids will love, like sauerkraut and kimchi.

Ferment radish pickle, dilly beans and even onion weed. Or make up a batch of milk kefir in place of flavoured milk or kombucha instead of fruit juice.

Need to make some crunchy cucumber pickles in a hurry? Try this recipe.

The savoury stuff

Pumpkin, chestnut and almond brown rice balls

These lunchbox fillers are way more enticing, and a far cry from the old soggy Vegemite sandwich and bag of chips!

These pumpkin, chestnut and almond brown rice balls or fresh broad bean falafel are sure to be a hit. You can substitute sandwiches for wraps with these homegrown corn tortillas or cauliflower tortillas.

And forgo store-bought, plastic wrapped crackers for these homemade sourdough or grain free crackers.

The sweet stuff

muffins

Every lunchbox requires a little sweet (low/zero sugar) treat.

These lilly pilly muffins and zesty zucchini cake are sure to be winners.

Banana oat bars will become a firm favourite, or if you’re keen to use up any excess sourdough starter, why not bake some sourdough cookies or sourdough hot cross buns?

Want some more “nude” lunchbox ideas for kids?

The following zero waste recipes are super simple and of course, plastic free.

Homemade trail mix

29 Plastic Free Lunchbox Ideas For Kids

Supermarket bought trail mix is often high in sugar and additives (and packaged in plastic) so this homemade trail mix lets you control the ingredients and thus the sugar content.

Nuts and seeds pack a great nutritional punch, and most kids will enjoy the different tastes and textures. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp buckwheat puffs
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp walnuts
  • 1 tbsp raw cashews
  • 1 tbsp dried currants or sultanas 

Method: 

Spoon each of the ingredients into a small glass jar or container. Place the lid on tight and give the jar a shake. Voilà!

Superfoods energy balls

29 Plastic Free Lunchbox Ideas For Kids

Full of healthy fats, fibre, protein, magnesium and vitamin E, these zero waste superfoods energy balls are surprisingly filling and easy to make. 

This recipe has been adapted from the “cookie dough bites” recipe from ‘Eat Clean, Play Dirty’ (2019), by Danielle Duboise and Whitney Tingle.

Ingredients: 

Makes approximately 12

  • 1/8 cup almond meal
  • 1/8 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 heaped teaspoons of almond butter
  • 1/8 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method: 

Combine the maple syrup, almond butter and vanilla extract in a large bowl until creamy. In a separate bowl, mix the coconut flour, flaxseed meal, almond meal, hemp seeds, cocoa nibs and salt together.

In a small bowl, add the shredded coconut and set aside.

Add the wet and dry ingredients together and mix well. Using your hands roll the dough into one-inch balls.

Roll each ball into the coconut until fully coated.

Pop them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Bircher muesli yoghurt bowl

A winner for breakfast or a mid-morning snack, these bircher muesli yoghurt bowls will keep kids full for longer.

Ingredients: 

  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground linseeds
  • 1 tbsp ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • ½ tbsp ground walnuts
  • ½ cup milk (cow’s, soy or plant-based depending on your preference)
  • 2 tbsp of unflavoured natural or Greek yoghurt (if desired)
  • Dash of cinnamon

Method: 

Overnight, soak the buckwheat groats in filtered water in a bowl (or jar) and in another bowl (or jar) soak the oats in milk.

Drain the water from the groats the next morning and give them a rinse.

Combine the oats, groats, chia seeds, hemp seeds, linseeds, almonds, walnuts, yoghurt and cinnamon in a bowl.

Add extra milk to achieve the desired consistency and give it a good mix. 

Optional: Add a handful of berries or chopped banana, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, shredded coconut and/or buckwheat puffs as a garnish.

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