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Every year I go through the same cycle: I breathe a (huge) sigh of relief when I realize that there are only a few more weeks of school lunches to pack. Then, after a brief reprieve (or maybe none at all if your kids start camp right away, like mine did this year), I remember that I need to start packing lunches for camp. UGH! Does this happen to anyone else? I guess it just goes show that a mother’s (or father’s) work is never done!
While summer is a time to let loose and relax on things like bedtimes and maybe even treats, for me, packing healthy lunches remains a priority since the kids will need healthy food to refuel throughout their active (and hot!) days at camp. So to help you to decrease a bit of the drudgery associated with lunch packing, we came up with some creative summer camp lunch ideas that can make things a little more fun. Who knows, maybe some of these will become such big hits that you can use them to make things easier during the school year, too!
And if you are concerned about keeping the food fresh on these hot days, check out our tips below on how to keep those delicious lunches cool.
Carbohydrates get a bad rap, but there are lots of healthy carbs, like whole grains, that play an important part in giving our bodies energy. Work them in with some of these Scramble options:
Kids’ muscles and brains will need refueling after they’ve been put to the test with swimming, trampoline-jumping, and basketball swooshing (the focus required to master these gross motor skills is no joke!). Some proteins that are very portable and kid-friendly include:
- Greek yogurt or cottage cheese (with fun mix-ins like fruit or whole grain granola)
- String cheese
- Cheese cubes
- Chicken nuggets
- Hard-boiled or deviled eggs
- Rolled up deli meat
- Hummus or black bean dip
- Bean salads
- Nuts or nut butter (or seeds and/or seed butter if nuts are a no-no at your kid’s camp).
Want to break out of the normal patterns even more? Check out some lunch-box friendly Scramble options that are high in protein:
Fiber-Full Fruits and Veggies
Not only do fruits and veggies add important nutrients and fiber to your kid’s lunches, but produce also contains a lot of water, helping to keep your little ones hydrated throughout the hot days. Some kid faves include:
- Cantaloupe or honeydew melon
- Apple slices
- Cucumber slices
- Grape or cherry tomatoes
- Bell pepper slices
- Edamame (also a good protein source)
- Snow or sugar snap peas
And for some fun takes on these, how about:
Keeping Food Cold
For many summer camps, there is no refrigeration or even air-conditioned rooms for those lunchboxes, so finding ways to keep these fun and healthy lunches cool can become a priority. In addition to ice packs, there are some other things that can work well for keeping your kid’s lunch cool throughout the morning:
- Frozen smoothies: make a big batch of smoothies, freeze them in reusable pouches like these, and then add one to the lunch box. They’ll serve as an ice pack in the morning, be thawed by lunch, and the offer a nice dose of fruits and veggies for those hungry bellies.
- Frozen muffins, PB&Js, or other baked goods: make a batch of your kid’s favorite muffin (or try one of the recipes above), freeze them, and then add them to the lunchbox still frozen. They’ll thaw out by lunch, but keep everything around them cool in the meantime!
- Frozen yogurt or apple sauce: Put them into reusable pouches or just freeze them right in their containers, they’ll defrost by lunch time and serve as a nice treat in your kiddo’s lunch.
- Freeze water bottles: Send your kid with two smaller water bottles, one for the morning, and one that is filled and frozen (leave some room at the top so it doesn’t burst). The second bottle will serve as an ice pack and then a nice, cold drink for the afternoon. Fun bonus idea: the same can be done with juice boxes.
- Use an insulated lunch box. These help to maintain a healthy temperature. I personally love the Packit brand because not only is the lunch bag insulated, but you can actually freeze it to keep the food fresh on even the hottest of days.
Bonus Tip: Get Your Kids Involved
Because things tend to be a bit more relaxed in the summer (no homework or sports practices, for example), it can be a great time to start some new habits that can serve you well throughout the year. One such habit is to get your kids more involved in the planning and packing of lunches. One easy way to get started on that is to review this list of summer camp lunch ideas with your kiddos and have them choose two or three ideas to try. And if you want an additional step, invite them to start helping to pack their lunches each morning!
We hope these summer camp lunch ideas provide inspiration and a little boost as you enter back into the lunch-packing routine. For more healthy, simple and kid-friendly lunch ideas and a stress-reducing, delicious way to tackle, dinner (including lunch-packable leftovers!), check out The Scramble’s family-friendly meal plans to see just how simple getting dinner on the table can be!