Tips for Packing The Best School Lunches

Dreading coming up with ideas for your kids school lunches? Try these tips for packing healthy and fun lunches your kids will love!

Remember when you were in school and you knew you had something really good in your lunchbox? How you counted the minutes until lunch period?   What about those days when your parents packed something you didn't like, and your choices were to try to trade with someone, eat it anyway, or throw it away and go hungry? Well, mom and dad, things have not changed since those days and your kids feel exactly the same way!

As a parent, how do you pack a lunch that satisfies both you and your child? You want it to be healthy, they want it to be fun and full of things they like. Oh, and don't forget the "coolness" factor. Your child wants a lunch that the other kids wish they had (Remember those days?). So how do you do it? Here are some ideas:

Involve your kids - Let them help with the whole process of planning, making and packing their school lunches.

  • Start by letting them pick their own lunchbox. Allowing them to choose for themselves will help ensure they don't mind carrying their lunch instead of buying. If your budget does not allow for a new lunchbox, get a pack of brown paper bags and have your child pick some inexpensive stickers. Let your child use the stickers to decorate the bags however they like for their own personalized brown bag. For older kids and teenagers, get some colorful paper bags from a craft or party store, or recycle a bag with handles from a trendy food store or restaurant (very in-style right now).
  • Have your child help plan and prepare what they take for lunch. Your child will be more inclined to eat what's in that lunchbox if they helped plan and prepare it. For small children who may be unable to help much with preparation, get them to help by putting the prepared items in their lunchbox themselves.

Think nutrition - Keep nutrition in mind, but remember what your kids like and what they will eat.

  • Don't go to extremes when trying to get your child to eat a nutritious lunch. If your child won't eat beans sprouts and tofu on whole-wheat pita at home, what makes you think they'll eat it at school? I promise you that tofu sandwich is destined to be traded or thrown away and your child will be no better for having brought it! Remember that a peanut butter and jelly on whole-grain bread is better than processed lunchmeat and "cheese food" on white bread any day! Know what your child is eating by packing something they like, but that is as healthy as possible. 

Watch for allergies - even if your child doesn't have any

  • Double-check with your child's teacher or school front office about any foods you should avoid packing in your child's lunch.  Many children have severe allergies to nuts, for instance.

Pack with time-limits in mind - Most lunch periods are very short (30-minutes or less).

  • Keep portions small, but offer several items. 
  • Pack easy-to-eat and easy-to-open items that don't require special tools.

Menu Suggestions - Try some of these ideas in your child's lunchbox.

  • Ants on a log- Wash and cut celery into sticks and fill with peanut butter. Put raisins on top of the peanut butter across the length of the celery.
  • Mini bagel sandwiches- Toast and slice mini bagels and fill with your child's favorite combination of meat, cheese, or veggies. Try a mini raisin bagel filled with cream cheese and jelly for a change of pace.
  • Mini wrap sandwiches- Cut your child's favorite tortilla into a smaller circle using a small bowl, plate or glass as a template. Fill with your child's favorites, fold and roll! These are fun to eat and easy to handle.
  • Soup sipper lunch- Fill a thermos with your child's favorite soup. Include a ziploc bag of goldfish crackers for them to float in their soup.

 Your kids will also love these recipes:

 

Turkey Club Wrap

Chicken Noodle Soup

Roast Beef Veggie Wraps

Steve's Tomato-Basil Soup

Turkey on Bagel with Sprouts

Chocolate Pudding

More School Lunch Ideas - Here are even more ideas and tips to help you pack healthy school lunches you kids will love!

  • Think about food safety. Keep foods cold with chill packs, or freeze a juice box and let it help keep things cold (it will be thawed by lunchtime). Tell your child to throw away any uneaten food and not to save it for later.
  • Keep nutritionally-appropriate portions in mind for grade-school children. Guidelines suggest they need 2-3 oz. of meat or cheese; 1-2 slices of bread or 1/2 cup of grain or rice; two servings of fruits or veggies; 1 cup of milk or 4 oz. of a dairy product like yogurt.

Don't forget a note every now and then!

Kids love to know their parents support and appreciate them.  Don't forget to slip in a note every now and then... they may even remember this little gesture for the rest of their lives.

Conclusion

Don't let packing school lunches stress you out. Packing healthy lunches your kids will love is easy if you get them involved. Try letting them choose their lunchbox and help with the planning and preparation. Strive to make lunches nutritious, but keep your child's likes and dislikes in mind. You will also want to keep food safety in mind and be certain you use something to keep food cold. With these tips and ideas in mind, we know you will have fun planning and packing school lunches with your child!

Want Even More School Lunch Ideas?

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by BigOven editorial team
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