With the summer coming to a close, and as school begins, it’s time to get back into the routine of preparing lunches for your kids. Yes, just one more thing to add to the already long list of things to do! You also might be asking yourself, what should I be packing for my kids and what will they actually eat? Well you’re not alone. Planning and preparing lunches for kids can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be!
Here are some tips and suggestions to make packing healthy lunches easy and enjoyable!
1. Creating a Balanced Lunch Box
The goal with any meal or snack is to pack a variety of foods that are both nutritious and taste good. Each meal should contain a source of protein, carbohydrate and fat and have at least four different foods.
Here is a good list to help you plan meals. Pick one from each category below to create a balanced meal.
Hard Boiled Egg
Nitrate-Free Deli Meat
Cooked Turkey or Chicken, cubed
Cooked Ground Meat
Nut or Seed Butter
Chicken, Egg or Tuna Salad
Whole Wheat Bread, Pita, Tortilla/Wrap
Whole Wheat Waffle
Cooked Sweet Potato, Potato or Squash
Whole Wheat Pasta
Cooked Corn, Peas
Whole Wheat Crackers
Fruit (Fresh, Frozen, Canned)
Apple slices (applesauce)
Grapes (cut in half lengthwise if under 4)
Melon (watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe)
Vegetable (Fresh, Frozen, Canned)
Shredded or Baby Carrots
Cherry Tomatoes (cut in half length wise if under 4)
Cooked Broccoli, Cauliflower, Green Beans, Beets
Fat is important for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K; growth and development in toddlers; and keeping kids full. Make sure to include at least one source of fat at meals.
Whole milk dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese)
Nut and Seed Butters
Fatty fish (salmon and tuna)
Fatty cuts of meat
2. Get the Kids Involved
The more the kids are involved in planning or preparing their lunch the less work it is on you and the more likely they will actually eat what’s in their lunchbox!
First, have your kids help plan their lunch. Once your child is around 3 years old you can start having them help you plan what to put in their lunchbox. Have them go shopping with you and pick out a few options from each of the categories above. Or, have a few options from each category available in your pantry or refrigerator that they can choose from.
Next, have your kids help prepare their lunchbox. Toddlers and young kids can help by putting food into their lunchbox or into small containers. As they get older, they can also help you chop fruits and vegetables to put into their lunchbox. Once your children are in middle school they can start preparing their lunchbox by themselves. Guidance is always helpful at the start. Once they have a good understanding of how to balance meals they should be able to pack a balanced lunch on their own.
3. Make Lunchtime Fun
Find a fun lunchbox that your kids enjoy. These bentgo boxes are great for easy packing and are fun for kids. Or send a fun note, like these lunch box note cards . Each card has a fun note, nutrition fact or joke on the back!
For some simple go-to lunch ideas check out these: 60 Healthy Lunchbox Ideas for Kids or this list of A Month’s Worth of Healthy, Kid Approved Lunch Ideas
Have more questions or concerns about feeding your family? Please contact our dietitian, Lauren Sharifi to set up an appointment. Lauren@asfpeakhealth.com