Tips for Packing a Healthy School Lunch

For those parents who need tips on packing healthy school lunches, we have 5 simple tips to make it easy and enjoyable for everyone.

  • By Stephany Pando
  • August 11, 2014

Packing lunches for your back-to-schoolers is no easy task. It takes time and planning. Plus, every parent knows that just because you pack it, doesn’t guarantee your kids will actually eat it.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to fill your kids’ lunchboxes with pizza and cookies everyday. Below we offer 5 tips for how to pack a nutritious lunch that your kids will look forward to eating and you’ll feel good about giving them.

Tip #1: Get Your Kids Involved

  • Give your kids healthy food options from each food group and let them make the final decisions on what goes in their lunch.
  • Take your child grocery shopping with you and let them have a say (to a certain extent) in what goes into the cart. This promotes feelings of responsibility and empowerment.
  • Designate a part of your kitchen as the “lunch packing station” and spend some time there with your kids the night before to get lunch ready for the next day. Check out Living on Love and Cents’ tips on creating a lunch packing station.

Tip #2: Turn Healthy Foods into Fun Foods

  • Use cookie cutters (like these from Critter Cutters) to make shapes out of bread, deli meat, cheese, or a melon-baller for fruit.
  • Use kid-friendly skewers (like these from CuteZCute) to make colorful food kebabs.
  • Create a theme for the day and have all of the foods in their lunch relate to the theme. For creative lunch theme ideas, visit ParentMap.

Tip #3: Make Your Own Snacks – and limit processed ones

Kids rely on snacks to keep their energy up, but the type of snack is important to consider. Packaged snacks tend to lack important nutrients and can be high in sugar, sodium and saturated fats. Take control of what is in your kids’ snacks by making them yourself! Here are some great examples:

Tip #4: Incorporate All Food Groups

A balanced diet includes all of the food groups. Use MyPlate as a visual to help you structure what should go into your child’s lunch. Luckily, there are so many different ways to enjoy each food group:

  • Fruits: fresh, frozen, dried, canned, baked (think apple chips!) or pureed.
  • Vegetables: fresh, frozen, or baked (think kale chips!)
  • Lean protein: baked chicken, deli meats, hard boiled eggs, beans or nuts (be aware of nut allergy regulations at your child’s school).
  • Low-fat dairy: milk, cheese or yogurt
  • Whole Grains: pita, sandwich bread, tortillas, wraps, and pastas

Tip#5: Encourage Hydration

It’s recommended that school-aged kids drink between 6-8 cups of water a day (even more in hot weather or if their activity level is high).

  • Let your child pick out their favorite water bottle and encourage them to drink the whole thing at least twice at school. They’ll be more inclined to do it if they feel like they are completing a challenge!
  • If the “flavor” of water is too boring for them, throw in a few pieces of frozen fruit to sweeten it up – and keep it cooler.

With these tips in mind, you and your child are ready to start out the school year on the right foot. Good luck – and happy packing!

For more tips on how to get kids involved in the kitchen and eating more nutritious food, check out our Raising Healthy Eaters series.

And if you want to print out these helpful tips to reference easily anytime, download this post in infographic form for free:


5 Tips for Packing a Healthy School Lunch

5 tips for how to pack a healthy school lunch that your kids will enjoy and you’ll feel good about giving them.

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