Your kids’ school lunches don’t have to revolve around peanut- butter sandwiches. Here are easy ways to help your kids pack healthy school lunches that they will enjoy!
Packing Healthy School Lunches For Kids
I have had my children help with packing their school lunch box since they were in kindergarten. It has helped greatly with teaching them responsibility, good eating habits, and how to manage their time in the morning.
Provide Healthy School Lunch Guidelines
Now that they are older, they sometimes pack lunch by themselves. This doesn’t mean that I don’t pay attention to what’s in their lunch boxes. I like to provide a loose structure that allows them to make several choices regarding what they pack. Each day, they know they need to have at least one salty, a bread, a dairy and a sweet in their lunches, and possibly two items from each category for more variety. Before they head out the door, I do a quick check to make sure they have packed healthy school lunches.
Easy to Transport Healthy School Lunches
One of the tricks to getting kids to pack healthy choices is that foods must be easy to transport. I have a bunch of small containers with lids in a low drawer that they can grab for hummus or peanut butter. To help them remember to bring them back, I pay them a small amount – like a penny or nickel – per returned container each day for the first few weeks of school and again in January. This helps get my kids in the habit of bringing the containers back.
There are also healthy pre-packaged food choices, like fruit leathers, string cheese and crackers. If you don’t like the idea of putting those packages into your local landfill, turn the packages over to an organization like Terracycle – they upcycle this kind of packaging into products that we can use every day. Turn your kids’ school on to this idea by starting your own brigade!
What About the Cafeteria School Lunches?
Since my kids pack their lunches most of the time, they love the lunches served in the cafeteria. I set aside enough money each month to allow my kids to purchase a school cafeteria lunch once per week. They choose which day they eat cafeteria lunch, and they really look forward to it as a special treat. Plus, they still pack healthy snacks.
Highly Nutritious School Lunch Box Options:
These are foods that I like to have available for packing healthy school lunches. They are easy to pack back and forth, and provide a wide variety of choices.
Nutritious Dairy Group Foods
Dairy items provide kids with necessary nutrients as well as being filling snacks. Some of these include:
Yogurt packaged in tubes – Gogurt has a all-natural
alternative, and you can also make and package your own
Cubed and cream cheese and crackers or fruit
Nutritious Bread Food Choices
Whole-wheat bread options are filling and work well for school lunches. Foods included in the bread group are:
- Bagels (with cream cheese or hummus)
- Pita bread
- Whole wheat crackers
- Sandwiches made from whole wheat slices of bread
- Pretzels or pita chips
Nutritious Salty Snacks
There are salty snacks that are higher in protein, requiring smaller portion sizes to satisfy the desire to snack. Some of
these saltier options include:
Low-Fat Pepperoni (usually a turkey variety)
Puffed Rice products
Pita Chips or Carrots and Hummus
Nutritious Sweet Snacks
It’s surprising how satisfying these more nutritious choices can be when we have a desire for something sweet. These sweet snacks include:
Fresh Fruit – Blueberries, Strawberries, Bananas, Apples,
Grapes, and other budget-friendly fruit that’s in season
Dried Fruit – Mango, Raisins, Apples and Fruit Leather
Dense, Multi-Grain Granola or Granola Bars (Kashi is a great brand)
Homemade banana bread or healthy muffins
Healthy Lunch Beverage Options
I like to give my kids the option of buying milk at school or packing 100% juice products. Boxed water or water in a reusable bottle is also a great choice!
I hope you enjoyed these tips for packing healthy school lunches.