When it comes to packing school lunches for my kids I stay with my keep it simple philosophy. As much as I love to browse the internet and look for adorable lunch kabobs, smiley face creations and kid approved sushi, I’m also a realist and I know that’s simply NOT gonna happen in my kitchen.  My kids love PB & J so why complicate life. PB & J on whole wheat with a fruit, a veggie and some type of cheese or nuts is their favorite and they get it often.

Parents get too caught up in NEW ideas for their children’s lunches. Children are not like adults, their palate is still developing. They don’t get bored with food like adults do and they are happy eating the same thing over and over.  If the worst thing they do is ask for the same healthy food for lunch everyday then pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Yes, children should be exposed to different whole foods often.  This will help develop a more diverse palate and eventually lead to the acceptance and even enjoyment of more healthy and nutritious foods.  However, the time to introduce these new whole foods is not at their school lunch time.  Children get very little time to actually eat their lunch and they want to socialize as well.  Trying new foods at lunch is risky.  If your children don’t like the new veggie kabob it will most likely end up in the garbage can wasting all your hard work and money, not to mention leaving their bellies empty and hungry. Introduce new foods at dinner when the family is together or even on a weekend morning. Pick a time when you are not rushed so you can talk about the new food and get a response from your child.

Here are some simple and healthy lunch options. Try to incorporate a whole grain, protein, fruit and veggie with each lunch. Use the rest as fillers. Try nuts one day and maybe a dairy or boiled egg the next day. Minimize wasted food and money by asking your child about portion sizes.  Are you eating your lunch or throwing some away? Are you full after lunch or would you like me to pack  more? Each child has different eating habits. Some prefer a big breakfast and small lunch or big lunch and small dinner. Pack appropriately.

 Sandwiches (Whole Wheat): Other Grains (Whole Wheat): Fruits: Veggies:
PB & J

PB & Honey

PB & Banana

Cream Cheese Plain

Ham/Turkey & Cheese

Cream Cheese w/ olive or strawberry slices

 

 

 

Pretzels

Crackers

Flatbread

Pitabread cut into small slices

 

 

 

 

 

Whole Apple

Apple Slices*

Berries

Grapes

Banana

Orange or Slices

Melon Chunks

 

 

Cucumber Slices

Carrot Sticks

Grape Tomatoes

Celery Sticks

Pepper Slices

Sugar Snap Peas

 

 

 

 Dairy:  Nuts & Such: Other: Drinks:
Cheese

Plain Yogurt w/ Honey

Plain Yogurt w/ Fruit

Yogurt Parfait

 

 

 

 

 

Almonds

Peanuts

Cashews

Pistachios

Dried Fruit

Raisins

Trail Mix

 

 

Boiled Eggs

Granola Bars (Homemade)

Leftovers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water

Milk

100% Juice

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Gala, Honey Crisp and Fuji apples don’t brown as quickly so they are a great option for sliced apples.

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A few tips for packing lunches:

  • Wash and chop produce when you bring it home. This not only makes it easier to place in a lunch box but encourages the whole family to grab a healthy snack when they open the fridge
  • Send a thermos with water to school with your child. Having water at their desk and close by in a fun container will encourage them to drink more of it.
  • Treats are not a necessary part of lunch and should be kept for special occasions. Try a homemade goody like no bake chocolate granola bars or peanut butter cookies.
  • Read Labels –  only whole grains, peanut butter should not contain sugar, cream cheese and yogurt should be plain and not flavored, 100% pure juice
  • Limit sandwich meats – purchase meats like Applegate Naturals that are “clean”, without nitrites and nitrates and antibiotic free
  • Marketing  – Big Food companies are spending millions to market our children every day so I make it my job to fire back.  While I don’t have time to make pretty kabobs and smiley face sandwiches there are some quick and inexpensive ways to liven up the lunchbox.  Here are a few ideas: love notes, colorful cloth napkins, fun shaped muffin liners for holding fruits and nuts, use crinkle cutters to cut veggies and fruits, stickers or tattoos instead of treats.

Keep it Simple and remember – If your child is asking for PB&J every day, they could be asking for much worse.

 

What are some of your easy go to lunch ideas?

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