Great Suggestions for Packing School Lunches

Lunch Box Suggestions for Children

 Many parents and caregivers struggle with what to make their children for lunch. For some kids, a lunch provided by the school is not an option or is not acceptable.  Having a repertoire of eight to ten lunches that work for your child is a good idea. It prevents boredom, promotes variety, makes shopping easy, and reduces the stress that is sometimes associated with packing a healthful lunch.

 These tips can help make filling your kid’s lunch box stress-free:

▪ Make several containers or baggies of items to include in your child’s lunches for the week (vegetables, crackers, pretzels, dry cereal)

▪ Organize your storage container drawer and have a staging area set up with everything you need in one place, including

― At least two lunch boxes

― Brown bags

― Plastic baggies

― Storage containers in all sizes

― Spoons and forks

― Napkins

― Straws

― Thermos or water bottle

― Marker

▪ Buy 8-fl-oz bottles of water or fill several water bottles, and keep the refrigerator stocked for the week; in the summer months, you may choose to freeze these, so the ice is melted into cold water by lunch

▪ Have your child purchase milk, chocolate milk or orange juice, if possible, at school; this way you don’t have to worry about packing a drink, spoilage, or leaking

▪ Know what to pack

―  It’s OK if your child likes to have a conventional lunch that includes a sandwich, fruit, vegetables, snack item, and a drink 

― If your kid prefers to “pick” and does better with yogurt or cheese, for example, make sure you balance the meal so that it contains protein, fruit and/or vegetables, some carbohydrate, and fat

▪ Involve your child in packing the lunch, as much as possible; older children can often prepare and pack their own lunch with adult supervision

▪ If you are planning to pack dinner leftovers for lunch, pack the storage container as you are cleaning up for dinner—this saves time

Try these ideas:

▪ Conventional sandwiches—deli meat, peanut butter* and jelly, cheese, bagel and cream cheese, bagel and peanut butter, vegetarian pita pocket, tuna fish

▪ Unconventional sandwiches—humus and pita bread, falafel, cheese and crackers, cream cheese and jelly, cream cheese and olives, sunflower butter, soy-nut butter, wrap filled with vegetables and cheese or deli meats, quesadilla, calzone, and Stromboli, Canadian bacon with lettuce and tomato

▪ Conventional alternatives to sandwiches—dinner leftovers (meat/chicken/fish/pork, grain, pasta or potatoes, vegetables), cheese and crackers, leftover pizza, soup or stew, takeout leftovers

▪ Unconventional alternatives to sandwiches—single-serving cereal or cereal from home in storage container (just add milk), scrambled eggs or hardboiled eggs, yogurt with granola, quiche, chili, pancakes or waffles, nuts,* filled croissant, homemade smoothies, bean salad, homemade muffin

▪ Fruits—apple, pear, banana, grapes, berries, oranges, grapefruit sections, canned fruit in juice, fruit cocktail, grapefruit sections, cherries, pineapple chunks, melon, pomegranate, guava, papaya, tangerines, clementine, fruit salad 

▪ Vegetables to eat raw, steamed, or with dip—cucumber slices, celery, carrots, green beans, snow peas, blanched broccoli, asparagus or cauliflower, grape tomatoes, beets, corn, salad, guacamole, bean salad

▪ Snacks—fruit leather, sunflower seeds, baked potato chips, pretzels, multigrain crackers, high-fiber granola bar, graham crackers, applesauce, multigrain chips or tortilla, dried fruit, nuts,* tube yogurt (try freezing), cereal bars, dry cereal, banana chips, dried peas, breadsticks

*Because of the high incident of nut allergies among school children, your child’s institution or school may prohibit lunches containing nuts or nut butters or designate special tables for eating lunches that contain nuts or nut products. Find out what the rules are where your child attends and educate him/her about the importance of not sharing foods with individuals who may have allergic sensitivities. 

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