It’s back-to-school time and that means you may be struggling with the task of packing a healthy school lunch for your kids. While you want your kids to have healthy food, you also want their lunch boxes to come back empty. The struggle is real! But while it can be challenging to make a kid-friendly healthy school lunch, there are definitely tips, tricks and creative meal ideas that will make creating to-go meals for your little ones so much easier.
Tip 1: Prepare your child’s balanced healthy school lunch in advance
The first step to building a healthy school lunch is to make sure the meals are balanced. You want to include a protein, a healthy fat and a carbohydrate. If you can add fruit and veggies most days of the week, that would be ideal. And it’s important to pack their balanced meals the night before. Below is a mini checklist of how to balance your kids’ meal:
Pasta, Bread, Tortilla, Quinoa, Rice
Chicken (chicken sausage, BBQ chicken), Turkey (bolognese, deli slices from my ), Eggs (egg and cheese muffin, hard boiled egg), Beans (edamame, chili, hummus), Tofu
- HEALTHY FAT:
Avocado (guacamole, chocolate avocado mousse), Olives, Olive Oil
Grape Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Sugar Snap Peas, Baby Carrots
Berries, Kiwi, Clementines, Bananas
Tip 2: Make meals look appealing
Your kids will be more likely to eat their lunches if they look appealing and fun to eat. One way is to present familiar foods in a fun way to entice them. For example, making funny faces or using cupcake holders are easy ways to make a typical meal more appealing. Also engage them by offering items like dips, which most kids love.
I also highly recommend investing in a good lunch box. Here are two that I’ve personally tested and absolutely adore!
- YumBox is leak proof so you can put hummus or yogurt right in the lunch box. Plus they are absolutely adorable!
- PlanetBox is made from stainless steel and includes removable parts so you can modify the box depending on what you’re including in their lunches.
Tip 3: Have your kids help in the kitchen
Have your kids help prepare the meals so they will be proud and excited about what they’re eating. You can have your kids help by allowing them to choose between options (e.g. apples slices or orange segments, chicken or turkey, etc). In addition, you can have them help by having them actually prepare the food (e.g. dip strawberries in chocolate, put veggies and cheese on a toothpick/skewer).
Tip 4: Use leftovers
Make meal planning easier by reusing leftovers. For example, you can make a big pot of chili, or even soup, for dinner one night and then send your child with it in a thermos for lunch later in the week. With meals like chili, you can also include a variety of food groups in one pot and also use up any other leftover foods that you don’t want to go to waste.
Do you have a difficult time getting your child to eat protein, like chicken or beans? What about those healthy fats. Are your kids not fans of guacamole or olive oil in their pasta? Well, stay tuned. In my next post, I will share recipes for the egg and cheese mini muffins and chocolate avocado mouse!
What’s your favorite healthy school lunch to make? I would love to hear your tips, tricks and ideas! And if you want more healthy school lunch box inspo, check out my segment talking about this very topic on San Diego 6!
ABOUT JESSICA SPIRO, RD NUTRITION SERVICES
Jessica Spiro, RD, CLC is a leading San Diego dietitian, certified lactation counselor & nutrition expert based in Encinitas, California. She provides tailored individual nutrition counseling and group workshops to help her clients lead their best lives!