Back to school season is upon us, and that means the return of early mornings, fall sports, and packed lunches. Packing kids’ lunches is a great, hands-on way for parents/caregivers to make sure your kiddos are being sent with a variety of foods, foods that they like, and enough food to keep them going through long days of school.
While there is nothing wrong with a traditional PBJ in a brown paper bag, this blog post is going to dive into some innovative ways to make kids’ lunches nutritionally dense and provide them with a fun lunchtime experience.
First, we will tackle the lunch box. It goes without saying that any lunchbox will be perfectly adequate, but there are lunch boxes out there that are helpful for providing some structure and encouraging variety. “Bento box” style lunch pails have a lot of little
compartments, all of which can be filled with a different snack or main course. They’re somewhat similar to lunchables, in that every compartment can hold something different. There are also bento box style containers that can snap together and fit into a pre-existing lunch pail.
Options for bento box lunch pails:
Bentgo 5 compartment lunch pail (recommended portions for kids 3-7)
Bentgo 4 compartment lunch pail (with attachable ice pack)
Bentology Lunch Bag and Box set (Insulated bag and containers included)
There are tons of fun color and print options available that can help add some extra excitement to lunchtime.
Now, lets move on to what to put in packed lunches to make them satisfying and tasty. Lots of simple meals can be based on the formula: grain, protein, fat, vegetable/fruit. Grains are a source of carbohydrate, which is our brains main source of energy. Protein and fats help us feel full at the end of a meal and help “hold us over” until it’s time to eat again. Fruits and vegetables provide us some extra micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals. To make this easy, examples will be included in this post, AND we’re providing a cheat sheet to help if you’re stuck and can’t decide what to pack.
Meal 1: Turkey, lettuce, and cheese pinwheels with carrots and ranch
Fat: Cheese, ranch
Veg: Lettuce, carrots Recipe for pinwheels linked HERE
Meal 2: Chickpea, mozzarella, and cucumber salad with crackers and hummus
Protein: Chickpea, hummus
Fat: Cheese, Italian dressing (for salad, optional)
Recipe for salad: equal parts diced cucumber and drained chickpeas, one chopped up cheese stick, 1 tbsp Italian dressing (optional)
Meal 3: Peanut butter and Jelly on whole wheat bread with yogurt and berries
Fat: Peanut butter
Another essential element of packed lunches is snacks! By covering each food group in the main meal, snacks can be a little less rigid in terms of the nutrients they contain. A good rule of thumb is to plan snacks to include at least 2 food groups. This will make
them more filling.
Snack 1: Cheese-its and grapes (2 food groups)
Snack 2: Crackers and cheese (2 food groups)
Snack 3: Bell peppers and cream cheese (2 food groups)
Veg: bell peppers
Fat: cream cheese
Remember, these are just suggestions on some simple recipes and snacks to pack for your kids. There is no right or wrong answers, and the suggestions in this post can be adapted in any way that works
for you. If you’re worried about sending your kids too much or too little, its worth noting that kids are very cognizant of their hunger and fullness cues and can adjust how much they’re eating accordingly. Don’t worry if some days they’re finishing everything and other days they’re barely touching their meal. Keep open communication with them and ask what they’re liking and not liking. This is one way to make sure they’re getting nutritionally adequate meals that they enjoy!
Happy Back to School season!
School Lunch cheat sheet (pick at least one food from each category)
|Deli Meat: chicken, turkey,
ham, roast beef;
ground beef; ground turkey;
beef jerky; tuna; sausage;
chicken breast; chicken tenders;
beans; peas; lentils; edamame;
cottage cheese; cheese; eggs;
nut butter (almond, peanut,
sun butter); yogurt
|Avocado; butter; chips; cream
cheese; mayo; nut butter; sour
cream; salad dressing; oil;
|Bread; tortilla; English muffin;
bagel; hot dog bun; hamburger bun;
naan; pita bread; pancake; waffle;
crackers; rice; potato; bread roll;
graham crackers; popcorn;
granola; french-fries; oats;
quinoa; tortillas; vanilla wafers
|Apple; banana; orange; peach;
apricot; kiwi; berries; applesauce;
grapes; pear; apricot; plum;
clementinePeppers; carrots; cucumber; peas;
lettuce; spinach; broccoli; tomato;
mushroom; salsa; celery; corn;
*This is by no means comprehensive and is only meant to help generate meal ideas*