Tips For Packing Wholesome Boxed Lunches: Increase The Wow Factor But Keep It Healthy

Have you ever found yourself staring into the fridge on Sunday evening wondering what on earth to prepare for your child’s lunch to take to school the following day? Do you worry that, if you pack one more peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they may leave it uneaten in the classroom?

Not to worry! In this post we offer some fun and easy ways to make their boxed lunch more appealing, while keeping it nutritious and healthy. These tips are varied and quick, so by the end of the week, your little one just might be asking, “what’s for lunch tomorrow?”

1. Make it colorful.

Children love seeing a variety of colors in their lunch box, so consider a rainbow when preparing tomorrow’s noontime meal. For example, put in grapes, different colored peppers to have with dip, perhaps hummus, carrot sticks and blue corn chips, too. You can even include a slice of orange they can squeeze into their refillable water bottle, just for fun and to keep with the theme.

2. Use your cookie cutters to make interesting shapes.

Instead of just a plain slice of melon, use your baking tools to give them stars, half moons, triangles and any other shapes you’ve got in your cookie cutter collection. Children love visuals, so making the fruit (or veggies) into interesting shapes increases the odds that they’ll eat them.

3. Spend an afternoon slicing vegetables.

Sandwiches are just great for children – they’re easy to hold and can be made in endless varieties. But to mix it up a little, have lots of vegetables sliced ahead of time and put a bunch in their lunch with a dip, like yogurt or salsa. Dips can be nutritional powerhouses, so don’t overlook them at lunch time.

4. Get a lunchbox with dividers.

Putting food in a paper bag or in their napsack isn’t wise, as the different items can get squished together. Let them choose a lunchbox with a picture or design they like – a superhero, maybe? — and put each piece of food in its designated section. It’s tidier, and more appealing to your child.

5. Use a refillable water bottle, not juice.

Individual juice containers are bad for the environment, water is better for your child, and a reusable bottle is easily topped up when they’re thirsty throughout the day. And water has only good things in it, no caffeine or sugar, so pediatricians agree that, on most occasions, water is the way to go.

6. Dream up themes for lunches.

One day make it the rainbow, as we mentioned, and the following day make it a country’s cuisine, for example Mexican. Include brown rice and chopped tomato and avocado in a kid-friendly version of guacamole. Avocados are packed with fiber, vitamins and protein, so if you want to skip lean meat one day, including an avocado is a wise alternative. So are hard boiled eggs, and they are easy for children to eat, provided you peel them in advance.

7. Don’t overlook the calcium.

If your family isn’t vegan, including Greek yogurt with fresh blueberries gives your child a double whammy of calcium and antioxidants. If you are vegan, calcium is found in many non-dairy sources, including nut butters. Slice up an apple and include a container of almond butter or natural peanut butter for them, as long as their school doesn’t have a peanut-free policy. These are both excellent sources of calcium and protein.

8. Include snacks for them to have throughout the day.

Children are always hungry because they grow so fast! Giving them snack options at school means they won’t get hungry and they’ll be equipped to focus on school work. Raisins, nuts and seeds are all terrific snacks that satiate hunger and give them plenty of fiber, protein and vitamins, as well as all the good healthy fats and antioxidants. Baking your own muffins and including them as lunchbox snacks is a great way to sneak a few extra fruits and vegetables into their diet. Try making carrot, bran, lemon poppy seed or another muffin variety until you find the one your child enjoys most. Stay away from pre-packaged muffins, however; they are usually high in sodium, fat and preservatives.

9. Sandwiches are a healthy choice. 

Some parents fear that sandwiches get boring, but if your child enjoys them, they are a wonderful way to give them a nutritious lunch. Offer lean turkey with lettuce and a dab of mayo; cheese and tomato, or even the classic PB&J – just keep the fillings varied and flavorful.  Using whole wheat bread, rye, pita or a multigrain bagel, means they get lots of vitamins, fiber and magnesium. And sandwiches are filling, easy to hold and fast to eat, all reasons they became popular choices for boxed lunches so many years ago.

If your child isn’t eating their lunch every day at school, or you find out they’ve traded it for someone else’s (or tossed it out), ask them about it. Assure them it won’t hurt your feelings if they tell you honestly what they don’t like. Children’s tastes change constantly, so giving them different options for a healthy lunch is the key to ensuring they eat it.