It makes me both happy and sad that it’s time for my little ones to head back to school. Along with the hustle and bustle comes the lunchbox conundrum — what to pack? what will they eat? is it healthy? Hopefully I can help take some of the guesswork and stress out of the morning routine. I polled parents to see what they are (and aren’t) packing for their kiddos and now I’m giving my best tips on making school day lunches happy and healthy.
Parents were hungry to weigh in! Here are some highlights of my survey.
- 77% of parents report packing lunch daily
- 19% say they “always” struggle deciding what to pack
- More than 60% state they don’t know what to make
- A third don’t know how to make it healthy
- Most popular lunchbox staples include: sandwiches, yogurt, cheese
- 30% regularly include juice
- 13% pack cookies and other sweets
Healthy Tips & Ideas
A little planning goes a long way but try not to over-think it too much. Keep it simple, safe, and tasty and your little ones will have an energizing lunch to keep them going strong all day long.
- Keep it cold – invest in a well insulted lunchbox and a appropriately sized ice pack
- Keep it warm – pack pasta, soups, rice dishes, bite-sized pieces of pizza or quesadillas in an insulted BPA-free thermos – they will keep food warm for up to 6 hours without needing to be reheated
- Make extra – dinner leftovers (or a slightly modified version) make a wonderful lunch
- Chill out – freeze yogurt tubes and baked goods (like mini muffins) ahead of time – pop in the lunchbox and they’ll defrost by lunchtime
What to Make
When your child can’t take another sandwich – mix things up with some of these healthy main course ideas and recipes.
- Cheesy Rice with chicken
- Homemade Lunch Kits
- Pizza bagels
- Grilled cheese with turkey and baby spinach
- Tuna Pasta Salad
- Pinwheels and wraps
Parents said they often include packaged items like snack foods, hummus, and even pre-made lunch kits for their kids – especially when pressed for time. There’s no denying that homemade is best but that’s not always practical. Here are some grab-n-go options made with high quality ingredients.
• Annie’s snacks
• Applegate HALF TIME (disclosure: I’m on the advisory board and my girls love these)
• Sabra Hummus with Pretzels
• Horizon Milk Boxes
Sound off: What’s your biggest lunchbox dilema?