What to pack for school lunches (quick, easy, and healthy)?

Michelle - posted on 08/31/2009 ( 19 moms have responded )

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I'm a mom to an entering Kindergartener and wanted to know from other moms what they usually pack for lunches that are quick and easy to prepare and healthy in nutrients/vitamins? Any tips and ideas would be greatly appreciated!

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Tracy - posted on 08/17/2010

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I use silicone muffin liners (4 of them) in a sandwixh box (you could use paper liners, but our schools are big on litterless lunches) and put different things in each one. Usually cubed cheese in one, cut grapes in another, honey-nut cheerios in the third and whatever other fruit is in season in the fourth. And always a big marshmallow in the middle because Paula has discovered that it fits and it stops the cups from sliding around LOL. Then, just because I'm a bit off my rocker and like to make things fun, instead of cutting the sandwiches straight across the middle, I cut them on a curve or jagged, and pull the two halves apart a bit, the stick raisins or cheerios on the top half...it makes a face. Even the most boring basic sandwich is fun to eat if it has a face. Sometimes I get right creative (I'm with Julie on the Bento...love it!) and put shaved carrot hair and a red pepper tongue...things like that.
Silly sandwiches aside, I think the muffin cups are the best idea ever. Kids are snackers and munchers. It lets them have a variety of things form every food group, they can pick and choose what they want. Yo can do your own 'lunchables' in them, with healthier meats, cheese, crackers and fruit, your imagination and your child's tastebuds are your only limitations!
good luck, and enjoy this new stage in mommyhood!

Dana - posted on 09/02/2009

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Most schools don't allow peanut butter so I used to put cheeze whiz in celery. any fruit or vegetables that need to stay cold if she attending all day so either freeze juice boxes or use a re-usable container fill it up 1/2 full with your choice of juice or water, freeze overnight and then fill it up with the liquid. It keeps the lunch cold and also they get to drink cold juice. You can also make homemade lunchables- buy whole grain crackers, your child's choice of cheese, and I used good bologna and you can cut the bologna with a shot glass to fit the cracker. Buy a divided re-usable container to pack it in. They don't have preservatives and they cost alot less..
Have a great Kindergarten year :)
PS it is ok if you cry the first day

Cynthia - posted on 08/31/2009

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Quoting Sharon:

Here's the thing.

Kids will eat what they want to without someone to force them to eat the stuff they don't want to. Just because they eat the carrot sticks at home doesn't mean they'll eat them at school, especially while seated across from the kid eating a hostess ho-ho cake!

For the first week or two pack what you think she will eat and ask her for her feedback. She will probably come back with all sorts of weird descriptions of stuff she saw other kids eat. Try to find healthy compromises.

Like instead of a hostess cake she gets a granola bar with some chocolate in it.

Various cheese snacks are almost always popular. I couldn't keep enough string cheese or baby bell cheese around. Little yogurt cups or gogurt (so much sugar - ugh) also very popular. But I'd rather have a treat honestly sweetened with sugar than the "no sugar" treats with artificial sweeteners.

Face it. this is a lunch - not their main meal. a little sugar is ok.

Graham crackers - also very popular.

Save your big concerns for their health for breakfast & dinner when you can control things.

At school foods that make them stand out gets tossed.

Not every child does this. My oldest liked his carrot sticks but he also got picked on for being different. It didn't make his early years very easy.

I let him choose whether he wanted to take his lunch or buy it. We would plan around the school lunch schedule. Like pizza hut wednesdays - he did NOT want to be the one with a sandwich on those days and he loved pizza.

Let your child tell you what they want and you do your best to make it low sugar and healthy.


YOur right they will.. Unless we teach them otherwise.  My children eat healthy at home as well as at school.. I know this because I have great relationship with their teachers and the lunch ppl.. My daughter would choose the pepper sticks over Hoho anyday.. Its all in how we demonstrate good decision making to them. I think your over thinking it. Variety is always nice, but why give in now, show them to make better eating decisions..

Sharon - posted on 08/31/2009

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Here's the thing.



Kids will eat what they want to without someone to force them to eat the stuff they don't want to. Just because they eat the carrot sticks at home doesn't mean they'll eat them at school, especially while seated across from the kid eating a hostess ho-ho cake!



For the first week or two pack what you think she will eat and ask her for her feedback. She will probably come back with all sorts of weird descriptions of stuff she saw other kids eat. Try to find healthy compromises.



Like instead of a hostess cake she gets a granola bar with some chocolate in it.



Various cheese snacks are almost always popular. I couldn't keep enough string cheese or baby bell cheese around. Little yogurt cups or gogurt (so much sugar - ugh) also very popular. But I'd rather have a treat honestly sweetened with sugar than the "no sugar" treats with artificial sweeteners.



Face it. this is a lunch - not their main meal. a little sugar is ok.



Graham crackers - also very popular.



Save your big concerns for their health for breakfast & dinner when you can control things.



At school foods that make them stand out gets tossed.



Not every child does this. My oldest liked his carrot sticks but he also got picked on for being different. It didn't make his early years very easy.



I let him choose whether he wanted to take his lunch or buy it. We would plan around the school lunch schedule. Like pizza hut wednesdays - he did NOT want to be the one with a sandwich on those days and he loved pizza.



Let your child tell you what they want and you do your best to make it low sugar and healthy.

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Jacqueline - posted on 08/17/2010

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you can get some of the presliced applesthat are individually wrapped for kids lunches. mini bottles of water, jiff pnut butter to go for veggies and fruits, trail mix... use your imagination, your 5 yr old will thank you for it.

Phyllis - posted on 08/17/2010

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To keep milk (or juices whatever)cold in a lunch, pour a couple ounces in a plastic juice box and freeze it over night. Then in the morning fill the rest of the container with milk. It will stay cold for a long time, without having to worry that the whole thing will be too frozen to drink at lunchtime.

Tracy - posted on 08/17/2010

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Julie, I loved that link. AnnaTheRed is amazing. I noticed the silicone muffin liners in every picture LOL.

Terri - posted on 08/11/2010

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lol Cynthia we are not critiquing your grammar and punctuation!! Does any one know what brand of peanut butter is the healthiest?? How do you keep the milk cold so it will not spoil??

Nina - posted on 09/08/2009

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Sugar snap peas, bread sticks (homemade are easy to make, add poppyseeds or sesame seeds), sliced apples with yogurt dip, peanut butter and jam if its allowed, quaker yogurt bars, dried fruit, banana chips... I could go on. Hope it helps some.

Sandra - posted on 09/02/2009

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I agree with all of you!!! Sanwiches ham, turkey and cheese. Peanut butter/ jelly crackers, applesand bananas, in my son's school though the teacher asked not to bring in anything that will make a mess such as yogurts or fruit cups, etc. Anyways, fresh fruits and veggies are better!!! Sometimes they will eat it and other times its left in the lunch bag...

Lisa - posted on 09/02/2009

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I Don't let my kids eat the school lunches - they just aren't healthy enough...especially considering the kids need to use brain power and stay focused through out their school day. Somethings I do are: always homemade 100% wheat bread if I do sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, egg, tuna, PB, They also like homemade mini pizzas which they will eat cold at school. One of my kids loves to have a plain old chicken leg on the bone! I always put in veggies which can include carrots, celery, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes. Occasionally I give them a some low fat ranch or hummus to dip. They always get a fruit - grapes, strawberries, apples, oranges - whatever. I just make sure I have a lot of choices so they don't get bored. I also make low fat sugar free cookies (i use agave for sugar)My kids really like them and I will put one in the lunch as a treat.They get a water bottle in their lunch. There is just way too much sugar in the juice boxes. I ask them to bring home anything that they don't finish or don't eat so that I can see for myself what they are consuming. Sometimes they bring home stuff, sometimes they eat it all. The problem is there will always be other kids at school to offer your kids something that you wouldn't give them. It all starts at home. If we teach them good nutrition and provide them with the healthy food that is step number one! Sure - there are times when my kids will tell me that they ate someone's cookie at school. I don't love that but I'd rather it be an exception rather than the norm.

Stacey - posted on 09/01/2009

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Make your own lunchable wheat crackers, unprocessed chesses and meat. I buy Hormel’s natural choice it has no added hormones or nitrates and is minimally proceeds. Kids love being able to put together their own mini sandwich. Add some natural apple sauce or fruit and you’re done. Super quick and easy.

I remember a girl in my preschool class always had rice rolls (sushi without the fish)in her lunch and I thought they looked so cool.

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Home-made muffins (fruit or savoury), you can make a batch on the weekend and freeze them for use during the week.
Dried apricots, sultanas etc make a good snack.

Melissa - posted on 08/31/2009

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So far I've been doing veggie sandwiches (tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, cucumbers), veggie wraps, carrot sticks and vegan ranch, raw pudding, trail mix, applesauce, salads, raisins, grapes, orange slices, homemade nut bars, veggie booty. Today he had black beans, potatoes, homemade bread and a plum. He loved it.



I buy a lot of fruits and vegetables, so it makes lunch packing easy. I just open up the refrigerator and toss in whatever I can find. I whip up some ranch, applesauce, pudding, nut bars, and other things like that....it takes no time at all. Quick and easy. And they're healthy. Slicing up veggies and throwing in some sorting of dipping sauce is simple. Sandwiches are simple. Peanut butter or tahini w/ jelly. Maybe add some hummus to the lunch box? It's great with chips and veggies.



Just ask your child. I ask my son all the time about the things he'd like for me to pack. It helps out a lot! When he brings his box home almost empty, I know it was a good lunch. If it was something that was hardly touched, we discuss it and go from there. :)

Sharon - posted on 08/31/2009

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I think you aren't thinking far enough ahead or very realistically. My kids love their vegetables. As far as I know I'm the only mom on the block who has kids that ask for artichokes and brussel sprouts. Who prefer fresh to frozen. But they like to fit in with their friends at school. Do I wish their friends preferred carrots to popcorn? Yes. but they don't. I don't want my kids following the crowd and we talk about the things that are inappropriate. But a couple of treats in the lunch box? Geeze, go nazi on them why don't you?

Cynthia - posted on 08/31/2009

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Quoting Cynthia:

Lost of protien filled meals.. It will help them throughout the day. I HATE processed foods, Leftovers from dinner, peanut butter, celery sticks, My little one LOVES colored pepper slices, Milk instead of sugary juice boxes, occasionally I flavor the milk, carrots and ranch, sandwiches cut with cookie cutters, apples and cream cheese, I could go on and on.. Let me know if you need anything else!!



THere should have been a period after processed foods.. I went right into suggestions..

Cynthia - posted on 08/31/2009

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Lost of protien filled meals.. It will help them throughout the day. I HATE processed foods, Leftovers from dinner, peanut butter, celery sticks, My little one LOVES colored pepper slices, Milk instead of sugary juice boxes, occasionally I flavor the milk, carrots and ranch, sandwiches cut with cookie cutters, apples and cream cheese, I could go on and on.. Let me know if you need anything else!!

Tanya - posted on 08/31/2009

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I have a 5yr old daughter that takes her lunch everyday & I had the same question. I have been packing things like cubed cheese, carrot & celery sticks with peanutbutter, yogurts and things like that. She loves crakers and pepperoni, I'm open to any suggestions for some fun and easy but healthy lunch options :0)

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