Somehow it is mid-September and the school year is in FULL SWING. And that means packing a lunch is back on your daily to-dos! Are you already out of ideas? Not sure what and how to best feed you kiddos? Want to ensure they actually eat their lunch each day? Thankfully I've got tips, tricks, and a super easy lunch-packing formula to help make packing lunches feel like a breeze!
The Balanced Lunchbox Formula
I always emphasize balance when building meals for our babes because it helps us make sure they are getting the right combo of nutrients needed for them to grow and thrive.
1️⃣ Carbohydrates for Energy: Kids need carbs for both their bodies AND brains! Carbs are the body's primary source of energy, making them vital for your child's overall well-being. Carbs include grains, pasta , bread or starches like potatoes. Look for whole grain where possible because they come packed with additional vitamins, minerals and fiber.
2️⃣ Protein for Growth and Fullness: Proteins are essential for your child's growth and development, promoting a feeling of fullness. Protein foods include meat and fish, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy,
3️⃣ Fats for Brain Development and Fullness: Healthy fats aid in brain development and help your child feel fuller for longer. Great sources of fat include avocado, nut & seed butters, and even cooking oils like olive or coconut oil.
4️⃣ Fruits and Veggies for Essential Nutrients: Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, fiber (hello digestion!), and delicious flavors. Incorporate a variety of colorful fruits and veggies to increase the nutrient density of the meal.
5️⃣ A Fun Food for Enjoyment: Every lunchbox should have an element of fun! This can be something sweet or savory that your child loves, adding a smile to their lunchtime!
For your beverage it is ideal to pack a low/no sugar drink like milk or water (for younger kiddos) but you can also include a 100% no sugar added juice if that works better for you.
Tips for Packing School Lunches
Flexibility is Key: Not every meal needs to fit the formula perfectly; adapt to your child's preferences and needs.
Make it Fun: Add excitement with creative presentation using fun food picks or cutting food into shapes using mini cookie cutters.
Always pack a safe food: Always pack foods your child is familiar with and enjoys to ensure they have a satisfying meal.
Get Them Involved: Involve your child in the process, allowing them to choose what goes into their lunch, fostering a sense of ownership.
Plan Ahead: Plan the main course before grocery shopping to stay organized and reduce stress while packing lunches.
Variety is Great: Aim for variety, but don't worry if your child prefers certain items consistently.
Remember, lunch is just one meal of the day. Trust your child to listen to their body and eat what they need.
In recent years many schools have moved towards nut-free policies around food to reduce putting kids with severe nut allergies at risk. This can make lunch packing more of a challenge when your options are limited so here is a round up of some great nut-free packaged snack options perfect for school lunches.
Nut-Free Packaged Snack Round-up
Packaged snacks get a bad rap, but when you know what to look for they can be great nutrient-dense additions to your kiddos diet! These products are all nut-free (meaning no nuts in the ingredient list) based on my research BUT some of them are not produced in dedicated allergen-free facilities so make sure to check with your school for specific guidelines. And if you/your child has a severe nut allergy always make sure to do your own research and read the labels for most up to date information.
When choosing a packaged snack I generally look for:
Whole grains for energy
Low/no added sugar
Low/no added sodium
Whole food ingredients
Iron is a plus
A good source of fiber for a more steady release of energy
A good source of healthy fat or protein to keep kids feeling full and energized
Need some inspo?
3 Vegetarian Sandwich Ideas That Aren't Boring!
Black bean and veggie wrap: This wrap is super simple to make! All you need are mashed black beans (season to taste) and an assortment of your kiddo's favorite veggies. To make these more toddler friendly you can cut them into pinwheels. I used canned black beans for ease. You can choose the veggies to suit the tastes and preferences of your little.
Hummus with cucumbers & tomatoes: The Hawaiian roll is a fun and delicious way to serve this veggie sandwich and add a touch of sweetness. Simple cute the roll in half, spread the hummus on both sides, and add a slice of cucumber and tomato. I also added a dash of everything bagel seasoning because everything bagel seasoning makes everything better!
Cream cheese, strawberries, and hemp seeds: I used a mini croissant to make this sandwich more fun! Cut the croissant in half and spread cream cheese on both sides. Place the sliced strawberries on top of the cream cheese and sprinkle with hemp seeds for an added boost of nutrients. The hemp seeds I used were from @tinysproutsfoods use code CHACHA10 to save 10% on your order.
Happy lunch packing! 🍎🥪
If you need more help planning lunches check out my FREE lunchbox planner and customizable food choices template!