Crafting the Perfect School Lunch

Non-sandwich lunches that are sure to please.

The beginning of school always prompts intense anticipation in our house: clothing is laid out, lunches are packed, and backpacks are ready.

Yet, if I’m being totally honest, this readiness is short-lived; as the days march on, I find myself scrambling to fill out that one important paper, find that missing shoe, or pack that perfect lunch.

With the school year in full-swing, perhaps you’re finding yourself in a rut with school lunches.

We’re here to save the day.

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With our simple formula, you’ll be back in the swing of things and packing easy nutritious lunches for your school-aged child.

Nutrition Counts

School lunchtime is the perfect opportunity to make nutrition count. Your child is a captive and hungry audience when he opens his lunchbox so what better moment to fill him with healthy (and yummy) food.

To do this, you’ll want to make sure you’re providing options for each of the food groups. This includes a fruit, vegetable, protein, starch, and a drink. While this may sound like a lot filling your child’s belly with nutritional food will set him up for success during the school day.

Crafting the Perfect Lunch

In order to craft the perfect lunch, choose an item from each category below.

❏ Apples (whole or sliced)
❏ Banana
❏ Clementine Oranges
❏ Grapes
❏ Plum (whole or sliced)

❏ Carrot Sticks
❏ Cucumber
❏ Grape Tomatoes
❏ Colored Peppers
❏ Snap Peas

❏ Peanut Butter & Honey
❏ Hard Boiled Egg
❏ Greek Yogurt
❏ Nuts
❏ Cheese

Filler/Snack (Starch)
❏ Sandwich Bread
❏ Crackers
❏ Pretzels
❏ Snack Mix
❏ Popcorn

For drinks, we stick with water or white milk. Our lunchtime rule is our kids may have a different drink choice (juice or chocolate milk) one day per week. This allows some freedom (as they often see other children buying or bringing sugary drinks), but promotes healthy choices the majority of days.

Are you looking for more lunch ideas? Check out our mix-and-match printable to make school lunches a success. (Link coming soon)

Perfectly Portioned Lunches

Over the years we’ve found certain lunchbox combinations (especially those without sandwiches) are easy winners with our kids. Here are a few of our favorite, kid-approved, school lunches:

Lunchbox Combo #1: Breakfast for Lunch
❏ Grapes
❏ Cherry Tomatoes
❏ Greek Yogurt
❏ Mini Waffles
❏ Pure Maple Syrup

Lunchbox Combo #2: Mix and Match
❏ Cantaloupe Pieces
❏ Cucumber Slices
❏ Grilled Chicken Slices
❏ Crackers
❏ Cheese Slices

Lunchbox Combo #3: Sticks Galore
❏ Carrot Sticks
❏ Watermelon Sticks
❏ Fish Sticks
❏ Pretzel Sticks
❏ Cheese Stick

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To Treat or Not to Treat

Sending a sugary treat with packed lunches isn’t a must. While it may seem like something required, decide how many sweets you’d like your child to consume throughout the day.

For our family, we try to limit sweets to once, daily. We’ve found that many of the snacks provided in school are sugar-filled, so we’ve decided that (most days) our kids won’t get an additional treat in their lunch.

Of course, with any rule, we make exceptions. We might throw in a treat on a special day. We also have preplanned days where my children are allowed to purchase a treat at school. We have guidelines for nutrition and plan in days for flexibility.

Really, like with any diet, the focus needs to be on balance. A healthy, fun lunch will win every time!

lunchbox printable

What might you try to do differently in your kids' lunches this year?

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.

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