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What to Pack in a School Lunch: Ideas and Tips

We know that figuring out what to pack for a school lunch and snack can be time consuming. When you’re running late in the morning and you want to get the show on the road, a prepped lunch can be a lifesaver. 

Whether you have toddlers, kindergarteners, middle or high schoolers a little preparation can go a long way. That’s why we pulled together a few bits of handy information that cover some nutrition basics along with easy recipes that can be modified wherever you need them to be.

What Should a Healthy School Lunch or Snack look like?

For starters, a healthy school lunch or snack should cover the main food groups, and be as balanced as possible. Age-appropriate portions of protein, carbs, fiber, and fat are all part of an optimum meal. A good source of calcium and iron for growing children is also crucial.

Apart from that, healthy eating isn’t just a habit, it’s an experience. Teaching children, the importance of balanced meals encourages them to give disliked foods a chance. This can be done by providing them with a good example. Making healthy choices for yourself gives your children a role model to follow. 

At DINO BARS we believe in the positive impact a balanced diet has on your child’s life. Read on to find out how to take little steps towards healthier meals and what to pack in a school lunch.

Weekly Planning for What to Pack in a School Lunch:

Sit down with your child/children ask them about their preferences (this cuts down the chances of them not being interested in their lunch). Balance those preferences by adding or subtracting whatever food item is surplus or not enough. Make sure to hit all of the food groups in the lunch section, if you feel your child might not be able to finish all those portions, add that one to their snack menu. This will help your child get all those nutrients without overwhelming them.

Make a list of groceries you will need (a week’s supply is a good idea). That way you won’t have to worry about running back and forth to the grocery store.

Make it interesting:

If possible, let your child pick out their lunch box. Visual appeal plays a big role in your child’s interest in food, (especially for picky eaters). Use fruit forks, notes, smiley faces, letter/shape stencils for fruits and veggies, etc. Whatever gets them going. Offer dips like hummus, tzatziki, yogurt, or nut butter to make fruits and veggies tastier.

Try our mess-free fruit bars for back to school or on the go meals and snacks. Add them to your kid’s lunch box or offer them as a part of a mini-meal/snack.

Make it colorful:

A good way to make sure your kids (especially the picky ones) are getting all their nutrition is through a colorful lunchbox. Now we know this might not always be possible, some days you might not have the energy to run to the grocery store for one mango. Other days you might just want to make sure that little tummy is full. We get it.

Adding just one or two small portions of colorful fruits or veggies (in a separate compartment) is a good start. Remember exposure counts too. Using color to make food appealing can make lunchtime at school a better experience. It also subtly encourages healthy eating.

Colorful food

Lunch boxes and cutlery:

Super cool school gear is and always has been a thing. Remember those childhood days when the coolest kid in class would flash around a cool limited edition thermos or pencil case? Well, the same is the case for the present day. There is just something so attractive to kids about having cool things to show off. 

Offering kids to pick out their lunchbox while school shopping could build anticipation towards lunchtime. Keep in mind to buy easy to open ones for kindergarteners and preschoolers. Check out these really cute ones we love.

Since we are talking about visuals, let’s talk about fruit picks. In case you don’t know what they are, they’re cute little fruit forks usually with some cute character on the handle. Did we mention they’re cute? There are so many to choose from and are easily available at stores and Amazon.

What to Pack in a School Lunch and Snack Recipe Ideas:

Here is a menu cheatsheet so that figuring out what to pack for a school lunch is ticked off your to-do list. Remember, you can always modify the recipes to cater to your family’s preferences. 

Pinwheel wraps:

These wraps are loved by kids and adults alike. Plus they come together in a jiffy.

What you will need:

  • Whole wheat tortilla
  • Veggies (cucumbers, tomatoes, avocados, lettuce, etc)
  • Meat/protein of choice ( sliced or cut into pieces)
  • Dip: Hummus, ketchup, or salsa (on the side or inside the wrap)

Preparation:

Spread the dip, meat, and veggies onto the tortilla and start wrapping from one end. Cut into wheels and secure with fruit forks or toothpicks. 

Nut Butter Sandwich:

A classic sandwich with a healthy twist.

What you will need:

  • Nut butter 
  • Fruit of choice (apples, bananas, or dates)
  • 2 whole-wheat bread slices

Preparation:

Spread a tbsp of your child’s preferred nut butter on each slice of bread and layer desired fruit in between.

 

Bento box insipred lunchbox

Bento Box Inspired Lunch:

Popular these days and something new your kiddo will definitely want to try.

What you will need:

  • 1 full boiled egg 
  • Veggie and fruit sticks
  • Dip
  • Low sodium crackers

Preparation:

Place all of the items into different compartments of your child’s lunchbox or bento box (if you have one). Feel free to use fruit forks, stencils for cutting, or any garnishing that’s possible.

crackers for lunchables

Lunchables Inspired Lunch:

Kids love this plus, it’s a healthier, cheaper homemade version.

What you will need:

  • Crackers
  • Low sodium cheese slices
  • Meat of choice (pepperoni, sausage, turkey, vegan meat, etc) 
  • Grapes or fruit of choice

Preparation:

Add all of the ingredients in separate sections in your kids’ lunch box and you are good to go. Bonus tip: to make it just like the packaged kinds, throw in a little dessert section such as a cookie sandwich or a few chocolate chips.

spiral macaroni

Simple Mac and cheese:

No kid can resist mac and cheese. Its the ultimate comfort food for children and adults alike. You can add broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, or any other vegetable that pair well with pasta. This is a very simple one-pot version

What you will need:

  • Pasta (about ¼ cup for a preschooler, double the recipe for an older child)
  • Milk 1 cup
  • Butter 2 tbsps
  • Mild cheddar ¼ cup (shredded)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Veggie of choice ¼ cup (prepped)

Preparation:

In a small pot, bring milk to boil, add salt, pepper, and pasta. Cook until pasta is done, add in veggies and cheese. Simmer for another few minutes and turn off the heat. Let cool and pack in lunchboxes. 

Balance is key:

As with any meal, the recipes above can be balanced by using the add ons from the categories listed ahead. 

Fruits and veggies (cooked or uncooked):

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potato
  • Celery sticks
  • Peas 
  • Carrots sticks
  • Cucumber slices
  • Corn
  • Apple slices
  • Blueberries
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries (cut or uncut)
  • Peaches (sliced)
  • Avocados
  • Mangoes
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi

Dairy and Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Cream cheese wedges
  • Babybel cheese wheels
  • String cheese
  • Tofu
  • White beans
  • Almonds/almond milk
  • Soy milk 

We hope that these recipes and tips answer your concerns when figuring out what to pack for school lunch. Check out our DINO BARS flavor range for a yummy portion of fruit in your kiddos lunchbox or snack. For more back to school tips and tricks head over to our blog on back to school transition.

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