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How to Pack Healthy Lunches That Your Kids Will Actually Eat

How many mornings are you scrambling to throw together a school lunch that is healthy and that your kid will actually eat? Do you start the school year off strong, filling the lunch boxes with lots of healthy foods, and by the end of the year they are filled with tons of processed junk? You are definitely not alone!

As parents, we are always trying to figure out ways to feed our children healthy food that they will actually eat and that won’t take us a long time to prepare. Unfortunately, the less healthy options are SO easy to grab and feed to our kids during our crazy busy weeks! 

Well, there are lots of great healthy lunches that can be just as easy to throw into your child’s lunchbox and won’t take you a lot of time. I promise! I’m going to break things down for you, so that you can figure out what works best for you and your family.  

What You Can Do

You really can prepare your kids better foods that they will eat, but I need for you to do a few things first to make this happen.

  1. Keep it simple! Please don’t create extra work for yourself and make lunch making complex. Take advantage of short-cuts when you can, like pre-cut veggies, fruit, single-serve foods, etc. You do not need to create homemade, gourmet and creative lunches for your kids. Stay away from Pinterest!
  2. I encourage YOU to not knock it until THEY try it. They are watching your every move and if you don’t believe in what you are serving them, then they won’t either. BUT, don’t over-sell it, either. 🙂
  3. Be consistent. It’s so important for you to be consistent and persistent with your efforts. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It can take time for kids (and adults) to make changes and for our taste buds to stop craving processed junk food and start enjoying real food​, but it will happen!
  4. Have patience. Getting kids to eat healthier foods can definitely be challenging and can take time, but it can happen. It can take some trial and error, so have patience with the process. Soon, you’ll have a nice system and rhythm.  
  5. Plan ahead. Any planning and prepping that you can do ahead of time will only make things easier for you. So, try scheduling some time, less than 30 minutes, to wash some fruit, chop or cook vegetables, assemble sandwiches, or bag up some snacks. Any amount of prep can save you a lot of time and headache during the week!
  6. Be a healthy role model. Your children are watching you and paying attention to everything that you are eating and doing. They may not follow your lead all of the time, or ever, but the example that you are setting now is building the foundation for how to eat and how to live. Even if they are not listening now, they will definitely remember later.
  7. Don’t make it a big deal. Try to not make eating healthy a big deal or introduce it as this huge change in your household, even if that’s how you’re feeling inside. Your presentation is key to your success in getting your children to eat well! When we call food “healthy” it can sometimes imply that it isn’t tasty or is a sacrifice. Eating fresh, delicious, real food is just the way to eat, right? 

 

Get Your Kids Involved 

It’s so important to get kids involved in their lunches. Making them a part of these great changes helps them get on board and less resistant. If you get your kids involved in making healthy choices while they are young, then they are more likely to continue making healthy choices later in life. 

  • Put them to work! Stock up your kitchen will lots of healthy options and let them participate in building their lunches. You can lay everything out for them to assemble sandwiches and help fill their lunch boxes every night before bed. They will love helping out and getting involved in the kitchen. Plus, if they are doing this when they are younger, then it will be so much easier for them to completely take over making their lunches when they get a little older. Freedom!
  • Give them two choices, but healthy ones. Kids love to have a little choice. We all do, right? So, ask them if they would like an apple or a banana in their lunch. That’s it. You pick the two choices. They may not like the options, ask for something else, cry, or throw a complete fit. Don’t engage, and be confident in your offerings. Once they realize that it’s not a negotiation, they will choose. This may be a frustrating process at first, but eventually your kids will realize that it’s not negotiable and that it’s important to fuel their bodies correctly. 
  • Let them figure it out! If your kids get bored with what they are eating, you can have them go online to look at pictures of healthy lunch ideas. There are tons out there! If you give them a little ownership of their lunch choices, this will only empower them and increase their cooperation.

Ready to Fill the Lunch Box?

There are TONS of great ideas and inspiration out there these days, so play around until you find the healthy lunches that work best for you and your family.

Here are some great ideas for healthy lunches:

  • Fruit – Oranges, bananas, pears, apples, blueberries, and grapes are always great because they don’t have to be cut. There is also pineapple, watermelon, strawberries and any other fruit that your kids enjoy.
  • Vegetables – Broccoli, peas, carrot & celery sticks, jicama, green beans and any other veggies that they like! I like to cook a batch of frozen broccoli every week to add to our lunches and dinners. I also cut up a bunch of carrot & celery sticks on Sundays so that I have them ready for the entire week. ​
  • Guacamole single serve containers.
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers are our favorite crackers! They have no oils or added junk, just lots of good stuff! We eat these by themselves or dip them into hummus and guacamole.
  • Sandwiches on sprouted or whole grain are great. A peanut butter (or other nut butter) & banana sandwich is always yummy. ​You can even make sandwiches ahead of time and freeze them until the day that they need them.
  • Wraps are great, too! You can get creative and put a lot of tasty & healthy things into them. Some great wrap ingredient are nut butters, hummus, mashed sweet potatos, avocados, tomatoes, shredded carrots, broccoli, spinach, hemp or chia seeds, chopped nuts, beans (whole or mashed), and fresh fruit. There are so many different types of wraps these days, so you should definitely be able to find one that your kids like. 
  • Egg muffins ​- If your kids like eggs, then these are great things to make ahead and have for the week! You can make them plain or add healthy goodies to them like spinach, broccoli, kale, mushrooms, peppers, and fresh herbs.
  • Fruit “bars” can be good, but they can also be loaded with added sugar, so just make sure to check the ingredients to make sure that there isn’t any added sugars or oils. Fruit has enough sugar already! Some of the better brands out there are Larabar, That’s It, and Kind Fruit Bars. 
  • Raw Nuts & Seeds – I have a nut and seed “bar” at home, and my daughter has fun making her own trail mix. You can add goji berries, unsweetened raisins and unsweetened coconut chips, too.
  • Unsweetened applesauce or fruit pouches  Just make sure there isn’t any added junk or preservatives.
  • Leftovers – Don’t forget about using leftovers when making lunch. This can save you lots of time!
  • Healthy Proteins – Hummus, grilled or baked chicken, steak, edamame, black beans and chickpeas are some great options.
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There are so many was to make easy and healthy lunches for your kids. It just takes some experimenting, patience and persistence. Have patience with yourself, your children and the process, as it can take time. The most important thing is to try and expose them to, and feed them, real food that will nourish their bodies and help them to thrive!

What do you like to put in your child’s lunch? What are some shortcuts and best practices that work for you and your family? Please share!

Need ideas on where to shop locally for healthy food? Read our blogs:

Earth Fare Review: Healthy Eating on a Family-Friendly Budget

A Different Approach to Grocery Shopping: Lucky’s Market Sarasota

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2 Responses to How to Pack Healthy Lunches That Your Kids Will Actually Eat

  1. Maggie Hanes February 14, 2018 at 11:36 pm #

    Wonderful article! We’re a celiac gluten-free house. My daughter, who refuses GF bread, dismantles rathern than eats sandwiches. Wraps!! Duh. Thank you for this and all the other great tips!

    • Cari Beard February 15, 2018 at 8:53 am #

      Absolutely!! There are so many awesome gluten free wraps available these days, so hopefully you can find some that she will like. Siete makes two great wraps/tortillas. There is a coconut/cassava one and an almond flour one. You can find them in the freezer section at Whole Foods.😊

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