Smart Tips for Packing an A+ School Lunch

School routines are back in full swing, and for many parents, that means making lunches. While some of my parent clients love the challenge of packing school lunches, many dread it. If the thought of packing your kid’s lunchbox makes you want to crawl back into bed, try these tips to transform this from a chore to an easy checkmark on your list.

Plan with MyPlate


Make lunches less overwhelming by focusing on the five groups featured in MyPlate: vegetables, fruit, protein, whole grains, and dairy.

  • Pair carrots or sliced cucumbers with Creamy Avocado Hummus to give your child a serving of vegetables and protein. You can do the same with their favorite fruit and a yogurt dip.
  • Make sandwiches with whole grain bread or pack cheese and whole grain crackers.
  • Encourage your child to buy milk at school to get immunity-boosting nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, and protein to keep them healthy and focused in the classroom.

Prep the night before


We’ve all seen the Instagram pics of parents who have a whole lunch assembly line going. But lunch prep doesn’t have to be that elaborate! It can be as simple as slicing fruits and vegetables and placing them with string cheese, in the fridge the night before. Or freezing squeezable yogurt that can double as an icepack.

Lean on leftovers


Many adults eat leftovers for lunch, but kids can, too. Focus on leftover foods you can pair with easy-prep items. Combine last night’s pasta with chopped veggies and cheese for a cold salad. Or make a pita pizza using leftover veggies, tomato sauce, and cheese.

Try bento boxes


If you find yourself stuck in a sandwich rut, use a bento box and pack a healthy snack lunch instead. Try turkey slices wrapped around string cheese, plus sliced bell pepper with Roasted Garlic and White Bean Dip, and a handful of grapes. For a sweeter option, pack yogurt and whole-grain granola, baby carrots, and a cup of berries. Or these Ham & Swiss Quiche Muffins can be made ahead and included in a bento box with a mini cucumber, orange, and a carton of milk. Bento boxes are fun for kids of all ages, but I find these work especially well for younger kids or kids who have a more leisurely lunch break.
Don’t let lunches stress you out this school year. Try these tips and let MyPlate be your guide for giving your kids the nutrition they need.

Rima Kleiner, MS, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian-nutritionist and owner of Smart Mouth Nutrition. Passionate about great food and optimal health, Rima helps connect the two for individuals, families, companies, and the media.

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