What’s in your Lunch Box?


We often associate going back to school with shopping for school supplies, new shoes, and new clothes –

but don’t leave out the refrigerator and pantry planning! The foods and beverages you supply for your

children are just as important as what is in their backpack, because it provides them with the nutrients

they need to boost their brain for learning.

As we discussed in our last blog last blog, breakfast jumps starts your child’s brain (and yours!) for the

day ahead by increasing blood sugar from our overnight fast, helping you concentrate on the work to

come. That being said, lunch is equally essential for quality nutrition. A 2014 study from Baylor

University College of Medicine found that packed lunches were often less nutritious than school

lunches. Many packed lunches in the study were higher in sodium and had less fruits and vegetables,

whole grains, and dairy than school lunches. In addition, 90% of the packed lunches had some form of a

sweetened beverage or snack, items not allowed in the National School Lunch Program.





In order to make your packed lunches healthy and enjoyable for your child, don’t’ focus on what to avoid putting in the lunch, but rather what goes in it. A good rule of thumb for every lunch is to pair a protein source with whole grains. Then add dairy in the form of milk, cheese or yogurt, and a fruit or vegetable.

Lunch box ideas:

• Any nut butter sandwich with fresh fruit and a yogurt.

• Make your own Lunchables: 5 whole grain crackers w/slices of cheese and cut up lunch meat. (store bought lunchables contain high levels of sodium)

• Pasta salad w/chicken and vegetables.

• Hummus wrap filled w/veggies and a glass of milk.

The other aspect of healthy lunches is making it exciting for the kids. The last thing we want is to put in a

lot of time and effort to make the lunch, and then find out it ended up in the garbage can.

Lunch Packing tips:

1. Get your child involved. Encourage your child to help plan the weekly lunch menu, grocery shop

for the foods, and prepare the lunches with you. Let them know what is a must in each meal:

protein, whole grains, dairy, and fruit or vegetable; but ask for their help in meeting those

criteria. In addition, ask them for 3-5 foods they would like to see in their lunch box as well as 3-

5 foods they do not want to see in it. Avoid using foods you know they don’t like in their lunch,

even if they’re nutrition powerhouses, because they may go to waste. Instead, introduce new foods and/or

foods they dislike at dinner, not lunch. That will allow them to see you, their role model, eating

the food; that may let them know it is okay. Exposure to new foods feels much safer at home than it

does at school.

2. Switch it up. Sure, sandwiches are an easy go-to for any lunch, but try to avoid getting in a rut with the same food over and over again; variety is important for a healthy relationship with food. If your child is adamant about sticking with the same turkey and cheese sandwich, add the variety through different side items. This will help expand their food palate and provide different nutrients.

3. Have fun with food. Whether it’s the shape of the food, the container it is packaged in, or the

super cool new lunch box they just had to have, food appearance counts! Use cookie cutters for

fun-shaped sandwiches, make that smiley face with the vegetables and dip, or aim for a rainbow

of colors in the meal.

4. Use a personal touch. Let them know you’re thinking of them while they’re at school with a sweet

note, cartoon, or funny drawing. These personal touches are equally as exciting to see as the

food is when they open their lunch box each day.