Looking for some school lunch packing tips? Here are 10 tips and tricks from a Registered Dietitian mama of 3 to help make it a little easier to quickly pack your kids a lunch they’ll love!
Thanks to Horizon Organic for sponsoring this post.
We’ve already been back in school for a couple of weeks here in Ohio, but I know some of you out there are just getting ready to head back so I wanted to pop in today to share a few school lunch packing tips. As you guys know, we have one more year until we start kindergarten over here so I’m not doing daily lunch packing yet, but I did get my fair share of practice this summer running my son around to various camps and activities all day long.
So, I’ve teamed up with my friends over at Horizon Organic and compiled a list of some of my best tips and tricks to help make your lunch-packing life a little easier. Horizon believes “real” is what matters and they’re all about powering up kids with the goodness of protein, vitamins and calcium without artificial colors or flavors. They help make packing protein-packed lunches so easy with their cheese sticks and milk boxes (Psst….both are also great for no-mess car snacks on the way to daycare, soccer practice, etc)
Before we start- a quick reminder about the #HorizonConfiDANCE campaign that’s running until the end of this month. Use the tips below to pack a quick, easy lunch without stressing and then celebrate that little life win with a quick dance. Post it on social media with the hashtag #HorizonConfiDANCE by September 30th and Horizon Organic will donate $5 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (up to $200,000).
The lunchboxes we’re currently using are these Bentgo Boxes (affiliate link) And now here we go! 10 school lunch packing tips:
1) Think beyond sandwiches! Yes, they’re easy to make but kids will get sick of them quickly if you pack one every day. Change things up by occasionally offering things like quesadillas, tacos, deli meat roll-ups, kabobs, snack plate style lunches, or even their favorite breakfast foods like pancakes or waffles.
2) Teach your kids the formula early! When I pack a lunch, I always try to include a carbohydrate, a protein, a fruit, a veggie and a snack/choice item. Bonus points for working a healthy fat into the equation! I always try to pack lunches when my kids are around. When they were younger, they just watched, but now (at ages almost 5 and almost 3) I’m pretty darn proud of their lunch packing abilities. The other day I asked my 2-year-old what she wanted for lunch and she rattled off hard-boiled eggs, blueberries, soft (roasted) carrots, crackers with hummus and skittles. Boom! Ask for their input early and often. Make lists of foods in each category (use pictures for younger kids) so they can easily follow your formula and choose what they want. And let them help assemble the lunches as well!
3) Make a snack food station- As much as I like to think my kids think seeing carrots in their lunch is fun, I know that’s not always the case. So, I always like to include something they’re genuinely excited about seeing – a granola bar, jerky, cookies, crackers, etc. Keep all of these items in a specific spot in the pantry so kids can easily go to that basket or bin and pick what they want. If the snacks come in bigger boxes, portion out a few servings into reusable bags at the beginning of the week. In case you didn’t know, Horizon Organic milk boxes are shelf-stable, so you can stock up your pantry for easy grab and go, too. They’re made with special packaging that locks in the great taste and nutrition of real organic milk, without artificial ingredients or preservatives.
4) Add some fun but don’t stress daily – We’ve all seen the Pinterest-worthy lunchboxes on social media. As much as I want to be that fun mom that cuts vegetables into flowers and sandwiches into fun shapes every day, I recognize that I likely won’t always have the time or energy. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do it occasionally! Buy a couple of cookie cutters and little food picks. If it’s fun for you, use them daily. If it stresses you out, aim to use them once a week on a night when you have a little extra time! Those adorable food picks in the picture are by Nutridashe.
5) If packing lunches is a struggle, plan ahead. Some people (like me) don’t stress about throwing lunch together on the fly. I just do it without really thinking too hard. But if it stresses you out, plan out what you’ll pack in lunches every day just like you might plan out dinners for the week. Sit down with your kids and do it together so you can get their input and ideas.
6) Pack at night- No matter how tired you are, just do it before you go to bed. It’s one less thing to worry about in the morning when things are crazy and you’re rushing out the door. I try to pack mine as I’m cleaning up the kitchen from dinner since things are already a mess anyways! Then all you have to do in the morning is add an ice pack and go.
7) Make a lunch packing area- Choose a drawer, cupboard, bin, cart, etc. to keep all lunch boxes, packing supplies, utensils, reusable bags, and more together. You’ll always have a place to put clean stuff when it comes out of the dishwasher and you’ll always know exactly where to look to grab stuff when you go to pack lunch.
8) Take photos. Even if you don’t share them with anyone, snap a photo of each lunch you pack. Then, when you get stuck in a rut in a few months, let the kids revisit the pictures and tell you what they liked!
9) The less packaging the better. Kids don’t get a ton of time to eat so by pre-peeling what you can and partially opening packages, etc, they can spend more time eating and less time fumbling around and getting frustrated. Sometimes I’ll unwrap Horizon cheese sticks – available in Mozzarella and Colby – and cut them into pieces. They’re an easy snack packed with 7g of protein.
10) Add a note! It’s such a simple thing and it literally takes 10 seconds to write a sweet word, a joke or quote, but your kids will love it and look forward to it (even if they would never admit it to you!)
What are your best lunch-packing tips?