The simple solution to make your kid’s lunchbox…FUN! Dietitian-approved, helpful tips for packing kid-approved school lunches.
This post was written in partnership with my friends at KIND Snacks. As always, all opinions are my own!
My son, who is in grade two, has always been a good eater, and easy-going when it comes to his school lunches – whatever I’ve packed, he’s been content with (even if some foods came back uneaten). Lately though, he’s been more selective, complaining about having “boring” school lunches or “the same thing over and over again”. It’s funny how we can get into a rut without even really knowing it…
The school lunch rut… can you relate?
When I thought about it, I realized that we were ALWAYS sending the same thing—leftovers, piece of fruit, some carrots and snap peas, Greek yogurt and a granola bar. Some kids are creatures of habit and don’t mind the same thing every day. Not my kid, apparently. And because I’m so focused on nutrition (this is inherent, considering my profession), I not only sent very similar things every day, but I also forgot to make it…fun.
The simple solution to make your kid’s lunchbox “fun”
Forget Pinterest-worthy lunches though– that’s just not me. The more efficient the better for this momma! And the truth is, he’s quite easy to please – add a bit of variety, slice fruits and veggies in a different way, or even better – throw in some sort of “fun food”, and it transforms his lunch from boring to AWESOME, instantly.
You may be wondering what’s considered a “fun food” according to a dietitian. For me, it’s something “different” or unexpected—something that tastes great and feels like a “treat”. Even better, is if it’s nutritious and snack-worthy—a win-win!
I often get the biggest reaction when I throw in a store-bought packaged food – it’s amazing what a new snack bar or fruit sauce can do! But as most of you know, I’m fairly picky with packaged foods (especially foods that I send in my son’s lunch), so when I come across a good one that’s actually nutritious and school safe, I stock up.
What to look for with store-bought options:
It’s challenging to find store-bought snack foods that I feel good about feeding my kids. It’s always a red flag to me when I see a long ingredients list, especially when sugar is listed multiple times. If you’re wondering what I look for when it comes to snack foods, check out this post: 3 Things You Need to Know Before Choosing a Snack for Your Kids.
That’s why I love KIND’s new Pressed bars – they contain only fruits and veggies OR fruit and chia seeds, and each bar contains two servings of fruit! With only five whole food ingredients and NO added sugar, they’re the ideal addition to my son’s lunchbox. They’re also safe to send to school (what parent doesn’t do a fist pump when they find a nut-free, nutritious snack?!). I love the ones with chia seeds – they contain Omega-3 (which is important for brain and eye development) and add some extra fibre, which helps to keep tummies fuller longer and extend energy levels.
And the best part? They’re FUN. They taste great (even my very selective four-year-old loves them), and they come in a bright, colourful package, which seems to make everything more exciting.
Some other nutritious “fun foods” that my kids love are:
- Homemade muffins (we usually make them together and often throw in some chocolate chips!)
- Homemade banana or pumpkin loaf
- Chocolate milk (I make my own with just a little bit of chocolate syrup)
- Homemade granola bars (again, with chocolate chips)
- Whole grain pretzels or crackers
- Chia pudding
- Yogurt drinks or tubes (I look for the lowest
- Organic fruit and veggie pouches or sauces
- Homemade cookies
Along with making sure that my son’s lunch contains a “fun food”, I also make sure that it’s balanced with nutrients. The easiest way to do this is my “rule of four”.
My Lunchbox “Rule of Four”
1) Fruit (pack at least one)
- Piece of fresh fruit (pear, apple, banana, plum etc.)
- Fresh berries
- Fresh, frozen, or unsweetened canned fruit
- Unsweetened fruit and veggie purees
- Unsweetened dried fruit
- KIND’s Pressed Bar (each bar contains two servings of fruit) * can dub as a “fun food”
2) Vegetable (pack at least one)
- Leafy greens (ie. leftover salad)
- Raw veggies cut up
- Leftover cooked vegetables (peas, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower etc.)
- Homemade low-salt salsa or bruschetta
- Low salt vegetable soup
- Low salt vegetable juice
3) Protein-rich foods (pack two)
- Leftover meat, poultry, fish
- Yogurt or Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Seeds or seed butter
4) Whole grain or starchy vegetable (include at least one)
- Whole grain bread, tortilla or pita
- Homemade muffin or loaf made with whole grain flour or oats
- Whole grain pancake, waffle or French toast
- Leftover brown rice, quinoa, barley
- Potatoes/sweet potatoes/yams
If you’re like me, you need lunch packing to be easy and efficient (which the Lunchbox Rule of Four can help with), and if your kid is like my kid, it needs to be appealing and easy to eat. Adding a “fun food” to the mix can make all the difference, but still keep lunch balanced and nutritious!
Have you tried this? What kinds of fun foods do your kids love?