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Back to School Lunch Packing Pointers

A healthy lunch that your child will actually eat – many parents struggle to find those nutritious and delicious items to pack in their kids’ lunch. Here are some common problems that parents face and some helpful ideas.

Crunched for Time

  • Prep lunches the night before while making dinner or right after dinner while doing the dishes.
  • Involve your child in the lunch process. Allow them to help you plan out the lunch menu for the week (this will help ensure you are making something they will try!), and have them help you prepare the lunches (as appropriate for age/skill level).
  • Utilize your leftovers! Make extra chicken breasts or veggies to add in to their lunch recipes.

Tips for Picky Eaters

  • Involve your child in the lunch process. Allow them to help you plan out the lunch menu for the week (this will help ensure you are making something they will try!), and have them help you prepare the lunches (as appropriate for age/skill level).
  • Children may need to be exposed to a food 5-20+ times before they will try it.
  • Have patience, be persistent, but don’t pressure or threaten your child with eating.
  • Be a good role model! By watching you eat and enjoy certain foods, your children are more likely to do the same.
  • Respect your child’s appetite. When we are young, our bodies are very good at knowing when we are full! Help your child to keep this skill by not forcing them to eat meals/snacks or to “clean their plate”.
  • Serve meals and snacks at the same time every day to help your child develop a routine.
  • Make it fun! Serve veggies and fruits in fun shapes and with healthy dips. Make one meal where everything is “mini” sized (think cheese cubes, baked sweet potato cubes, etc.)
  • Finely chopped veggies, such as broccoli and spinach, can be added easily to sauces, soups, omelettes, and casseroles. Top yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal with sliced fruit. Add shredded zucchini and carrots into whole grain muffins to add fiber and vitamins.
  • At home meals, the kids eat what the parents eat! Don’t get in the habit of making special meals for your children. This can encourage picky eating. If they don’t like what is on the menu and refuse to eat, have them sit at the table anyway. They can still participate in family meal time and may decide to try a few bites!
  • If you think your child’s growth or health is being affected by their picky eating, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician and a registered dietitian for more information.

Boredom Busters

A Variety of Soups

Use a crockpot to make a large batch and have for dinner too. Soup freezes very well in freezer-safe bags. Portion out appropriate sizes and freeze for easy lunch options during busy weeks.

Veggie Quesadillas

Use bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, onions with reduced-fat cheese on a whole grain tortilla with salsa. Add black beans for a protein punch! Cook the night before and seal the edges.

Breaded, Baked Chicken

Breaded and baked chicken chunks make for great modified chicken nuggets. You can do this for dinner the night before and use the leftovers. Serve with fun sauces.

Honey PB Banana Wrap

Spread peanut butter on a whole grain tortilla. Top with thinly sliced bananas and a drizzle of honey. Roll up, and enjoy!

Dippers Day!

Ideas include:

  • Veggies with hummus
  • Fruit with peanut butter or yogurt
  • Cheese sticks and crackers
  • Baked tortilla chips and salsa
  • Breaded and baked chicken chunks with sauce


Ideas include:

  • Fruit with yogurt as a dipping sauce
  • Tortellini/cheery tomatoes with pesto or marinara
  • Veggies with hummus as a dipping sauce

Cubed/”Mini” Meal

This is fun for little fingers to pick up and eat!

  • Cubed Fruit
  • Cubed Cheese
  • Cubed Cooked Sweet Potatoes
  • Cubed Chicken Breast

Snack Ideas

  • Pretzels
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Fresh fruit (squeeze lemon juice on cut fruit to prevent browning)
  • Frozen yogurt pops
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Fresh veggies

Jazz Things Up!

Use cookie cutters to shape sandwiches, fruit, lunch meat, etc.

Put a note, joke, or funny drawing in with their lunch (can write on a napkin).

If your child doesn’t already have a lunch box/thermos, allow them to pick one out and use it for all of their lunches.

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