From kindergarten to senior year, think about how many school lunches your child will consume over the course of their academic career. Some may be purchased in the school cafeteria, and though a call for change is happening, those meals can be unreliable when it comes to nutritional value.

Bringing a lunch from home is a great way to ensure that your kids will eat a well-balanced meal – or so we thought. Unfortunately, presenting children with a healthy option doesn’t mean that they’ll take it.

Parents have a real opportunity to reinforce healthy eating habits when packing lunches for school, but studies have found that most lunches packed by parents contain at least one dessert, one snack item like chips, crackers, or pretzels, and a sugary beverage. Better beverage options would include water, 100% fruit juice, and milk or a milk alternative such as almond or other nut milk. If your child prefers chocolate milk over regular milk, know that while flavored milks do contain added sugar, they also contain vitamins and minerals like calcium and Vitamin D – and are a good source of protein! 

Theresa Jackson RD, CSOWM, CDN

Clinical Nutrition Manager, Kenmore Mercy Hospital

How to Pack a Lunch That Kids Will Actually Eat

Unless the student in your life is a fruit and veggie fanatic, odds are, most children would prefer a salty snack or sweet treat to include in their lunch. More often than not, these snacks have little to no nutritional value, a high fat content, and only provide short bursts of energy. 

Let’s be honest – packing a healthy lunch that your kids will be excited about can be tricky. Here are some tips on crafting the perfect lunchtime meal. 


Think outside the box. 

A lot of young children have a low attention span, and opening their lunchbox to see a square sandwich and a container of pretzels might not be the most exciting thing in the world. 

Instead, get creative when it comes to food presentation. A sandwich can be cut into funky shapes to make it stand out. Take celery, peanut butter, and raisins to make ants on a log. Use a spinach or sun-dried tomato tortilla for a pop of color in a basic wrap. 


Don’t fall into the trap of repetitive lunches. 

A reliable peanut butter and jelly sandwich might save on time, but it also takes the surprise out of lunch time. Knowing that they’ll be eating the same thing for lunch every day is no fun. You can avoid this by planning before your grocery shop, and making sure your shopping list has some variety. 


Find patterns.

Even if you have a particularly picky eater, don’t give in to one specific food. Rather, find out what makes your child’s favorite food so alluring and introduce them to similar meals.

A classic example would be a kid who loves chicken nuggets. Is it that they love the taste of chicken, the texture of breaded foods, or the experience of eating meat in smaller, bite-sized pieces? Find out what they’re drawn to, and expand upon it.


Don’t turn lunch into a taste test. 

Trying to get your child to try new things is good, but the school day isn’t the best time to experiment. You may think your child will like what you pack, but if they don’t, they might end up skipping lunch.

Instead, use dinnertime or the weekend to try out new foods together, and then make your decision about what to pack. 

Ask an Expert

If you and your loved ones struggle to find healthy options that everyone will enjoy, consider contacting a dietician for help. They can help you make choices to meet your health goals and your budget.

Find Nutritional Services Near You
Call (716) 706-2112

Find Nutritional Services Near You
Call (716) 706-2112