Back to School and Healthy Lunches

My kids start school next week (boo hoo & woo hoo), and I’m already thinking about what to pack in their lunchboxes. I start out loving back to school and packing lunches, but usually it pretty quickly becomes a chore. One way I keep it fun is to let the kids help pack their own lunches. That way I’m sure that they like what is packed, and they will actually eat it!

To keep it simple we have 4 things we pack in lunches.

  • Main (aka protein).  Either leftovers, tuna salad (only for Emma), sandwiches, salads, etc. I like to keep this simple, since the kids are kinda picky about what they like. For fun you can make shaped sandwiches, or pack their food in a bento box. If your kids are going through a no sandwich phase add string cheese, cheese and crackers or yogurt for protein.
  • Fruit.  My kids adore fruit. Fresh fruit works ok, but they love things like applesauce squeezers, clementines, sliced apples (with lemon) or berries.
  • Veggies. One veggie at least. Usually carrots, celery, peppers, salad, or other raw veggies. Sometimes accompanied by dip, hummus or dressing.
  • Treat. Not  necessarily  a sugary treat, but something that’s ‘filler’. This could be pretzels, Pirate Booty (you have to say ARGH when you eat it though), and the occasional cookie or treat.
For drinks they all get water in reusable bottles like these from Crocodile Creek. Juice is too sugary, and milk isn’t something they need at every meal. Occasionally we’ll have juice boxes if we have them from some outing or event.

5 Guidelines for a Healthy Lunchbox

     1. Make it fun. If you’re creative make it fun with shaped foods, all one color of food, or a note in their lunchbox.

     2. Keep it simple. If you pack too many options they won’t eat as much.

     3. Keep it Earth-friendly.  Reusable lunchboxes, containers, etc. to encourage less waste. Instead of throwing out their extra             food they will be more apt to keep it, and you can reuse it for after school snacks. Pro tip: this also allows you to see what they             ate for lunch. 😉
     4. Buy whole foods. Skip the processed junk, chocolate milk, and junk food. Your child’s teacher will thank you.
     5. Pack it the night before. This is one I totally need to work on, but packing the night before you’ll make sure you aren’t out of           anything and you can make a quick run to the store before the next morning. This will also prevent that crazy morning rush.
What are your tips for packing a healthy lunch?  

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by  Splash Creative Media  as part of the Fill the Backpack Campaign.

About Kelly

Kelly Whalen is the founder and editor of the Centsible Life blog. She started the blog 6 years ago as her family faced a mountain of debt. The blog became a resource to readers and a hub for everything you need in life for less. Kelly lives in the Philadelphia area with her superhero husband, 4 awesome kids, and one adorable dog. She still believes you can have it all....just not all at once.


  1. says

    Great post!  I like to use leftovers for lunch the next day, too.  It saves so much time and ensures that everyone is eating healthy.  

  2. says

    I made ham flowers with whole wheat Ritz, a cheese stick and oranges. Wish my little one would eat more raw veggies for lunch (she’ll eat raw spinach and broccoli for us at home). Thanks for a great list and ideas for lunches.

  3. Jen@Mamazen says

    I highly recommend making enough dinner the night before to pack for lunch the next day.   I do it for my husband and myself and for the kids if it is something that they really like (they are still little and not in full day school yet).   It makes a healthy, balanced meal so much easier.


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