What To Pack In Your Child’s Lunchbox?

Guest post written by Deana Gunn & Wona Miniati

What to pack in your child’s lunchbox?  This question plagues all parents, but assembling nutritious lunches is easier than you might think.  To make this daily routine stress-free, we offer the following pointers:
1.    Pack the night before. This is the single best way to reduce the morning chaos of trying to get everyone out the door in time.  Leave only last-minute necessary prep for the morning, such as warming up food for the thermos, if serving a warm lunch.
2.    Keep things simple. Young kids tend to like simple foods, and it’s also less messy to stick to foods without a lot of fancy sauces or layers.
3.    Try foods multiple times. Kids’ tastes change, so before you give up on a food that you’d like for your child to eat, try offering it several times, perhaps in different forms.  For example, if she doesn’t like carrot sticks, try carrot coins.  Or perhaps he doesn’t like steamed broccoli, but crunchy raw broccoli suits him better.  The best way to get kids to eat well is to model it at home, so incorporate healthy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains into family dinners.
4.    Take advantage of LEFTOVERS: Although kids may have loved dinner the night before, many kids don’t want to see the same meal again for lunch.  Take advantage of convenient leftovers, but put a new twist on them!  Enjoy a roast chicken and roasted veggies for dinner and use the leftover pieces of chicken and veggies in a wrap the next day, adding a sprinkle of cheese or microgreens.  Cut up the chicken and veggies and toss with pasta and some Parmesan, olive oil, or salad dressing and create a whole new dish.  Soup in a thermos is usually a hit the next day.  Add a new element like croutons to sprinkle on top or a cheese quesadilla to dip into a Black Bean Soup.  Pancakes or waffles leftover from breakfast?  Spread them with Almond Butter and all-natural Fruit Jam for a fun variation on a boring sandwich.
5.     Don’ts: Don’t pack things that melt or otherwise have the potential make a big mess.  Don’t pack items without first checking that your child can open them – this includes harder-to-open items such as yogurt tubes, bottled smoothies, or containers of applesauce.  Don’t pack junk food, candy, and sugar-laden desserts which don’t provide nutrition but do provide a sugar-buzz that will make it hard for your youngster to focus afterward.

For a balanced lunch, try to include the following 4 elements in your child’s lunchbox: protein, carbohydrate, vegetable, and fruit.  Sample menus are shown below.  Most of the menus can be served cold, but when it’s cold or rainy out, a warm lunch is comforting.  A couple of warm lunches are suggested below, and many more can be found in our cookbooks, Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s (2008) and The Trader Joe’s Companion: A Portable Cookbook (2009).  Heat up warm lunches the morning of, and store them in Thermos containers, which keep foods warm for 5 hours.  On the flip side, make sure to use portable ice packs with items that should be kept cold.

Turkey & cheese slices Whole grain tortilla Baby carrots Grapes
Hummus / falafel Pita bread triangles Cherry tomatoes or cucumber slices Peaches
Edamame beans or tofu Noodles Cauliflower florets Pineapple chunks
Boiled egg Whole grain crackers Avocado Berries
Black beans & shredded cheese Brown rice Steamed broccoli Apples
Turkey chili Cornbread Sugar snap peas Mango

Snacks and add-ons to lunches are also easy at Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s has the traditional snack standbys such as baby carrots and string cheese but they offer a broader selection of convenience snacks, perfect for stuffing into lunches or backpacks. On top of being fun, affordable, and delicious, Trader Joe’s products are also healthy, without the artificial fillers that many national brands use.

*Even if you do not have Trader Joe’s, these great tips can still be used and implemented in your child’s day.

About the Authors: Being moms themselves,  Deana Gunn & Wona Miniati have faced the challenge of creating healthy lunches for their kids and come up with some great ideas over the years.  They are the co-authors of the 3 independent Trader Joe’s Cookbooks (Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s, $29.95 hardcover, the new Trader Joe’s Companion, $13.95 flexibind, and the upcoming The Cooking with Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Dinner’s Done! to be released this October).

Everyone loves Trader Joe’s for their gourmet bargains, unbeatable wine selection, and unique products from around the world, especially parents looking for healthy and affordable fare for their families.  Our recipes feature Trader Joe’s ingredients, such as sauces and other prepped items, in healthy and delicious meals that can be made in minutes.  The books are available nationally at all Barnes & Noble, Borders, local bookstores, or via our website www.cookingwithtraderjoes.com.

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4 Responses to “What To Pack In Your Child’s Lunchbox?”

  1. 1

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  3. 3
    Cucee Sprouts says:

    I like your list! Especially the breakdown of carbs, proteins and produce. I’ve been working on a list of my own and would be happy to share it with you http://cuceesprouts.com/2010/08/healthy-back-to-school-snacks-and-lunches/

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