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How to Build a Healthy School Lunch

Well, here we are. Back in the swing of school year. I’m really not surehow this happened. How did this summer go by so quickly?! I feel like I say that every year though, so I don’t know why it always comes as such a surprise.

Last Wednesday night, we laid out first-day-of-schoolclothes (which my 6th grader thought was ridiculous), packed backpacks, and pulled out the kids’ lunchboxes. Yes, lunchbox packing season is upon us…again. I got those lunchboxes out, cleaned out the paper clips and pinecones, and cleaned the brown schmear of who-knows-what off of the front. They are ready to go!

Lunch is such an important part of our kiddos’ day. Mid-day when they are getting tired of sitting, their brains are full of facts and they’re realizing they are tired because it wasn’t such a good idea to sneak a flashlight into their bed so they could read Harry Potter way past their bedtime (anyone else’s kids?), lunch can change the game.

When I pack a lunch, I make sure it’s well-rounded with all the macronutrients. If I just load them full of carbohydrates, they’ll be tired and grumpy 30 minutes later. If I just give them protein and fat, they’ll be missing out on some crucial real-food micronutrients, and they may not have enough energy to get through the afternoon. So we include fat, protein, and carbohydrate in every lunch.

So if you’re in a sandwich rut, check out this list. This is also a fun thing to do with your kids. It can give them practice packing their own lunches or at least make them feel like they have some choice in the matter. At the same time, you know they’re getting what they need to get through the rest of the day.

Here are our favorite ways to pack a lunch:

Pick a Protein/fat – About the size of your palm

Pick a Fruit – About the size of your fist

  • Sliced Apple
  • Whole Nectarine
  • Whole Plum
  • Grapes
  • Blueberries/Strawberries/Blackberries/Raspberries
  • Watermelon (in its own container)
  • Baby Mandarin (Cuties)
  • Orange (peeled and sectioned, or sliced)
  • Pineapple Spears
  • Apricot
  • Sliced Mango
  • Sliced Peach
  • Applesauce (cup or squeeze pouch)
  • Mixed Fruit/Veggie Squeeze Pouch (we buy baby food)

Pick a Veggie – About the size of 1-2 fists

  • Sliced Cucumber
  • Baby Carrots
  • Sliced Peppers or Baby Peppers
  • Celery with Ranch Dressing
  • Celery with Peanut Butter and Raisins (Ants on a Log!!)
  • Sugar Peas
  • Small Salad (in its own container)
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Broccoli with Ranch Dressing
  • Cauliflower with Hummus
  • Sliced Zucchini with Ranch Dressing or Hummus
  • Sliced Jicama
  • Slaw Salad

Pick an Extra – This is the part my kids get excited for.

Pick a Treat: This is optional, but I always include a very small treat.

Pick one from each list and you’ve got a healthy lunch! Having a “menu” of sorts may also cut down on fights in the house as well. Not that we ever fight over food in our house… Not that we fought this weekend because my kids both felt sick Sunday because they’d sneaked 2 bowls of ice cream at the church party Saturday night and several pieces of candy. No. We’re way too classy to have that happen in our family…

If you still need more ideas, check out this post on 2 weeks of school lunch ideas. (Click Here to Read Post)

Enjoy the school year!!

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