Make Packing School Lunches Family Time

Make Packing School Lunches Family Time

Coming up with lunch ideas that your kids will actually eat can be a challenge for many parents. Getting kids involved in the process not only saves you time in the long run, but will also increase the odds that the lunch gets eaten.

Whether in a bag or on a school cafeteria tray, a healthy school lunch will include “5 out of the 5” food groups and is critical to help kids excel through their entire school day. 

Cooking TogetherFor example, a peanut butter (Protein) and jelly sandwich (Grains), an apple (Fruit) and money for chocolate milk (Dairy), is a simple and fairly-well balanced meal from four food groups. This example contains protein, fat and carbohydrate – the nutrients children need to grow and learn. Make it “5 out of 5” by adding some carrot and celery sticks (Vegetables).

Below are some time-saving tips that will help make lunch preparation a way to spend valuable time with children and give them nutrient-rich foods they need to fuel learning. 

Pack lunch together the night before – Instead of trying to pack lunch while getting ready and eating breakfast before school, make packing lunches a special evening activity. Make sure you do it together.  By involving your child in packing the lunch, you will have more of a buy-in when they eat it because they will feel like they helped make their lunch choices.

Strive for Five – Make packing a lunch a game where kids get to choose what they want to put in their lunch. Then review the contents with them to see if they are missing any of the five food groups. Be sure to give your child a couple of options to add to their lunch so the final result includes food from all five food groups.Cooking Together

Get them shopping Ask  your children what types of foods they would like from each of the food groups and add them to your shopping list so those options are available when packing lunch. Suggest different options, like whole-grain tortillas instead of bread for sandwiches, cucumber spears instead of carrot sticks or yogurt instead of pudding. Getting their input when shopping and providing choices will help keep lunches from being “tired” plus, no matter what choice they make, you know they’re going to eat something nutritious.

Solicit their help when making dinner – If your children are out of elementary school, ask them to help plan and prepare dinners once week or more.  It will not only get them thinking about how they should be eating at dinner, but it will also make them think about lunch, since dinner leftovers make great next-day lunches. When kids help plan and prepare family meals, you’re teaching them the life skills they need to prepare and eat healthy once they are actually out on their own!

Hopefully, these tips will help you carve out special family time in the evening not only for family dinner, but also for packing lunches. Our printable Tips for a Healthy Lunchbox also offers ideas for healthy foods to include in kids’ lunches. Need inspiration for younger kids? Check out these kid-friendly and healthy lunch recipes, too.

Debbie Asada is a credentialed health teacher with a degree in dietetics and is completing her master’s degree in education. After teaching high school health, she worked for Dairy Council of California, serving as Director, Program Services, where she developed nutrition education curricula.

She enjoys to spend time with her five children and teaching them the joys of cooking. Foods that she can’t live without are pomegranates, feta cheese and pizza.


Balanced Nurition for Your Child