Simplify Your Week: Planning Ahead for Nutritious Lunchbox Choices

Image of a mom at a kitchen counter preparing food for a child's lunchbox.

Guest Post by Bright Horizons Family Solutions

Packing a nutritious lunchbox for your kids isn’t always easy especially when dealing with a picky eater. The childcare experts from Bright Horizons are here with a few insider tips to help you build a nutritious lunch box that will come home empty…..and not because your child traded for “more desirable” treats.

Encourage Healthier Choices

Try to make gradual changes that will result in a healthier lunch. You can pack the usual sandwich but include vegetables and dip as the side, or include half of the usual sandwich and add a small portion of something new, like a side salad. Also, in an effort to make half the grains whole, use white bread on one side and whole wheat on the other. Another great way to guide children toward healthier choices is by making them part of the shopping and meal selection experience. When you give your kids a couple of healthy lunchbox options to choose from while grocery shopping, they are that much more likely to actually eat what you pack.

Get Organized

Learning what goes into a healthier lunchbox is helpful, but actually getting the food packed and out the door can be the real challenge when we are tight on time. Shop for the week and, if possible, invest some time in cutting all fruits and vegetables for the week.

Pro Tip: Avoid precutting apples, pears, and bananas, which can turn brown easily. Although the fruit is still good to eat, brown food may not be appealing to children.

Making lunch the night puts you ahead of the game when the morning rush hits. Try preparing your child’s lunch after dinner, before you have cleaned up the kitchen. Put the whole lunchbox in the refrigerator. In the morning, grab it and go. School-age children can make their own lunches, but remember to do a quick lunch check just to make sure their brown bag is actually full of good, nutritious food.

Connect With Your Kids

Unlike in childcare, school-age children don’t always have a chance (or the inclination) to wash their hands before lunch, so throw in a hand-wipe. All children, except infants, usually need a napkin, and young children enjoy colorful party napkins. Leftover birthday or holiday napkins can be a lunchbox treat.

Connect with your child by adding a lunchbox note for your little one or a picture for your pre-reader. Pre-readers enjoy a letter, shape or color of the day drawn on an index card. You can also cut out magazine pictures or drop in a photo your child can put his fingerprints all over.

For readers, print monthly messages on your computer, cut into small notes and add a handwritten, “Love, Mom or Dad.” Lunchbox notes can include words of encouragement such as, “I know you’ll do great on your spelling test,” or reminders like, “Pick you up for karate after school,” or simple notes such as, “You’re very special.”