How to Pack Healthy-ish Foods That Your Kid Won’t Trade at Lunch

We spend so much time worrying about what to pack our kiddos for lunch, if it’s nutritional enough or if they’ll even remember to bring it to school. We spend all this energy to ensure our kids eat right, only for them to trade their items away for something else. But below are a few simple ideas to ensure your kid WANTS to eat what you packed instead of using it as a bargaining chip:

Create a Packed-Lunch Menu They’ll Enjoy

Enlist their help in creating a list of lunch box ideas they like then put that list on the fridge. Keep those food staples in stock and update the list every month, since kids are fickle when it comes to food and they might suffer from flavor fatigue! You can both agree on five to 10 ideas that are balanced, tasty and you know they’ll eat. Getting your kids to write it down and commit to their lunches gets them invested in their food. While they’re at it, maybe come up with a few new dinner ideas, too.

Shapes Matter

There’s practically nothing more simple than a good ole’ PB&J. With many schools going peanut or nut free, know your stand-in’s substitutions like sun butter. Try making your kids PB&J or SB&J into their favorite “thing” of the moment using food cutouts or cookie cutters. Perhaps a dinosaur, a dog, a duck, or stars and flowers? The sky is the limit!

In fact, you can use this cutout idea for any type of sandwich. You can even use it with vegetables that have a large surface area, like bell peppers or fruit like watermelon, and then pack them some yummy hummus for dip. Who doesn’t love lunch box surprises? Once in a while, my mom used to pack me baked potato chips for me to insert into my PB&J. Banana slices work great too. Yummy! Let them experiment too with weird food combinations!

Rock-n-Roll Ups

Make it a wrap! It’s always fun to see food rolled in a beautiful swirl of colors. Try using a whole-wheat tortilla or flatbread as your base and add the following:

  • Egg salad, shredded carrots and low-fat cheese or even muffin pan quiche
  • Thinly sliced avocado, a few turkey slices, low-fat cheddar cheese and some hummus spread
  • All-natural peanut butter with no sugar, jelly, sliced bananas and a sprinkle of cinnamon

Check out these other lunch box favorites for more inspiration.

Cut the rollup into pinwheels and pack it face up, so your kids are excited by the colors when they open their lunchbox!

I’ve Got Chills

Getting your kids to eat all their peas and corn at dinner can feel like scaling Mt. Everest. But, if you’ve never tried packing them FROZEN peas and corn in their lunch box, give it a whirl! Kiddos love this healthy, colorful treat! Just make sure you keep them next to the freezer pack in their lunchbox, so they stay frozen.

Healthy-ish Sweet Treats

Pack your kid something too tasty to wind up on the bargaining table. Try a fruit dip made with cocoa powder, honey and Greek yogurt. Mix a tablespoon of cocoa powder with a teaspoon of honey into three ounces of vanilla Greek yogurt. Then dip with apple slices! It’s delectable.

If your kids aren’t yogurt fans – no worries. Try a raspberry chocolate pudding. They’ll get the power of antioxidants, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing they’re choosing the healthiest-ish sweet treat option.

Pull out the apron and bake some homemade granola (a low sugar alternative to store-bought brands). Use oats, and chopped nuts (if permitted in school), seeds, raisins, and dried unsweetened coconut. For the “glue,” heat applesauce, pumpkin puree, or mashed bananas with vanilla extract, a small drizzle (one or two tablespoons for the whole batch) of honey or maple syrup, and a splash of water. When the wet ingredients are warm and runny, pour over the dry mixture, mixing to combine. Spread evenly on a baking tray, and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway. This is a crunchy treat your kids can enjoy by itself or as a yogurt topper.

Every heard of “oat balls?” These no-bake treats are made with oats, peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter), coconut flakes, raisins (optional), a drizzle of honey and dark chocolate chips. Mix all ingredients, then form into bite-sized balls, and cool in the fridge. Pack one to three balls, depending on age, for a sweet treat to round out their nutritious lunch.

By kid-proofing your packed lunches, you’ll ensure their lunch makes it into their mouth and not in the trash or to their lunch neighbor. The more you can get your child involved in the lunch-making process, the more ownership they’ll have over lunch, and the less likely they’ll be to trade it away

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