How To Get Your Kid to Pack Healthy Lunches By Themselves

Want to know a great way to give yourself five or 10 extra minutes every single morning?

Teach your kids to pack their own lunches. No, really – do it. Not only does this buy you extra time, but it’s a great opportunity to start teaching the kiddos very valuable lessons.

Nutrition and portion control are the foundation of healthy eating, but learning to put that knowledge into practice is a whole other assignment. School might be out for the summer, but you’ll appreciate their ability to make healthy lunches independently come fall.

Step 1: Know the Formula

Before your kids start, they should be able to identify the various parts of the healthy lunch formula.

A typical lunch has: Protein + grain + 1 fruit + 1 vegetable + drink + any snack items + an optional treat (on occasion).

Make sure your kids know that fruits and veggies are non-negotiable in a healthy lunch and that sweet treats with peanut butter don’t count as protein. Sticking to this formula (or a variation that works best for your family) will help your child know what to pack, ensuring lunch is just as well-rounded as when mom was packing it.

Step 2: Set Them Up for Success

Establishing a work flow will make all the difference for your child’s success in their pursuit of creating healthy lunches.

Create a build-your-lunch station in an easily accessible cabinet to keep the individual snack packages that kids can quickly grab, prep fruits and vegetables beforehand and identify all the containers/water bottles that kids need to pack their healthy lunch.

Simply knowing that everything is in place and good to go is really half the battle!

Step 3: Put the Formula into Action with These Healthy Lunch Combos

When given the chance, most kids love to put their lunch together! Here are a few simple, kid-friendly items that your kid make on their own:

Sandwiches: Sandwiches are a good foundation for a healthy lunch and easy to individualize.

They could choose from whole-grain bread, bagels, or tortillas (for roll-ups or wraps).

Then stress that your child starts with a protein — I recommend Land O’Frost Premium Hickory Smoked Turkey Breast, Sliced Ham or Roast Beef.

After that, you can add your 1 or 2 slices of cheese and at least 1 vegetable (lettuce, tomato, whatever your kid will eat on there).

If you’re going to let the kids make their own sandwich, prepping becomes critical. We’re shooting for autonomy here but let’s not ask our kids to start playing with kitchen knives!

Vegetable and fruit servings: Aim for as many as these as possible by keeping their favorites stocked and prepped beforehand.

Some kid-favorite veggies include snap peas, carrots, cucumbers and peppers. Keeping small containers filled with hummus or their favorite dip is a smart way to encourage them to actually eat the veggies!

If your kiddo is young, pick an easy fruit that he or she can quickly pack in their lunch and easily eat later, without any prep work — like mandarins, apples or bananas.

You could also have a bowl of washed berries and grapes ready for their picking.

Snack items: Keep a collection of healthy snacks available and your kid can never go wrong!

Some snack ideas include frozen yogurt sticks, dried fruit and/or nuts, fruit leather, crackers, granola bar, cheese sticks and protein-packed Deli Snackers.

Drink: Bottled water has no calories, and maybe more importantly, no sugar.

If you can get your kid excited about that, you’re doing something right and you should spread the word. But if bottled water is not an option, juice is fine, just check those nutrition labels!

Even sports drinks marketed as healthy options are loaded with sugar. And if you keep your fridge stocked with sodas and sugar-loaded drinks, your kid’s going to pack them.

The American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend ONLY up to 35.7 grams of sugar. Just one can of soda at lunch will easily surpass that daily allowance!

Optional treat: Not necessary, but fun on occasion!

Allow your child some choice – after all, that’s what makes them feel autonomous. At the grocery store, let them know that if they buy the sugary juices or soda, then there won’t be treats to pack. But if they forego those for water, maybe you’ll buy those sweet treats. Either way, it’s their choice, again emphasizing their autonomy.

With just a little practice and patience, it won’t be long until the kiddos are packing their own lunches, granting you those much-needed minutes on busy mornings!

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