Today is Littleman’s first day back to school. We all know what that means, early mornings, rushing around, trying to get the kid/kids to eat, pack the book bag and yes the dreaded packing of the school lunch! This seems like it should be such an easy task, yet one week in, most of us parents are over it– frustrated by trying to come up with healthy ideas of what to put in our kids lunch boxes. At least I know I am. So, I’ve established a few ground rules for myself that make this process a whole lot easier and hopefully will help you out as well. Here they are below:

Rule 1#. Establish what you want to make for the week to have on hand. By this I mean recipes. There are certain recipes that I can make and have on hand that I know my son loves. Having them pre-made takes one more thing off my plate in the mornings.

Rule #2. Always, Always, Always make a grocery list (click here for my helpful grocery list chart). It’s important for me to have a list so I don’t forget anything. Life is to buys to have to keep running back to the store because I forgot something, and if I’m going to make a few recipes to have ready to go I need to make sure I have all of my ingredients.

Rule #3. Meal prep for Dom (that’s my son) like I meal prep for myself. This sort of goes back to Rule #1. I make a few things on Sunday that I can use throughout the week. Things like my homemade meatballs that he loves, quinoa pasta ( I can make a cup or two and use it a few times throughout the week as lunch or dinner instead of having to boil a single serving every time), hard boiled eggs (easy to pack, but also easy to eat in the car if we are running late). I do my meal prepping on Sundays so I’m ready to start the week off right.

Rule #4. His lunch always has 1 fruit and 1 vegetable- that is a must! I know I’m lucky that my son is not a super picky eater. In fact he actually enjoys his healthy food. This does make my life a bit easier, but if you have a picky eater, find what fruits and veggies your child will eat and always have those on hand. Also try to play a game where you let them come to the store and pick out a new vegetable or fruit that they are willing to try. If they are involved in the process they are more likely to enjoy it. Dominic likes, cucumbers, broccoli, spinach salad, carrots (sometimes) and bell peppers (sometimes). So I will rotate these throughout the week. He loves fruit so that’s pretty easy, I can pack any fruit and he will eat it so I try to change it up each day for variety and to make sure he’s getting a lot of different nutrients. Not all fruits and veggies are created equal.

Rule# 5. He always gets a protein source. This one is a bit more tricky. Dom can be picky about his protein. What he likes one day he doesnt always like the next. I do have a few go to’s like my meatballs that he will almost always eat, but again variety is important. He usually enjoys rotisserie chicken but again that is hit or miss, so I give him a little ranch dressing to dip it in. Yes, I let him have things like ranch dressing… not huge sildenafil healthcarewell amounts but sometimes you gotta give a little to get them to eat the healthy stuff. I’ll also mix the protein in to other foods he likes, like ground turkey in pasta sauce and sometimes I’ll even pack a burger that I grilled the night before with a bit of ketchup to dip it in. Hey, whatever works!

Rule #6. I limit his dairy. He’s always had a bit of a hard time digesting dairy so I don’t give it to him very often. The milk he drinks is a blend of unsweetened almond/coconut milk, and the yogurt he has is either coconut yogurt or Greek yogurt. He LOVES cheese, but I only let him have it a few times a week.

Rule #7. Healthy carbs are a must. Kids need carbs. Thats what their brain functions on, and it gives them energy, but they need the right type of carbs. I like to pack sandwiches on Ezekiel bread (sprouted grain), or make quinoa pasta, or pack a little cup of brown rice. Sometimes I’ll even pack mashed sweet potatoes with a little maple syrup and cinnamon.

Rule #8. Always make him feel like he’s getting a treat. Kids want to have something to look forward to in their lunch. Dom knows that if he brings his lunch box home and the “treat” is gone and the healthy food is still there he won’t get a treat the next day. But the “treats” I pack are always the healthiest versions possible. Like raw mixed nuts with a few dark chocolate covered raisins, or a fruit roll up made from 100% real, organic fruit that has just been dried, I also like to bake healthy options like the chick pea brownies or chocolate chip cookies from my cook book FixAte.

Rule #9. Dominic only gets water in his lunch. Only 15% of kids are getting enough water throughout their day, dehydration can lead to fatigue, dizziness, poor concentration and reduced cognitive abilities, affecting our kids’ ability to learn. Did you know your brain is made up of 80% water! So skip the juice boxes and soda and make sure your child is getting plenty of water.

Its all about feeding our kids with the foods that will fuel their little bodies, food that will help them grow, learn and function at optimum levels. Yes, it takes a little more prep work on my part, but he’s worth it.

A few other tips for lunch packing made easier. Make sure you have the right tools for packing a healthy school lunch. Some things I love to use:

  • 21 Day Fix Color containers: I like them because they are easy to pack in, travel well, are fun for kids because of the color and yes they let me know I’m packing the appropriate portion size.
  • Rubbermaid Lunch Blox
  • Easy Lunch Box System
  • BPA free water bottle
  • Ice Packs
  • Different size baggies for packing snacks

Dominic’s first day of school lunch (pictured below): Being that it’s his first day in 1st grade, at a new school, I wanted to make sure he had foods that I know he loves. I don’t want him skipping out on eating the first day. Today Dominic is getting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Ezekiel bread, watermelon (his favorite), cucumbers with a little drizzle of olive oil and salt, mozzarella cheese stick (not every day, but yes first day he can have it), a mini BoBo bar for snack and a few almonds mixed with dark chocolate covered raisins. Seems like a lot of food, but Littleman can eat. He is a super active kid.

Autumn Calabrese, Healthy Kids, Kid's Corner, Healthy School Lunch Ideas, FIxAte
 
 
Your partner in health,
 
 
Autumn Calabrese

52 Comments

  • Amanda Sprague

    Can I pack Ezekiel bread in my sons lunch without it going bad

  • Kelley

    Autumn,

    I have a very picky 8 year old and always have trouble finding things to send in his lunch box. I want him to eat healthy and have the vitamins and nutrients he needs to grow, but he makes it hard. What are some ideas you might have for the picky ones that will only eat certain fruits and veggies??

  • J MIller

    We are starting Kindergarten this year and lunch prep for my little guy is now something I am dealing with on the weekends. Very great article, but I could use a whole book filled with ideas, recipes, how to keep things cold, how to keep things warm, holiday specials, etc. Hint, hint, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. ;o)

  • Erin

    Just curious what the Easy Lunch Box System is. I have been searching and not sure what it actually is. Thanks. You are amazing I love seeing you everyday in my family room, it’s like you are a part of our family.

  • Erin

    In response to Felicia Robertson’s post on August 18th:

    There is a cookbook that came out maybe 5-10 years ago called “Deceptively Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld (she’s the wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld). She substituted veggies in place of other ingredients (or just added them to her recipes) so her kids wouldn’t know they were eating them. Like you, she struggled to get her kids to eat veggies. Its worth a try….Good Luck! 🙂

  • azimabdul

    I’m shocked by the lack of veggies, but then I live in the sticks where there’s a farmstand every five miles. Growing up I would get to pick two hot lunch days from the school menu every week and bring a lunch from home the other three. Lots of veggies, simple sandwiches, string cheese.

  • Bertha Uribasterra

    Wondering though what you use to pack the hamburger in to keep it warm. Or does your son eat it at room temperature? My son would eat it cold at home but if I try to send in his lunch he won’t eat it and claim it was cold. I have a thermos we use when he get ww pasta Alfredo with rotisserie chicken and veggies but I don’t know that I can fit a burger in there (at least not in one piece!). Thanks!

    • Autumn

      I slice it into four pieces and put it in a plastic container– and I heat it in the morning before I pack it… that way it it’s room temperature by the time lunch rolls around. Try slicing it up and ask if there is an option to heat lunches at school, sometimes they do that for kids?! Good luck

  • Tanya

    Thank you for this! My little one starts pre-k tomorrow and just as I prep for myself as well, I need to prep for her! She’s been working out with me (at least getting moves down) and my little motivator and says, “yeah autumn we can do this” to the TV 🙂 tomorrow marks 21 days and we are feeling great! Thank you for creating a simple eating plan and exercise routine to follow bc as a busy mom of 2 it’s just what I needed!

    • Autumn

      You’re welcome Tanya!

  • Cecilia Marchese

    Thank you for these great ideas! I am committed to not only eating healthier for me but also to get my whole family on board. I have an eight year old son who is constantly hungry!

  • Mary Hurt

    Looks like he did a great job. With his lunch.where did you get the bread from.

  • Clair mantell

    I always pack healthy foods in my sons lunch boxes. But in the u.k we have restrictions on what can be in them. No nuts at all. Peanuts walnuts hazel. None. And no peanut butter. Which my youngest loves. Lunch times are hard. I have tried to buy fixate. But cannot get it here in the u.k

  • Terri H

    This is all so great I struggle with ideas that are heathy for my 3:5 yr old and these are great ideas. I love the healthy treat options. Maybe a Healthy Kid Fixate book is in your future?? 🙂 thanks Autumn!

  • Lisa

    I was in tears after my daughter left the pediatrician today. This will be so helpful! I have lost 20 lbs and now it is time to focus on my daughter!

  • Virginia

    Which of the Ezekiel breads does he like. I love that bread but the one you picked for Dom looks different that then one I usually get. Just curious, one of my kids is super picky but he loves breard!! Thankfully he loves Shakeology (now I can also add green boost!!) and he will also eat eggs but he’s so challenging. Love you ideas!! Thanks for sharing them.
    PS- I love your cookbook, trying the apple muffins tomorrow.

  • Melissa

    Good tips…a few more weeks to go for us before we start school. Planning is key, though.

  • Jesse

    Love your post but please remove apostrophe from “kid’s” in your title!

  • Megan Jones

    I love this go to guide. School lunch are not nutritious enough for the kids and you’re right kids are also not getting enough water.

  • Melissa

    My son is anaphylactic to peanuts and tree nuts, he loves his veggies and wraps and sandwiches. Thankfully we are in Ontario Canada where most in not all our schools are nut safe, which means no PB and no nuts. Could cost a child their life just by a small amount. Practice good hand washing after so not to spread peanut oils. We have sun butter and wow butter as safe alternatives to PB, not sure how healthy, but heck it keeps kids from having anaphylaxis to peanuts.

  • Jill Silverman

    Love this!! Very helpful

  • Keri A

    Autumn, You are seriously the best!! Thank you for sharing this extremely important and relevant information! I love your fitness programs and I have changed how I eat because of your modeling it in the programs and everyday life. I’m considering purchasing 3-5 more sets of containers for my family’s lunches!! It makes so much sense. May God continue to bless you as you model for the world what healthy nutrition and an active lifestyle looks like. Thank you so much!!!

  • Jenny

    I love all of your ideas however many of the main dishes for the lunch seem to be things that need to be reheated… Is that the case or does your child eat them cold??? This is my issue with packing healthy lunches ?

  • Michele Katz

    Autumn, The 21 day fix/Fixate combo is life changing. It resonates through our entire home and makes us all make healthier choices! It’s great to hear our almost 3 year old ask for “trees” (broccoli) as a snack!

  • Pam

    I seriously JUST went combing through pinterest looking for ideas for my kiddos school lunches — and got on facebook and saw your post. GREAT information, as always! Thank you for sharing!!

  • Julie

    Does he eat all of it cold? Like meatballs, quinoa and sweet potato? Or do you heat it and specially pack it to stay warm? This is one of our challenges, keeping food hot or cold from when we leave at 7am until their lunch time around noon!
    Love these ideas!!

  • Lori Rovinsky

    My daughter is starting 1st grade as well. Lunches have always stressed me out. Thanks for the info.

    FYI – I picked up a copy of FIXATE. I’m not a cook, but this has inspired me to try something new. So far, what I’ve made is pretty yummy. Bonus – my 6 year old is loving it too!

  • Tayra

    As a mom of a 5 y.o. boy who’s starting Kindergarten in a week this article was SO helpful!! Autumn, love the ideas and what to keep in mind when packing lunches. Thank you so much for sharing!! 😉

  • Ashley Patterson

    Thank you for sharing, this is great! My kids eat very similarly but it’s always great to get new ideas! Where do you find the mini Bo Bo bars? I’ve only found them larger and it’s so much easier than having to split it up!

  • lauri George

    Where do you buy bobo bars?

  • Bekki

    What do you think about lunchables? We have a no nut/peanut butter at our school because of allergies. So I am drawing a blank on the protein, my girls don’t like meatballs or leftovers in their lunches.

    Thanks,
    Bekki

    • Autumn

      Hey Bekki, I would stick to fresh style deli cut lunch meats. Lunchables are often processed forms of lunch meats that contain high amounts of sodium and even preservatives.

  • Lauren

    This is amazing! Thank you!! My daughter starts kindergarten next week and I’ve been fretting about what to or not to pack for her to have a successful day. These tips will definitely help me out!

  • Carrie

    Thank you so much for sharing this Autumn! I was already questioning what I could pack for my kids lunches, you have some great healthy ideas. Do you have any appealing alternatives for kids that can’t eat nuts? One of my children has a nut allergy as many children do these days. It’s always a challenge to find an appealing substitute. Thanks again!

    • Autumn

      Hey Carrie, sun butter (made from sunflower seeds) is a great substitute for the nut butters used in sandwiches.

  • LeAnn @ Real Fit, Real Food Mom

    Yes! This is exactly how I pack my daughter’s lunches (who also just started first grade)! I like to pack foods I know she’ll love and eat, but try to make sure there is always some fruit, veggies, carbs and protein. I also like to send in a little treat each day…it gives her something to look forward to, especially on the days when she’s upset that I don’t let her buy school lunch more often. Ha! 🙂 (We’ve decided together that she can buy once per month and I feel like that’s a good compromise.) Thanks for sharing!

  • Jen

    Autumn – do you have a healthy jelly recipe? PBJ’s are something I lived on while pregnant and ever since have grown to love. While I can find a good, healthy bread and healthy PB, I have yet to find a good healthy jelly recipe. Help! 🙂 Thanks!

    • Autumn

      Hey Jen, you can substitute the jelly for fresh fruit. Depending on what fruits your kids like, you can either put it in the sandwich in thin slices (strawberries, peaches etc) or smash it in a bowl (blackberries, raspberries etc) and then add to the sandwich.

  • Pam

    Cucumbers with olive oil drizzle and salt? I’ll have to try it. What about balsamic vinegar drizzle?

    • Autumn

      Great idea Pam- I’f your kids enjoy that flavor that would be a perfect addition.

  • Jane

    Awesome tips!! Thank you! Here in Canada, due to peanut allgery in some kids, we are not allowed any nuts in school, not even the fake Peanut butters.

    • Autumn

      Try sun butter Jane, it’s made from sunflower seeds. Most schools peanut free schools in the US allow this!

      • Jane

        I will check it out! Thanks!

  • Jennifer

    Thank you so much Autumn!! I love these ideas and definitley plan on incorporating this in my kids lunches.

  • Katie

    Autumn you read my mind- we posted on this topic last night on our like page as we were preparing our children’s lunches for the day.

    I think it is great that you allow little man to have certain treats-they are kids after all! Thank you for affirming our approach to a healthy lunch! Glad to know we’re on the right track!

  • Brenda

    You are amazing I don’t have little ones any more in the house but….here it is I do this with my hubbies lunch and he don’t even know gotta love it..this program has changed my life thank you

  • Andrea Faucher

    Thanks for the great tips! back to school is next week for us and I have some picky eaters!

  • Cathy Mowat

    Thanks for sharing. My youngest also starts grade 1 September 1st and I am grateful for all of the suggestions for her and her older brother who is starting grade 6. And my fixate cook book just arrived….

  • Felicia Robertson

    I just recently started the 21 day fix and have been making healthier choices for not only me but my family as well! I love this change! My problem is I have a 9 year old son that doesn’t like not 1 vegetable and the only fruit he will eat is Apple slices. It is not for a lack of trying because he has to try every vegetable we cook and I eat all veggies and he literally gags till he gets sick. With all that being said his lunch ends up being a meat and a bag of chips (I know , awful) but I would hate for him to be hungry all day. Do you have any advice of what I can try. He takes vitamins that the pedi said meets his nutritional needs but lunch I have a difficult time at meals with him. Luckily my daughter eats any fruit, vegetable and meat!

    • Michelle

      My son is the same way. He has a sensory process disorder. We have been working with him on this for years. He has slowly added a few foods, but only for limited times. I totally get what you are saying about not wanting him to be hungry at school. Any tip are helpful.

  • Brandy

    I love this, and I love you! Thank you for sharing this with us. It makes me feel that you are looking out for my kiddos just like you take care of me with 21 day fix! You have really made feeding healthy meals to my family so much more simple for this busy working mama of 3! Thank you for what you have done for my family. May God bless you!

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