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Several lunchbox containers with a variety of healthy food and snacks sitting on top of a chalkboard

Dietitians Dish: Packing Lunches for Kids

A new school year is nearly here! Between the chaos of new schedules, bus routes, teachers and homework, you’ll be back to packing lunches, and it can be frustrating to find healthy options that your kids will actually eat. We asked OhioHealth dietitians for some tips for sending your kids off to school with brainpower-packed lunches.

Lunch container with sliced fruit, nuts and crackers

“Get your kids involved if you can. Talk to them about including at least four foods – a protein, whole grain, fruit and vegetable. This will get them to start thinking about how to make a balanced meal and teach them about food groups.” – Susannah Schneider

Bowl of cottage cheese with berries on top

“I pack foods like light string cheese, Greek yogurt, 2 percent cottage cheese, fresh or dried fruits, vegetables, a sandwich on whole grain bread or whole grain crackers. Finger foods work best. Keep it colorful. Focus on variety to avoid boredom and include plenty of fiber and protein to get them through the day. Oh, and they will swap items with other kids, so they might not even end up with what you pack. But you can sure try!” – Patina Warinner

Pieces of pita and slices of cucumber next to a bowl of hummus

“Vegetables (For example, sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes or miniature peppers) with hummus, feta cheese and naan. Peanut butter and jelly using whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter and reduced sugar jam. Burrito bowls made with brown rice, plain Greek yogurt, cheese, pico de gallo and mashed pinto beans. Get away from the mentality that they need to eat kid food. They need smaller portions of healthy adult foods. Aside from Siggi yogurt tubes, we don’t buy specialty foods.” – Jenalee Richner

(Editor’s note: be sure to check your child’s school rules regarding products containing allergens, like peanut butter)

Lunchbox container with a sandwich and snacks decorated to look like animals

“I pack the same thing that I would include for myself. Usually a protein, a vegetable, fruit and sometimes dairy. Think of creative ways to present the food to make it more appetizing for your kids. Cut certain foods into fun shapes or pack it in a fun-looking bento box to keep it interesting.” – Emily Monfiletto

Lunchbox container with a vegetable wrap, cut up raw veggies and nuts

“Pack fruit, vegetables, yogurt, cheese, nuts and nut butters, water and whole grain wraps or crackers. Go for the colorful foods. Search websites like Pinterest for ways to make healthy foods interesting for the child opening the lunch box.” – Ashya Walden

Lunchbox container with a sandwich, fruit and veggies in it

“I think the blog called the Lean Green Bean has excellent ideas for lunches for kids!” – Brittany Smith

Container with sandwich and cut vegetables decorated to look like an animal

“I always think protein, vegetable, fruit and something fun. Think variety and small portions.” –OhioHealth Dietitian


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