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Five Tips for Brown Bagging a Lunch Your Kids Will Actually Eat (Psst….It’s healthy too)

Fruit KabobsThe first time I ate lunch with my daughter in the school cafeteria, I was shocked at how much food I saw kids throw away or trade. Kids treat the food in their lunchbox like Shopkins, trading their treats to the highest bidder. One little boy traded in his sandwich for another bag of chips and had two bags of chips and fruit snacks for his lunch. One little girl completely ignored the carrot sticks that her mom packed and instead only ate her cupcake. Their parents had no idea that their diligent effort in packing a healthy lunch had gone to waste and their kids managed to take a healthy lunch and make it junk. Want to see your lovingly prepared healthy lunch in your kids body instead of the trash? Check out these top five tips for packing a healthy lunch that your kids will actually eat.

1 – Divide & Conquer

A smashed peanut butter and jelly and strawberries that have begun to liquefy are not appetizing. But this is exactly what happens when we put our kids’ food in plastic sandwich bags. I realized why my daughter never ate her strawberries at school, even though she loves them at home, when I visited her during lunch one day. The icepack had rolled onto her bag of strawberries, so that the beautiful berries I packed that morning were now deformed and liquefied in the bag. I wouldn’t eat them, so how could I expect her to?

I found the perfect solution in the Ziploc® Brand divided rectangle storage containers. These little containers are separated into three sections, which are perfect for packing a balanced lunch. The Smart Snap Seal ensures that the food not only stays separate, but also ensures that foods will not leak into other compartments.

You can also use Bento Boxes, which are separate plastic containers that all fit into a laptop lunch box. These are a bit more of an investment, at $29.99 per set, but you will get your money back in savings on plastic baggies and individually packaged yogurt, applesauce and dips.

2 – Appearances Are Everything

We try to teach that looks don’t matter, but when it comes to food, appearances are everything. Would your daughter eat a hardboiled egg for lunch? What if that egg looked like a bunny or a car? Well, you can do just that with these Japanese Egg Molds available on At just $2.75 each, they are an inexpensive way to ensure that your child gets important nutrients and protein at lunch.

You don’t need a special mold to make food fun though, the possibilities are endless. Use your creativity to make everyday food fun. Try out this idea for transforming a boring cheese stick into a pencil:

You don’t need a special mold to make food fun though, the possibilities are endless. Use your creativity to make everyday food fun. Try out this idea for transforming a boring cheese stick into a pencil:

Back to School Cheese Stick Pencil


  • 2% cheese stick
  • Bugels
  • Mustard
  • ½-inch slice of ham
  • Raisin


  • Cut a circle, the size of the cheese stick, out of the ham
  • Put a dab of mustard at both ends of the cheese stick. Place the ham circle on top to make it appear like an eraser.
  • Snap the bugle in half and place the cone shaped bugle at the other end of the cheese stick. Cut the raisin in half and form it around the bottom of the bugle tip.

3 – Give them a trick for their treat

chocolatebutterflyI like to include a sweet treat in each of my son’s lunches, but it is inevitable that he will eat the treat first and not leave room for the healthy main course. What I’ve done to ensure he gets the nutrients he needs while not depriving him of a treat is to make his treat both healthy and indulgent. It’s easier than it sounds. I make chocolate zucchini muffins to satisfy his sweet tooth and sneak in some veggies. I also make banana bread with wheat germ, flaxseed and a little grated carrot. I’ll make a big batch of sweet treats (with sneaky ingredients mixed in) on the weekend and package them individually and put them in the freezer. In the morning I can quickly microwave it for thirty seconds to defrost it and stick it in his lunch. It’s a quick and healthy way to allow room for sweets and sneak in veggies.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins


  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup Sucanut or sugar
  • 1 ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup sugar-free applesauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, pour boiling water over zucchini. Add all other ingredients and stir just until well combined. Line muffin pans with paper muffin cups, and use a 1/4 cup measure to pour batter into cups. Bake for 30 minutes.


4 – Cover Your Bases

A balanced lunch has an option in each of the categories on the food pyramid: whole grains, dairy, fruits and vegetables and protein. As long as you have an option in each of these groups, you can ensure that at least one of his/her daily requirements was met. I know that is easier said than done though, especially when you consider trying to pack a balanced meal that can stay safe without refrigeration, taste good without being heated up and take allergies into consideration.

It sounds like a lot of food when you think of each of the food groups, but we’re not talking huge portions from each category, just ensuring each is included. A simple lunch of a whole grain sandwich with lean turkey, sliced cucumbers, romaine lettuce and 2% cheese covers many of the bases. Throw in one apple with a tablespoon of sunflower seed butter (safe for kids with peanut allergies) and you’ve got a balanced lunch!

5 – Make Your Foods Work Overtime

With the limited space in your kids lunchbox, it’s important to make sure that each item packs a nutritional punch. An easy way to do this is to pick foods that do double duty and serve in more than one food categories. Greek yogurt provides a double whammy because it acts as both a dairy and protein serving. Quinoa is another great option because it acts like a whole grain, but has the nutritional profile of a protein.

Cinnamon Apple Quinoa


  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cooked apples
  • 2 tsp cinnamon


Rinse quinoa under cold water. Add quinoa to 4 cups of boiling water with salt. Reduce heat and cook until water is absorbed (about 20 minutes). Fluff quinoa, replace lid, and let seam for 10-15 minutes. Add apples and cinnamon and stir to combine. This recipe tastes delicious hot or cold, so it’s perfect to pack for lunch!
Packing a healthy school lunch that your kids will actually eat doesn’t have to be hard. Just use a little creativity and advanced planning and you will give your kids a great mid-day meal that will power them through the day.

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