Build a Better Lunchbox: 5 Lunchbox Tips for Success

A – B – C. Milk, plum, pea. Good nutrition and learning go hand-in-hand.

These 5 must-have lunchbox tips will help you set your child up for success — in and out of the classroom.

5 Lunchbox Tips for Success

1. Be Aware of Lunchbox Food Safety

Before diving directly into lunch, it’s important to look at the lunchbox itself. Because refrigeration isn’t an option at many schools, students are required to store their lunchboxes in cubbies or lockers. Therefore, it is important to make sure that perishable foods stay cold throughout the day. Skip brown paper bags and opt for insulated lunch totes packed with a frozen item such as a water bottle, yogurt tube or small ice pack. 

Holley’s lunchbox tip:

Try a bag, box and icepack set like Bentology (with 20 adorable style options):

Looking for a leakproof lunchbox? You’ll love a Bentgo Kids Lunchbox!

Bentgo Kids Lunchbox


Already have a Bento Box? Include a frozen item in the box or bag, or tuck in a thin ice pack.

Lunch Chillers, Bento Box Ice Packs

2. Use Milk or 100% Orange Juice to Boost Lunchbox Nutrition

To build a better lunchbox, it’s important to include foods and beverages that have one or more key nutrients like protein, whole grains, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Even dedicated lunchbox packers can focus on the main entrée and leave the sides and beverages as an unhealthy afterthought. But don’t forget them because they’re an easy way to pack in more nutrients.

First, 100% Florida Orange Juice is a sweet and delicious way to boost the nutrition in your child’s diet by delivering vitamin C, potassium, folate and many other nutrients. Despite what some may believe, there is NO ADDED SUGAR in 100% orange juice making it a satisfyingly thirst quenching drink. Plus, children LOVE it making it easy for them to meet the 4-6 ounce per day recommendation. 

Another beverage you can feel good about giving your kids at lunch is real milk. Each serving of milk provides 9 essential nutrients and 8 grams of high-quality protein. 

If your child is buying school lunch, make sure to encourage him to pick up a carton of white or flavored milk. As a reminder, all varieties of milk provide the same nutrients, including three of the top nutrients most likely to be missing from a child’s diet – calcium, vitamin D and potassium. If they only way your child will drink milk is if it’s chocolate, that’s okay! The approximately 60 additional calories from sugar are a small price to pay for a big nutritional boost. 

Holley’s lunchbox tip:

Save money and ditch the disposables by filling a thermos each day. Just be sure to wash promptly and don’t forget it over winter break (I think we’ve all been there, right? 😉). I also recommend stainless for durability and safety. This double-walled option is perfect for little hands and will keep milk chilled for up to 24 hours.

If you child prefers water, here is a great time saving option. Fill these 5 reusable bottles on Sunday, chill, and you or your child can grab and go each morning:

Water week reusable bottle set

3. Offer Tempting and Healthy Lunchbox Sides

Only 12% of American children are meeting the recommended servings for fruit and only 8% of American children are meeting the recommend servings for veggies. One smart way to get kids eating more of what they need is by focusing on sides and snacks. Pair veggies with dip like hummus or guacamole for a double dose of vegetables. You can also pack in-season produce like watermelon, peaches, and berries or, in a pinch, pick up pre-sliced fruit like apples and nectarines.

Sending fruits and vegetables has never been as easy and convenient as it is now. While you may pay a little more money for portion-controlled packs, the expense for a healthier item is certainly worth it. Of course, you can create your own pre-portioned snacks on the weekend so they’re available all week for your child to quickly add to a backpack or lunchbox. 

Holley’s lunchbox tip:

Want a quick and gorgeous mango like this one?

Build a Better Lunchbox, with Holley Grainger

Try a hybrid mango/apple cutter.

Or get your child involved hulling some strawberries!

Strawberry Huller

4. Supplement Lunchboxes with Healthy Snacks

School lunch periods can be scheduled at all different times. Ellie’s kindergarten lunch was at 10:30, making for a long afternoon. Kids think and play hard at school and often their stomachs can’t wait for the lunch bell or bus home to refuel. If this is your situation and your child’s teacher offers snack time, think beyond the convenience of a bag of chips or crackers. This is another golden opportunity for you to pack in more tasty nutrition and watch your kid’s focus, memory and learning flourish. 

Holley’s lunchbox tip:

Try some of my favorite healthy snack options:

Chickpeas 3 Ways, from Holley GraingerRoasted Chickpeas 3 Ways – SO simple and delicious!

Nut-Free Snack: Apple Cinnamon Energy BallsApple Cinnamon Energy Balls – These Refuel Kids Fast

Sweet and Savory Snack Crackers (video), from Holley GraingerSweet and Savory Snack Crackers – Watch for Even More Ideas

As a bonus, here are 50 suggestions for school snacks that are completely Nut-Free, making them safe for classrooms with peanut or tree nut allergies. 

Want more Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids? Check out 17 After School Snack Ideas that Won’t Ruin Dinner.

5. What About Desserts in Lunchboxes?

You see those little chocolate chips in my picture, right? Here’s my take. When I fill Ellie and Frances’ lunchboxes with roast beef, avocados, roasted chickpeas, pepper strips, and other power-packed foods, there is room for a little bit of fun. I like tucking in a little treat now and then and imagining their smiles. Will they gobble it first? Wait and savor it? 

Holley’s lunchbox tip:

Learning isn’t just about history, poetry or math. It’s also about discovering a balanced approach to nourishing our bodies and still enjoying the fun and delicious foods of the world. That’s a big lesson from a little bit of chocolate. 

Muffins make a marvelous sweet lunchbox dessert or snack like these Blueberry Lemon Mini Oatmeal Muffins.

Lunchbox Tip: Blueberry Lemon Mini Oatmeal Muffins for dessert

For a no cook sweet that doubles as a lunchbox treat or a fun breakfast, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites are definitely the recipe to prep ahead and keep on-hand. 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites

For another simple chocolate dessert, break a piece of Sweet and Salty Dark Chocolate Bark into a lunchbox.

Sweet and Salty Dark Chocolate Bark, from Holley Grainger

Love it? Pin it!

Build a Better Lunchbox, from Holley Grainger

For even more lunchtime smiles, tuck in one of my cute and printable Lunchbox Love Notes. Because kids also need a daily dose of Vitamin L (Love!).