How to Pack a Healthy Lunch for Your Child

Whether your kiddos will be eating lunch at school or at your kitchen table this year, these tips will help you learn how to pack a healthy lunchbox in just minutes. 

How to Pack a Healthy Lunchbox

UPDATED: I originally wrote this blog post in 2013. SEVEN years ago! I swear, time flies!!! If you had told me seven years ago (let alone seven months ago) that I may or may not be packing a lunchbox for school because my children may or may not be eating with me every day for the next year, I would have not believed you!

But here we are so let’s decide to make the best of it. Whether your little darlings will be eating at school or at your kitchen table, these lunchtime tips can be applied to either situation. 


How to Pack a Healthy Lunchbox

(and now with the update…or make a nutritious homeschool lunch)

Trying to pack a healthy lunchbox day in and day out can be tough. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel or been at a loss for a new idea. However, I’ve committed to Ellie and Frances that when I pack their lunches (they now love hot lunch at the school too) it is going to be nutritious, tasty and fun. And while yes, with every meal I hope the girls will scarf down each little carrot or bell pepper strip first, the reality is there are days when they don’t eat those at all. However, I believe that continued exposure (aka repetition aka it is totally cool to pack the same lunch multiple days in a row) with a healthy balance of new foods will keep lunches exciting every time your child opens the box (or bag)


Where to Find ALL of My Lunchbox ADVICE

Holley Grainger Lunchbox Ideas for Picky Eaters

I’ve compiled all of my lunchbox, advice, recipes, shopping tips, videos and more into one place for you called my Healthy Lunchbox Headquarters. Check it out and let me know your thoughts. While you search around the headquarters, keep these 5 important tips in mind to help you plan simple and quick lunchbox meals.



Tips to Help Pack a Healthy Lunchbox

1. Get Creative with Veggies

Don’t get discouraged if the raw baby carrots you pack for lunch day-in and day-out continue to be sent home untouched. Studies have found that children are more likely to eat their vegetables when offered with a dip so try packing the guacamole or hummus alongside raw veggies and see what happens. Also, consider your preparation method. Is your child more likely to eat grilled or roasted veggies versus raw? Try preparing foods like spaghetti sauce and meatloaf with shredded or diced carrots, onions, peppers and celery mixed in and send leftovers in the lunchbox.

How to Pack a Healthy Lunchbox--Work in Veggies

Quick Ideas for Creative Ways to Add Vegetables to a Lunchbox

  • corn on the cob
  • raw broccoli florets with hummus
  • roasted broccoli/steamed broccoli with cheese sauce
  • baked sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon
  • oven-baked sweet potato fries
  • oven-roasted potato wedges
  • potato cakes
  • oven-baked chips
  • raw zucchini rounds with ranch dip
  • zucchini bread


2. Keep Your Child Hydrated

Staying hydrated throughout the day is critical to maintaining concentration and energy levels. If you’re worried about your child not drinking enough water at school, make sure to include water-packed foods in the lunchbox. You can also start the morning by offering oatmeal or ready-to-eat cereal made milk and topped with fruit.

How to Pack a Healthy Lunchbox

Quick Ideas for Hydrating Foods in a Lunchbox

  • watermelon
  • strawberries
  • pasta salad
  • green salad
  • rice
  • cucumbers
  • grapes
  • bell peppers
  • yogurt


3. Think Outside the Sandwich:

Sandwiches with lean, low-sodium deli meat are an easy way to boost protein in the lunchbox. I especially love these Cheesy Roast Beef Pinwheels. But if you need to break out of the sandwich rut then consider some of these protein-rich foods to keep your child feeling satisfied all afternoon.

How to Pack a Healthy Lunchbox

Quick Ideas for Protein in a Lunchbox:


4. Pack the Power Trio: Fiber, Protein, and Healthy Fat

The three nutrients fiber, protein, and healthy fat have the “staying power” to keep your child feeling energized throughout the day and boost their daily nutrient quotient. When packing a lunchbox, choose foods that hit these target nutrients.

How to Pack a Healthy Lunchbox

Quick Ideas for a Lunchbox with the Power Trio of Nutrients

  • whole wheat tortilla spread with nut or seed butter, topped with banana slices and flax seed and rolled up;
  • leftover grilled chicken sandwich with spinach, grilled veggies and hummus;
  • low-sodium turkey pita with tomatoes, cheese, arugula and a smear of fresh avocado;
  • egg salad made with canola mayo or Greek yogurt atop salad greens with whole wheat crackers


5. Choose a Theme and Make it Fun

Just because you’re packing a nutritious lunch doesn’t mean you can’t offer healthier alternatives to the sweet or salty treats your child craves. Consider making some of the traditional favorites yourself so you can oversee the ingredient list and remember to keep portions in check.

How to Pack a Healthy Lunchbox
White Out Lunchbox

Quick Ideas to Make Lunch Fun


BONUS: My Favorite Lunchboxes for Kids

Nut-free Ham and Cheese Rollups from Holley Grainger
Bentgo Kids

The lunchboxes I use for most of my posts are Bentgo Kids. I like them because they’re leakproof and the perfect size for my little girls (they recommend ages 3-7). Many parents have asked before if they would work for older kids and I would say it likely depends on the appetite but I pack my lunch in there and always have plenty of food.


Cheesy Roast Beef Pinwheels, from Holley Grainger
Planetbox Rover

We also love the Planetbox Rover boxes for the times when we need to hold more food. Both are easy to pack, easy to store, and most important to this mama, dishwasher safe!


Favorite Lunchboxes

To find the full collection of my favorite lunchbox gear, check out my SHOP PAGE!


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How to Pack a Healthy Lunchbox, from Holley Grainger


Want More Lunchbox Inspiration?

With over 125 healthy lunchboxes for kids, this is the ULTIMATE GUIDE to your lunchbox packing needs. Whether you want gluten-free, gluten-packed, vegetarian, meat-lovers, vegan, kosher, dairy-free, dairy-loaded, snack box, and sandwich-free ideas, you’re sure to find multiple boxes to help with your planning.