3 Steps to a Healthy Kid-Friendly Lunchbox

Q: I am the mom of two little girls. They are picky eaters, and I have such a difficult time packing them a healthy yet yummy lunch. Their school is peanut-free and won’t heat up any items. Can you offer up some fresh, healthy ideas for their lunch boxes?

A: Yes! First, my general rule of thumb when building a healthy lunch box is to include three things: a PROTEIN item, a PRODUCE ITEM, and a FUN SNACK or TREAT. Second, it’s always fun to involve kids (especially the picky ones) with packing lunch. Make them feel “in charge” by coming up with a list of a few protein choices, produce items and fun snacks, and let them mix and match what they want each day.

The protein part tends to be the trickiest, so here are a few kid-friendly, peanut-free suggestions. For hot entreés, pick up a good-quality Thermos that will keep warm foods at a safe temperature until lunch time. Try:

  • Hearty soup (lentil, black bean, chicken noodle)
  • Whole grain penne or macaroni with marinara sauce and shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Leftover taco meat or chili (send with a small bag of tortilla chips)

For cold entreés, you need to be extra diligent about keeping them cool — so pack two freezer packs (or use a frozen water bottle as your second ice pack). Some interesting cold protein items include:

  • A sandwich sushi roll: Use a wrap, fill it with turkey and cheese or favorite sandwich fillings, roll, and cut into rounds like sushi
  • Hummus with dippers (whole grain crackers and bell pepper sticks work great)
  • Yogurt and toppers: Pack a nonfat yogurt and separate containers of chopped fruit and granola for layering on top


Looking for a fun afternoon snack for the kiddos? Give these kid-approved treats a try.