By Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer

Keeping Lunch Boxes Interesting and Healthy

For most parents, having school-aged children means you are on lunch duty for 10 months. But how do you keep kids interested in eating lunches that are relatively healthy instead of ditching them for the alluring fast or junk food that they see the other kids eating? The answer is in a little creativity and variety on a daily basis with an emphasis on serving real food.

Most school lunches revolve around the traditional sandwich because it is easy to eat and kids can eat it with their hands. And sandwiches are indeed fine to include in lunches, but it is wise to move beyond this obvious choice at least some of the time.

Invest In Containers

In order to maximize your serving options, it is important to have the right containers on hand. Containers - made from healthier materials such as stainless steel and are also light - allow you to pack foods that have textures beyond the square and dry.

These tightly closing containers are great for rice dishes, mixed vegetables or even dips. Proper containers also allow you to separate foods so that they don't get mushy which is a big turn off for picky kids.


Be creative with legumes as they are a great protein and complex carbohydrate source and help to keep kids full. Start off by with more easily accepted recipes such as hummus with cut up veggies or crackers as part of a lunch or snack. Then try progressing to other bean varieties such as black bean dips. These can also be eaten with veggie sticks but also make a great filling for a burrito.

Legumes can also be added to brown rice to make a cold rice salad. Quinoa can be used as an alternative to rice with cut up veggies and chickpeas. The salad be dressed lightly with lemon juice and olive or flax seed oil.

Crackers with Sandwich Filling

Rather than relying on bread to make up the main meal, try a version of it by introducing whole grain crackers with a chicken salad or egg salad filling. Provide a spoon for them to dish the filling out with and ensure you include a healthy cracker that they like. Many cracker varieties abound today including healthy grains such as spelt, kamut and quinoa.

Pasta Salads

Children love pasta, however cold pasta isn't usually tasty unless it is in a pasta salad. Add cut up veggies such as olives, cucumbers and carrots, and include proteins such as small chicken or turkey pieces if it suits their taste.

For Picky Eaters

While you are discovering what your picky eater may like, a good tip is to pack up many smaller snacks such as cheese pieces, whole grain crackers, cut up fruit, dips, nuts (if permissible), whole grain muffins, plain yogurt (in a cooler), whole grain bagels and cream cheese, and applesauce. At least with many items in there they are bound to find something they like and want to eat.

Then once you have figured out what there eating patterns are you can begin to tailor their lunches specifically to their tastes.


Soup is not often included in most lunch boxes because most kids don't like to eat it cold. However if you use one of the newly available thermoses that are BPA free, you now have one extra lunch option for your child. Soups can either be the main course - if thick and rich - or a side dish if they have more broth. Thermoses are great for chili too.


Even though eggs are often associated with breakfast, they can make great lunch foods, too. Consider either packing up hardboiled eggs as part of a lunch with a side of baby tomatoes and sliced cucumbers and pita bread. Another option is to make a frittata and to include many healthy vegetables inside such as spinach, tomatoes, peppers and zucchini.

These days with the right containers and smart packing, parents have more options than ever when it comes to offering healthy and interesting options to their kids. It will require a little extra effort on a parent's part but having healthy children is more than enough reward in return.

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Parenting - Keeping Lunch Boxes Interesting and Healthy