How to Pack a Well-Balanced School Lunch for Picky Eaters

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Packing a school lunch for a picky eater can be a challenge, but here are some ideas to help you pack a well-balanced school lunch (for even the pickiest eater)!

Soon moms will wake up and wander into the kitchen, to stare at an open lunch box and a full pantry. The lunch box taunts them as if to say… Do you really think they will eat the school lunch that you’re trying to pack? I’m the mom who originally set out to pack the cute Pinterest-worthy school lunch, but failed miserably. Last school year, I settled on the much easier prepacked Oscar Myer option. Still, the crackers and cheese were untouched or thrown away completely. This year, I’ve decided to do my research and learn how to pack a well-balanced meal that even the pickiest eater will like!

Don’t let this picture fool you, he didn’t touch any of this healthy food!

Who is to Blame?

My husband gave me three of the pickiest eaters on the planet. I blame him for handing down his extensive list of things he won’t eat to them. Its been a long feat, but with my oldest finally braving new foods and my middle obsessed with salads, I turn my attention to my youngest and most picky eater. While it is an accomplishment to FINALLY get him to eat chicken and yogurt, I wouldn’t exactly call his meals “well-balanced.” He snacks most days, living on fruit gummies, dry cereal, and chips.

As he begins his first year of preschool, I find myself in a predicament: Do I pack a bunch of unhealthy snacks that I KNOW he will eat or do I pack a healthy meal that I am fairly certain he won’t touch? In other words, I want to send him a well-balanced school lunch AND I want him to eat during the day! If you are faced with the same dilemma (thanks to your own picky eater), I’ll share some tips for packing a well-balanced school lunch that I’m going to try!

Lunch Box Ideas

Let’s start with the lunch box, itself. Pinterest has some clever ideas. My picky eater doesn’t like for his food to touch so the idea that seems to make the most sense to me, is the Bento-style box. This is a lunch box style container that has dividers. The Yumbox seems to be a popular choice but if it’s out of your price range, you can make your own using a Rubbermaid container and silicone cupcake liners.

Now, that we have a container, let’s get to the most important part- what’s going in it!

Because it’s important to me that my child eventually learn how to each a well-balanced meal, I do plan on packing food from all the food groups in a colorful meal plan that includes a main meal, sides, snack, and treat. The idea here is to pick at one main meal item, one or two sides, and one snack OR treat. I’ve based this list on my oldest two children in hopes, that maybe, eventually, amid his peers, my youngest will feel inspired enough to try it!

 

Main Meal

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Chicken Nuggets

Deli meat rolled up

Grilled Cheese sandwich

Mac N Cheese

Meatballs

Hotdog

Pasta

Rice

Quesadilla

DIY Lunchables

Meatballs

Cocktail Weiners

Mini Pizza

Soup

Leftovers

Breakfast casserole

Waffle/ Pancake/ Muffin

Sides

Apple Sauce

Yogurt

Apple Slices

Baby Carrots (with ranch)

Grapes

Kiwi

Blueberries

Strawberries

Raspberries

Pear

Cantaloupe

Celery (with ranch)

Cucumbers

Corn

Corn on the Cob

Peas

Green Beans

Fruit Cup

Cherry Tomatoes

Mandarin Oranges

Banana

Pepper Slices

Side Salad

Sweet Potatoes

Pineapple Slices

Raisins

Hard-Boiled Egg

Beans

Olives

Snacks

Chips

Veggie Straws

Pretzels

Cheese Stick

Cubed Cheese

Popcorn

Trail Mix

 Cereal

Crackers

Goldfish Crackers

Granola

Granola Bar

Fruit Gummies

Fruit Roll-Up

Treat

Jello

Pudding

Rice Crispy Treat

Cookie

M & M’s

Teddy Grahams

Here are some other helpful hints I’ve discovered over my last 6 years of packing lunches:

  • Some supplies to keep on hand: ice packs, Ziploc bags in sandwich and snack sizes, and cupcake liners.
  • Use all size cookie cutters to cut bread, veggies, and melons into fun shapes.
  • Buy disposable or reusable containers with lids for dressing and sauces.
  • Keep snack stations in your pantry and fridge so that the kids can pack their own lunches.
  • Plan and prep lunch on the weekends. There are many things that you can make ahead of time.
  • Instead of trying to make sure every food group is accounted for, try packing a colorful rainbow meal.
  • Have your child help pack their lunch, choosing their own meal, sides, snacks, and treat.
  • Pack lunch while you prep dinner. Cut up extra veggies and save those leftovers.
  • On special days, do a themed lunch.
  • Leave a little note or joke every once in a while as a fun surprise for your kid.
  • Always make sure the kids clean out their lunchboxes when they come in the door and put them away.

I hope these ideas and tips help you plan a well-balanced school lunch for your little picky eater!

 

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Kim McNeely
Kim grew up in a small town in northeast Alabama. She majored in journalism in college at Faulkner University. There she met baseball-playing Florida boy named David who swept her off her feet and then married her. David went right into a teaching/coaching career and Kim lost her desire to write. Before kids, she worked in insurance and as an office administrator. In 2008, they started a family and Kim fell in love with motherhood. She has been working as a stay at home mom for almost 10 years, occasionally, letting the laundry pile up and devoting her time to raising three children. Her kids have grown up on the ball field cheering on their daddy's baseball teams. They moved to Brandon just over a year ago and have enjoyed exploring Tampa. Kim likes being creative and crafty. She is a list-maker, scheduler, and planner. She loves planning play dates, parties, and budget-friendly family activities. Kim spends her days convincing her nine year old, Emerson, to wash her hair; teaching her kindergartener, Everly, sight words; and making sure her curious two year old and only son, Easton, isn't playing in the toilets. She loves children's books and reading bedtime stories. If she finds some free time, she writes her blog, catches up on her favorite TV shows, scrolls social media, and folds massive piles of laundry. Her desire to write returned when she realized that her children were an endless source of inspiration. You can follow Kim as she documents and finds ways to soak in every ounce of her children's childhood on Facebook, Instagram, and on her blog as The Sentimental Mom.

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