For healthy packed lunches – think inside the box

It’s painfully easy to fall into the “Sandwich, Chips and a Cookie” rut when it comes to packing lunches for your school age children…or for yourself! This morning on FOX19 in Cincinnati (Here’s a link to the video clip) I shared some ideas for easy, nutritionally balanced lunches that might not be top of mind during the morning rush!


To enable this whole plan there are a few containers you may want to have on hand:

1) a reusable lunchbox

2) a thermos or “hot food container” as they are sometimes called

3) a Bento Box, which is a segmented plastic or metal container modeled after the traditional Japanese lunchbox.

Remember Molly Ringwold’s lunchbox in The Breakfast Club? That was a bento! Pottery Barn Kids makes the one I’ve pictured here, but there are many on the market. If you don’t want to get a Bento Box, you can use small Tupperware (or Gladware) containers inside the lunchbox to keep the different foods separate from one another.


When it comes to the food itself, I like to compose a lunch with three elements:

1) a complex (whole grain, high fiber) carbohydrate

2) a source of protein

3) fruits and vegetables

Following that simple formula will open up some lunch ideas you might be overlooking.


As inspiration, here are 10 ideas for Healthy Lunches that I shared in a recent Nourish e-newsletter :

1) Whole wheat noodles sprayed with olive oil and dusted with parmesan cheese, edamame in the pods (fun!), sliced apples with cinnamon

2) Whole wheat tortilla with melted cheese rolled up and cut, side of salsa for dipping, jicama sticks, banana

3) Vanilla yogurt with sides of granola, nuts (if allowed), berries, carrot sticks

4) Whole wheat crackers with turkey and cheese, mango slices, salad greens with sliced veggies

5) Whole wheat bagel with cream cheese, mixture of nuts and dried fruit, cucumber slices with cherry tomatoes

6) Chicken noodle soup (e.g. Healthy Choice) in a thermos, sugar snap peas, strawberries, greek yogurt

7) Rice, sushi (yes, some kids will eat it and love it!), non-fried spring roll/summer roll, grapes – make sure this one is on ice

8)  Fresh fruit salad (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, grapes, strawberries, pineapple), Cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, graham crackers

9) Quinoa or brown rice pasta with cooked veggies and shredded cheese, a tangerine “cutie”, fresh blueberries and raspberries

10) Leftovers! If you’ve served a healthy dinner, let it do double duty. Heat up a portion of leftovers and put it in a thermos/hot food container. Add a side of fruit and lunch is served.

As for beverages, it’s best to send a small stainless steel water bottle daily – for variety you can add a splash of juice or use sparkling water. Horizon makes shelf-stable organic milk in single serve containers that pack well and an Honest Tea juice bag makes a good treat.

Importantly, while you’re packing lunches for your children, think about what you might pack for yourself using the same ideas. Too many women skip lunch altogether, robbing themselves of much-needed energy for their long afternoon and evening. My final piece of advice? Give yourself a lunch break too!

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