How To: Pack a Lunch

By Nora Heston Tarte

An emphasis on healthy eating, a no-microwave policy, and heavier restrictions on what can and can’t come to school in a lunch box doesn’t make meal planning for school-aged children any easier.
Check out these cool tips—and gear!—to make lunchtime more enjoyable, affordable, healthier, and more delicious!

Control temperatures. Kids are at school for hours before the lunch bell rings. Take steps to control food temperature and keep items fresh for hours. The option to have hot meals at school (without buying on campus) expands the possible menu. Heat goods before school and place in a thermos to keep warm, or use ice packs and frozen thermoses to keep items cold.

Pack protein. Kids need protein to make it through the day and eating a daily dose of protein helps the body repair. Pack hardboiled eggs, hummus with pita chips, or nuts (when allowed) to offer protein at lunchtime. If your kid loves a PB&J, and the school will let you pack it, go for a natural spread of 100 percent peanuts—no additives!

Make it fun. Put a smile on your kid’s face by investing in some lunchtime goodies. sells plenty of adorable sauce holders and food molds to make lunch look as good as it tastes. Parents can also add a personal touch to their child’s lunchbox with cute notes. Try writing it on a banana to score extra points for style.

Keep fruit fresh. If apple slices are a lunchtime staple, or you want to include avocado in your child’s meal, sprinkle the fruits with a little bit of lemon juice to prevent browning. Another trick for apples: hold slices together with a rubber band.

Find balance with healthy, packaged snacks. Not everything has to be home-cooked and made from scratch. Utilize packaged snacks to round out lunchtime. Think organic crackers, rice cakes, and mini bags of popcorn. You can still keep it healthy by skipping chips, cookies, and sugary items such as fruit roll ups and fruit snacks.

Get the Gear:
Sandwich Cutters to ditch the crust and make meals more fun.

Thermos insulated food jar for keeping warm soups and leftovers.

Thermos water bottle for keeping drinks cold, especially during hot months.

Bento box for tracking portion sizes.

Reusable sandwich bags. Not only do they come in fun patterns, these bags are environmentally friendly, too!