It’s that time of year again to start thinking about what you will pack in lunch boxes for you and your family. This can be especially challenging when packing for kids. Eat Well Utah and MyPlate are here to help! My advice is, don’t over think it. Simply focus on picking one food item from each food group and you’ll have all your bases covered. Click on the images below to learn a bit about each food group.
Now that you know a bit about each food group, start making a list of foods to have on hand.
Any fruit will do. Berries, orange slices, and canned pears are my favorite. Plastic food containers and storage bags make it easy to pack fruit. Wash, peel, and chop fruits before you pack them so they are ready to eat right out of the lunch box.
Fresh vegetables work best for lunch boxes. Chop up a bunch of veggies at the beginning of the week. As you are packing, you’ll have a variety to choose from. Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, cucumbers, and celery work well. Some might even like fresh mushrooms or snow peas. Use leafy green lettuce and spinach in sandwiches and wraps.
Many people think of meat and poultry when it comes to lunch boxes. These items can be a a little trickier to pack or to reheat. However, there are many other sources of protein that are easy to pack. Try nuts, hard boiled eggs, hummus, peanut butter, jerky, and sunflower seeds.
Foods from the grain group are full of fiber and help provide a feeling of fullness. Crackers, bread, tortillas, and cereal are easy to pack. Granola, cornbread, and muffins can be made ahead of time and used throughout the week. Whatever you choose, opt for the whole grain version for maximum nutrient benefits.
Cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, and pudding pack well in a lunch box. When possible, choose low-fat or non-fat options. Use an ice pack to keep these items cold until it is time to eat.
Keep scrolling to see a few lunch box ideas that might work well for your family.
- Sandwich Kabobs – Slice up whole wheat bread, turkey, cheese, and lettuce. Push a skewer stick through, and you’ve got yourself a sandwich kabob! Add fruit and veggies on the side to cover all the food groups. If your kids like to dip, try adding Cottage Cheese Dip with the veggies.
- Pepperoni Stackers – It’s hard to go wrong with pizza. Use whole grain crackers, pepperoni slices, mozzarella cheese, and olives. Complete your MyPlate meal with fruits and veggies on the side. This time, try Homemade Ranch Dressing for dipping.
- Pancake Muffins – Pancake Muffins are an especially fun lunch. Whip up a batch of muffins early in the week. Separate your batter and add different mix ins before you bake them. You’ll have a variety of flavors to please the whole family. Almonds or boiled eggs from the protein group will pair well with the muffins. Add a side of low-fat yogurt from the dairy group, and be sure to fill in your plate with fruits and veggies.
- Peanut Butter Crumble Muffins – These muffins are sure to be the hit of the lunch room! Packed with protein rich peanut butter and whole grain oatmeal from the grains group, these muffins are filling and delicious. Add in string cheese from the dairy group and complete your plate with fruits and veggies.
- Trail Mix – Trail mix can save you in a pinch. Make a big batch to store in your pantry. It will be ready to go when you need a quick lunch, or snack. Fill it full of whole grains like popcorn, and whole wheat cereal. Add raisins, dried apples, bananas, or cranberries for a serving of fruit. Almonds, cashews, or peanuts are a great choice from the protein group. Add chopped veggies on the side, and pack Homemade Ranch Dressing and a string cheese for a little bit of dairy.
Looking for even more lunch box ideas? Find some by clicking here. Enjoy!
Certified Nutrition Education Assistant