Pack a Nutritious Brown Bag Lunch - Action for Healthy Kids
Open Search

Pack a Nutritious Brown Bag Lunch

How often are you running out the door (five minutes late, of course) only to realize you forgot to pack your child’s lunch, let alone a healthy one? Research shows packed lunches aren’t as healthy as school lunch. In 2012, a study from Virginia Tech showed that brown-bag lunches had less fruit, veggies and milk, and more desserts, calories and sugar. So, here are tips for making a quick and easy lunch your kids will love.

  • Carve out 30 minutes on Sunday to make lunches for the week. Chop, mix, spread, bag…you get the idea. Try to build this into time you may be setting aside to advance prep family meals.
  • On that note, get your kids involved. It’s fun for them and less for you to do.
  • Buy bento-style lunch boxes for your kids to pack lunch every day. These contain sections so snacks, sides and main dishes don’t touch. It’s the cootie-free, sleek version of a lunchbox. Prepare them ahead of time and you’re good to go.
  • Get in at least three food groups in each lunch (protein, fruit, vegetables, dairy or dairy alternative, and whole grains).
  • Keep a few ready-to-go items on hand like string cheese, yogurt, snack-size bagged carrots, and applesauce pouches.
  • Dedicate a section of your fridge to lunches. Buy a small container to store those read-to-go items or small containers of low-fat dips.

*Packed Lunch Tip: To save time and make lunch-packing easy (and earth-friendly), have these other essentials on hand:

  • reusable zip baggies
  • ice packs
  • fun reusable napkins
  • lightweight, reusable silverware (often made of bamboo)

If it’s time for a lunch box makeover, try our fave kid-approved lunches:

  • Bento Box: Choose a food from each of the five food groups and place them in each section of your bento box. Use silicon baking cups or single serve applesauce cups to create additional sections in your box.
    • Turkey and cheese roll-ups, sliced cucumbers, blueberries and yogurt
    • Refried bean and cheese quesadilla with salsa, chopped avocado and strawberries
    • Slice of whole grain bread or a thin sandwich slice topped with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, sliced red or yellow pepper, and a side of carrots and low-fat dressing
    • Hard-boiled egg, cubed cheese, carrot sticks, pretzel sticks and hummus
  • Kabobs: Give sandwiches a fun twist by turning them into kabobs. Alternate turkey, low-fat cheese and grapes on a popsicle stick. Or, get fancy with Caprese salad-style—cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves.
  • Pita pockets: Stuff pita pockets with your kid’s favorite veggies and spread a low-fat dip inside. Or, make a healthy pita pocket pizza by dressing the inside with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and turkey, ham or veggies.