Inside A Nutritionist’s Kids’ Lunch

By Teresa Wagner, RD, LD
September 23, 2015

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Just as the school year is gaining speed are you in the kitchen losing speed just thinking about what to pack for lunch? Today I bring you along as I pack a couple days of my kiddos’ school lunch.

Important work

I know it can be a hassle, but truly, a nutritious lunch is so important and beneficial for children to learn and behave in school. From my experience, sugar usually causes more silliness or hyperactivity and gluten more naughtiness so you’ll see that I’m aware of not giving them too much of either.

These are ideas that work in our house and I hope they inspire lunches in yours!

Prep

First, I can’t stand the idea of all the trash that’s associated with school lunches (all those plastic baggies!) so I don’t use much throwaway stuff. You can see two of our favorite containers in the following lunch ideas, one is Thermos brand and another is Fuel. One thing to consider about your choice of containers, beyond it keeping your food hot or cold, is that it has to be easy for little hands to open. My kid’s don’t have much time for lunch and I don’t want them fussing with the container, cutting into precious eating time.

Lastly, I’d say give your kids a little bit of choice. I just give them two options—this isn’t a restaurant!

Day 1 lunches

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Daughter

  • Protein: Turkey cubes for my daughter. I buy nitrate-free deli meat, the thickest slices you can get, and then I cut it up for her. Similar to other children, I’ve learned that she’ll eat meat protein only if it’s bite-sized. She wouldn’t touch a big hunk of turkey.
  • Fat: I throw in some olives for her fat and, to be honest, she’ll maybe have only one or two. Getting my kiddos to eat good fats is a challenge for me. But I continue to pack fat, because she won’t eat it if it isn’t there. I’m hoping that peer influence comes into play, you know putting the olives on their fingers and playing with it, then she might eat it...a mom can dream!
  • Carbs: Some of her favorites are raspberries, baby cucumbers and carrots.

Son

  • Protein: Sausage is always a hit, I grab the sweet apple Bilinski chicken sausage for my kids (and the cilantro lime for the adults!).
  • Fat: Again, a challenge, but he likes guacamole, so I put it in there.
  • Carbs: Raspberries, baby cucumbers and carrots.

Day 2 lunch

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  • Protein: Beef chili is a crowd-pleaser. I send it with both of them which is a time saver.
  • Fat: This one’s a bit sneaky, and wonderful, because I pureed olives and add that into the chili, a good fat for both of them! My son likes sour cream, another great fat, so I add that too.
  • Carbs: Veggies in the chili and I add grapes for more good carbs.

Real talk

I don’t want to be misleading and say we always have these picture perfect lunches. Sometimes it’s just not going to happen, maybe I haven’t been to the grocery store or we oversleep. You have to keep it realistic and allow for a school lunch once in a while if that’s what they want; I think it’s important to have that experience too.

Getting ahead

I really think half the battle is having a meal plan, think about it in advance and make sure when you grocery shop you have your plan. Once I’m home from the store I cut up all the veggies I can, which obviously saves time in the mornings.

Beyond that, if you have time, do a big batch of something, try the Nutritional Weight & Wellness chili or maybe the Muffin Tin Meatloaf.

What tricks have eased your lunch routine?

About the author

Teresa is a licensed dietitian at Nutritional Weight & Wellness. As a mother of three children and avid runner, Teresa knows that good nutrition is essential for energy and well-being. She also sees first-hand the impact food choices have on her children’s behavior, moods and happiness. Teresa is a registered and licensed dietitian through the Minnesota Board of Nutrition and Dietetics. She received her B.S. in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Stout and completed her dietetic internship at Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. She worked as a clinical dietitian for the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis.

View all posts by Teresa Wagner, RD, LD

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