How to Pack a Lunch with a Punch!

by Diane Burdick

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Here’s a great article if you’re a parent (use these tips!) or if you’re a teacher (print these tips for your parents on what to pack for snack and lunch). It’s all about eatin’ healthy…because, in the classroom, children really are what they eat. Healthy food = healthy brains that are ready to learn.

Packing a Lunch or Snack

Packing your child’s lunch with good-for-them options doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will come up with a sack full of food at the end of the day, or that you’ll spend tons of time prepping, either. What you need is a balance: pre-packaged items that are minimally processed. Meaning? Healthy, filling, kid-friendly, but not draining on the crazy morning routine.

Play With Your Food: Cheese Sticks

Whether you cut sticks yourself from a large store-bought brick or purchase pre-packed string cheese, cheese sticks pack a powerful punch of calories and nutrition. For example, string cheese typically comes in a 1 oz service size, which has only 70 to 80 calories but a whopping 7 to 8 grams of protein. Plus, they’re fun to eat. I mean, who doesn’t love creating all those strings?!

Yummy Yogurt

Kid-oriented freezable yogurt, such as Yoplait “Go-Gurt,” Danimals “Coolisions,” and organic varieties allow you to freeze the yogurt overnight. As the yogurt package sits in your child’s lunch bag, it thaws out, but is still cool enough to each and taste great. And, it’s great frozen, too– like a healthy popsicle! And, no spoon required. Loaded with calcium, about 10% of the suggested daily amount, kid-friendly yogurt is a sure bet.

Fun with Fruit

If you’re worried about fresh fruit going bad in the house, look for prepackaged fruit instead. For example, mandarin orange fruit cups in their own juice (not artificially sweetened) are around 40 calories, but they offer 100% of the daily value of vitamin C. Flavorful, convenient and oh, so sumptuous!

Some other fruity options:

  • A small 1-oz package of dried cranberries is less than 100 calories, but offers 4% of your daily recommended fiber.
  • A 1.5 oz pack of raisins offer about 10% of the suggested daily amount of fiber, and only 130 calories.
  • And prunes (which are just dried plums) are even better for you than a fresh apple, because they offer almost 2 grams of fiber in just a 1 ounce serving size, that’s twice the fiber of a fresh apple! Look for prunes loose in a package, or in small cellophane wrappers which lock in the juiciness and freshness.

Granola Bars

Traditional chewy granola bars, such as the Quaker brand with 25% less sugar, run at only 100 calories (for the peanut butter chocolate chip variety) and offer 10% of the recommended daily fiber, 2 grams of protein, 10% of calcium, and 2% of iron. But at 20% of your daily recommended fiber per serving, the “Fiber One” bars in the chocolate peanut butter flavor are only 90 calories, and, in my opinion, are even tastier than the original.


It’s not just for breakfast anymore. You can satisfy your child’s sweet and salty cravings with a handful of cereal from the pantry instead of greasy and overly salty chips or crackers.

For example, a dry (non-milk) one-cup serving of Quaker Oatmeal Squares provides 90% of the suggested iron and 100% of folic acid. Traditional Cheerios clock in at only 100 calories a serving, with 11% of your recommended dietary fiber. The slightly sweeter Multigrain Cheerios offer 100% of the suggested values for many nutrients such as iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B, folic acid, B12 and zinc.

The takeaway: healthy lunches are a real possibility in your home and classroom. It just takes a few minutes and a few ideas.

And, if you’re teaching nutrition to your class this year, The School Box has a super fun game to try: Food Pyramid Bingo. Because, let’s face it, Mom won’t always be there to pack the lunch. They’ve gotta learn the basics on their own, too.

Diane Burdick, M. Ed. holds a masters in elementary education and a bachelors in history, and is currently pursuing her specialists degree with a concentration in teaching and learning. A homeschooling mother of three, she also enjoys freelancing for online publications.



Filed under Academic Success, Parenting, Snack Time

8 responses to “How to Pack a Lunch with a Punch!

  1. Tina

    Great tips! Always looking for “better choices” for my kids and these are not that expensive either.

  2. Jennifer Nuss

    I am a teacher and it is a good reminder to not pack things that need to be heated. We just don’t have the ability to do that at school. Packing lunches can be so hard, thanks for the reminders of how to do it easily.

  3. Wendy

    This is wonderful for some kids, but my oldest daughter won’t eat one of the items you have listed. (Granted, my son would be thrilled with your list). She is a very picky eater that only likes warm foods like spaghetti, cooked broccoli, meatloaf, steak, scrambled eggs, rice, and so only. I don’t ever know how to pack lunches for her because she won’t touch sandwiches or yogurts or cheeses. She has problems eating fruit that isn’t peeled and cut (usually apples that brown quickly). Sad to say, but there have been many days when everything I’ve packed for her has come home because she decided to skip lunch.

  4. Cheryl E.

    Thank you so much for these tips! As a parent of a 6 year old and as a Kindergarten teacher, these tips are definitley going to be used this year! :)

  5. Kay England

    Great article, especially for students whose parents pack junk food in lunches.

  6. ecossick

    Wendy, I can relate– I have a picky one, too! Does your daughter’s school cafeteria allow her to use a microwave? Ours does, so some of the healthy prepackaged, microwavable meals– as well as leftovers– work great. Something as simple as a whole-wheat tortilla with shredded cheddar warmed for 15 seconds makes a yummy, wholesome quesadilla. Good luck!! Hopefully your daughter (and my son) will outgrow their finickiness!

  7. Kris Dove

    Thanks for the nutritional tips on easy lunch ideas!

  8. Great ideas. I would like to make our child enjoy brown bagging it more than buying in the cafe. She thinks eating in the cafeteria is like eating out everyday. :)