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What Nutritionists Pack Their Kids For Lunch

Courtesy of Cara Rosenbloom

Kids aren’t exactly known for their refined palates, which can cause issues for parents who want to pack healthy lunches for them to take to school.

But delicious and nutritious options are available ― and they don’t always take a long time to put together.

HuffPost asked a group of nutritionists what they pack in their children’s lunch boxes, and they shared their general guidelines and kid-approved dish ideas.


“Like many parents, my wife and I work hard to find the balance between what our kids like and what is good for them. It’s important to us to reduce high-sugar and high-sodium options, which limits options, as many convenience foods tend to be saturated in these ingredients. It’s helpful for us to prepare healthier options at the beginning of the week and keep them in the refrigerator so they’re readily available and convenient when we need them. Our oldest daughter, as an example, likes edamame. Often, when we pack that in her lunch, she ends up sharing with friends who also like to eat them.”  ― Rick Hall, a clinical professor and registered dietitian at Arizona State University

Favorite fruits and veggies

“While my goal is to pack all five food groups in my preschooler’s lunch, I really strive to serve a fruit, vegetable and healthy protein option. My preschooler is given a snack at school that is usually a whole grain, so I load up on his favorite fruits (apples, grapes, bananas) and veggies (cucumber slices, red bell pepper sticks, carrots). And when it comes to protein, he loves individual hummus cups and crackers, or cheese and turkey roll-ups.” ― Katie Serbinski, a registered dietitian and founder of Mom to Mom Nutrition

“Vegetables and fruit top up my kids’ vitamin needs, and add variety and color. Kids eat with their eyes first!” ― Cara Rosenbloom, a registered dietitian and founder of Words To Eat By


Courtesy of Cara Rosenbloom

Healthier PB&J

“A typical lunch for our kiddos includes a half sandwich with peanut butter and instead of jelly, fruit like grapes, banana, pomegranates, etc. We combine our professional knowledge in nutrition with our practical knowledge of ‘what will my kids eat’ ― we also often have them help us make their lunches so they have a say in what goes in there. Building off the base of always having a fruit (in this case on the sandwich), veggie (usually to dip), protein (peanut butter) and grain (sprouted grain bread), they can pick and choose from what we have. They love helping and getting involved, and it also teaches autonomy and teaches them how to balance their plates.” ― Christopher Mohr, a registered dietitian and co-founder of Mohr Results with Kara Mohr

“I’m a firm believer in serving something familiar or ‘liked’ when it comes to school lunch, with both something healthy and ‘treats’ mixed in. School is a time when your child might be missing Mom or Dad, so their favorite PB&J or Cheerios trail mix every day isn’t the end of their diet. Just serve a new fruit or veggie with their dinner to make up for it!” ― Serbinski

Whole-grain pasta salad

“One family favorite is pasta primavera salad with roasted tomatoes and chicken with baby spinach. I use whole-grain pasta (bowtie or pinwheel) with tomatoes roasted with crushed garlic (fresh or canned); chicken (shredded or cubed, which I cook in bulk and freeze in individual portions); and pre-washed baby spinach, which I quickly wilt in the microwave (kids like it more than grown-up spinach). Then I add a little lemon juice and olive oil, which makes everything taste better, and toss it all together. For sides, we’re partial to golden kiwi or frozen or fresh chopped mango.” ― Melissa Halas-Liang, registered dietitian and founder of SuperKids Nutrition


Courtesy of Cara Rosenbloom

Chicken quesadillas

“One of my kids’ favorite items that my wife packs for them are spicy chicken quesadillas. She prepares them the night before school using organic tortillas, diced pre-cooked spicy chicken and a cheese blend. After cooking on a frying pan, we cut them into triangles and keep in the fridge overnight. They are easy to pack, hold and eat ― and the kids love them. They are often asked to trade with friends who want to eat them. It’s the most popular item we pack and super easy to make.” ― Hall


“I have two children who both have great palates, so I feel lucky that packing lunch is not too much of a challenge. Every day, I pack a mid-morning snack that usually consists of a Siggi’s yogurt tube or goat milk squeeze pouch, cucumbers, baby bell peppers and a portion with a side of hummus for my son. For my daughter, I pack a Siggi’s yogurt tube or goat milk squeeze pouch, cucumbers, berries, cherry tomatoes. On occasion I’ll swap the yogurt out for one hardboiled egg with seaweed.” ― Maya Feller, registered dietitian and owner of Maya Feller Nutrition

Dips for veggies

“We also pack mini peppers, cucumbers or baby carrots and hummus or guacamole to dip the veggies.” ― Mohr

“Sometimes I make Greek yogurt dip with veggies and whole grain crackers, chickpea salad and fruit.” ― Rosenbloom

“I keep pre-bought sliced jicama in stock and we make a lot of dips like this homemade ranch: 2 tablespoons of mayo, 2 tablespoons of nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon parmesan cheese, half a teaspoon garlic powder and half a teaspoon dried parsley.” ― Halas-Liang


Courtesy of Cara Rosenbloom

Nuts (when possible)

“Other popular items for our kids include foods with peanut butter or nuts.  Unfortunately, they are sometimes limited in taking these foods because of nut allergies of classmates ― but nuts tend to be high in healthy fats and proteins that are both healthy and tasty treats.”  ― Hall

Bean and cheese sushi wrap

“A fun lunch is a bean-and-cheese sushi wrap. Spread mashed black beans with a bit of lemon juice on a whole grain tortilla, sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese, and roll into a tight log. Cut slices just like sushi. Add in orange sunshine. Peel an orange and slice them into thick circles. Veggies would be edamame or sugar snap peas.” ― Halas-Liang

Bento boxes

“When my daughter was in preschool, she loved bento box meal assembly dishes, like smoked Gouda chunks with whole wheat woven crackers (with no added sugar), frozen peas or corn (which she ate frozen), berries or baked apple chunks. We microwaved the chopped apple, then chilled in the fridge. It keeps it from browning and it’s sweeter. We grow cucumbers well into late fall so we add those in too. It was always a hit!” ― Halas-Liang

Quality protein

“My background in nutrition has taught me that kids fare better in school ― both academically and physically ― when their lunch is nutritious and provides long-lasting energy. That’s why there is always a source of good-quality protein in their lunchbox (chickpeas, cheese, Greek yogurt, chicken, lentils, etc.) and some slow-burning, high-fiber whole grains, like quinoa, whole-grain pasta or oats.

My kids’ lunches are made with vegetables, fruit, whole grains and something high in protein. Some of their favorite combos are: cubes of chicken, grape tomatoes and cucumbers on a skewer, with whole grain crackers and fruit; a turkey or cheese sandwich with lettuce and tomato on whole grain, and fruit; and quinoa and bean salad with string cheese, carrots, peppers and fruit.” ― Rosenbloom


Courtesy of Cara Rosenbloom

Flavor, texture and variety

“When I’m building my kids’ meals I think about variety, temperature, texture, flavor and of course nutrition. Lunch is usually one of the following with a side of fruit and vegetable: bean and rice burrito, veggie dumplings (tofu and cabbage), soup with a side of fruit, spinach and cheese tortellini with a nut-free sauce (the school has a strong nut policy), homemade salmon salad with carrots and celery topped with tzatziki on a whole wheat English muffin, or a spinach and potato patty inside of a whole wheat English muffin.

Children are in a phase of growth and development and ideally their foods should support this. My goal for my children is to give them healthy options that they love, so they will eat and have the energy they need to focus and engage during school hours, play and continue to grow. I aim to send them with a tasty balanced meal that supplies vitamins and minerals from whole and minimally processed sources.” ― Feller


“Lunches for my children are nearly always leftovers from dinner the night before. I like to start with the vegetables first, such as sautéed broccoli, roasted Brussels sprouts, or cauliflower mash. We always supplement with additional vegetables, which are typically raw, such as avocado, cherry tomatoes, peppers (though never green ones) and celery. If we include animal protein in the lunch, it can be roasted chicken, hard-cooked eggs, lamb or beef ― basically whatever we may have had for dinner. If there is no animal protein available or if that’s not preferred, we add sunflower butter in an individual packets, raw almonds or walnuts, or hemp seeds. Juices, carbonated beverages, sweetened drinks and milk are never included. Always pure water.” ― Laura Lagano, a registered dietitian and owner of Laura Lagano Nutrition

“Family favorites include supper leftovers in a thermos (pasta, soup, stew) along with fruit (of kids’ choosing) and a couple of homemade cookies.” ― Katja Leccisi, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of How To Feed Your Kids: Four Steps To Raising Healthy Eaters


“People always ask about dessert. In an effort to encourage children to focus on vegetables first, I suggest not putting fruit in the lunch box until you’re certain that your youngster craves the vegetables. And, when you do include fruit, start by opting for the lower-sugar fruit such as organic strawberries and raspberries.” ― Lagano

“Sometimes I add a small treat, like some chocolate chips or my homemade no-bake granola bites.” ― Rosenbloom

“My kids always also get a dessert ― usually something homemade, like cookies, muffins or date squares.” ― Leccisi


Courtesy of Cara Rosenbloom

Safe choices

“When I pack my children’s lunches, I always think food safety first and include adequate ice packs to keep cold foods cold.” ― Halas-Liang

“My expertise in nutrition shaped my choices by thinking about food safety, temperature controls and balanced nutrition to prevent childhood obesity and reducing refined products. I also teach my kids to recognize foods as ‘everyday’ versus ‘sometimes’ foods. Therefore they are aware of what foods make them healthy eaters, readers and leaders.” ― Tambra Raye Stevenson, founder and culinary nutritionist at NativSol Kitchen

Rule of three

“I avoid the three S’s: stinky (like fish); sticky (like maple syrup); and soft drinks (too much sugar).” ― Rosenbloom

“For a balanced lunch, I aim for three plant-based colors, plenty of fiber and a good source of protein. ― Halas-Liang

Meal prep

“It’s not just about what you pack, but when you pack it. Make packing lunch the night before part of the nighttime routine ― for us, it’s eat dinner, clean up kitchen and pack lunches. You’re not rushed and can make better decisions vs. adding one more thing to the already crazy mornings as everyone is trying to get out the door.” ― Mohr

“I think it’s easy to get stressed out about packing lunch. To avoid this, I usually pack after dinner or during the after-school snack if I’m home. That way the food is already out. Plus I keep a few sets of containers, some of which are dishwasher-safe. I also don’t make everything from scratch, but do a lot of meal assembly! It’s quicker and with so many healthy options, like beans from a can or pre-washed spinach, it’s easier. And I like to include a quote or little note when I have time.” ― Halas-Liang

Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.


This article was written by Caroline Bologna from Huffington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Cardboard Tube Bird Feeder

This cardboard tube bird feeder craft is a fun way to invite feathered friends to your yard! Watch as birds come to feed, and talk with your little one about all the different birds that visit the feeder. You can even look up the birds you see online to learn more about them. Audubon.com and National Geographic Kids are great resources.

What You Need

  • Plate
  • Birdseed
  • Nut or Seed Butter
  • Cardboard Tube (toilet paper size or half of a paper towel roll)
  • String



Pour the birdseed onto the plate and use a spoon, butter knife or popsicle stick to coat the outside of the cardboard tube with the nut or seed butter.


Roll the coated tube in the birdseed. Fill in any gaps as needed until the whole tube is covered.


Thread a piece of string through the cardboard tube and tie the ends of the string together.


Hang it from a tree for the birds to enjoy!


Encourage Outside-The-Box Thinking in Your Preschooler

A fantastic way to get your little one to think outside the box is with cooking.


For example, you can make numerous different croissant dishes with a simple roll of the dough. Unfold each section from the packaged roll and form it into an individual triangle. Once it is face open, ask your child what to add to the middle. There are a ton of possibilities; following are three examples:

  1. Add a piece of ham and a piece of cheese, and then roll the dough for a delicious ham and cheese sandwich.
  2. Add pepperoni and cheese, and serve with a tomato sauce dip to create a mini-croissant pizza.
  3. Add shredded chicken and bacon and serve with ranch.


Another way to encourage your child to think outside the box is with riddles.

  1. A man went on a trip riding his horse. He left on Friday, stayed in town for three days and came back on Friday. How did he do it?  Answer: His horse’s name is Friday
  2. What has three hands, but cannot clap? Answer: a clock

Chocolate-Banana Yogurt Sundae

Spruce up snack time or dessert with this delicious chocolate-banana yogurt sundae!

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  • Non-fat vanilla yogurt
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Banana
  • Shredded coconut

Spoon a desired amount of yogurt into a dish. Slice up the banana, and place the slices in the yogurt. Then drizzle with chocolate sauce. Sprinkle shredded coconut over the sundae.

*An adult should oversee all recipes and activities. Recipes and activities may not be appropriate for all ages.

Increasing Self-Esteem

Encourage self-esteem in your children so that they grow up to make confident decisions. Being confident will allow your children to get back up after being knocked down by something not going their way, such as not making a sports team or getting a bad grade on a test.


Here are some tips to help boost self-esteem:

  1. Give your children options. Choosing from options helps children learn to make their own decisions at an early age.
  2. Assign age-appropriate tasks. Ask your children to help around the house to teach them to contribute to their team.
  3. Let your children dress themselves. Let them use their skills to complete simple tasks like picking out an outfit or buttoning and zippering their clothes.
  4. Refrain from praising your children. It’s great to let them know when they do something awesome, but instead of telling them how great it was, tell them why it was great. Include the details of why their painting is spectacular or why you appreciate how they did their chores.
  5. Let your children see that you enjoy spending time with them. We all have busy, hectic lives, and sometimes we forget how important our affection is to our children. Plan weekly time with your child and plan the things you will do together each week. Consider visiting the local library, going on nature hikes or cooking a new recipe. Planning a specified time will give you and your child something to anticipate each week.

What are some ways that you try to boost self-esteem in your child?

Making Mornings Easier

Getting ourselves ready for work, our children ready for school and our pets ready for a day alone in the house can create a ton of stress in the morning and cause us to forget important steps in our morning ritual. For example, have you ever forgotten to send your child to school with a lunch or to take your dog out and later come home to a mess on the floor?

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Follow these steps the night before to help your mornings work seamlessly.

  1. Choose and lay out your outfit and accessories and assist your children in doing the same. You might want to try on outfits before bed to ensure you’ll be satisfied with them in the morning.
  2. Pack lunches for the whole family. It’s a great idea to encourage your children to help with their lunches, which will help teach them
  3. Check that their homework is done, and that any outstanding papers or permission slips are signed.
  4. Premeasure your pet’s food for the morning, making it quick and easy to place in their bowl.
  5. Put a list of things that need to be finished in the morning on your refrigerator and check it off so you don’t forget anything critical.

What are your family’s before-bed rituals that help your mornings run more smoothly?


Jogging Memories with a Journal

As your children begin to learn to write, encourage them to keep a journal. This practice will enhance their arithmetic skills while allowing them to create memories from their childhood. Many of us might not have clear memories of when we were young. By encouraging your little ones to record their favorite remembrances and exciting milestones, they will have pages of memories on which to reminisce.


Begin by asking your children to write a great, funny or inspiring thing that happens to them each day. Doing this will also boost their moods by noting uplifting things that are surfacing in their lives.

The Benefits of Cooking with Children

Inviting your preschooler to help you cook provides numerous learning opportunities. You can spend quality time with her while increasing her skills in the kitchen.


Cooking involves careful planning and time management. Learning how to plan and manage her time will benefit your child as she grows.

While your child learns how to prepare food safely, teach her about the dangers in the kitchen. Point out these dangers, and talk to her about how to avoid accidents.


Helping out in the kitchen can increase your child’s creativity and help her develop math and reading skills. When you follow the instructions on a recipe together, she can practice reading. Measuring ingredients is a great way to introduce her to the importance of learning math. Letting your child choose ingredients will enhance her creativity and encourage her to voice her opinions.

Pita Nachos

Need to make an after-school snack? Pita nachos make for a quick, satisfying treat.



  • 1 whole wheat pita
  • Salsa
  • Grated cheddar cheese

Split pita into two rounds, then cut into wedges. Lay the wedges on a cookie sheet, then broil in an oven for a few minutes until golden. Sprinkle wedges with cheese and salsa, then broil again until cheese melts.


*An adult should oversee all recipes and activities. Recipes and activities may not be appropriate for all ages.


National Day of Listening

Sometimes we should be listening to our children rather than talking to them. When our children do something wrong, instead of immediately telling them what they did wrong, listen to why they did it and ask them why they think it was wrong. Today is the National Day of Listening. At dinner tonight, ask your children what is happening in their world and genuinely listen to them. It’s important for us to listen to our children to fully understand what is going on in their lives.


Let your friends and family know what today is and remind them to listen to their children and their loved ones as well.