The Lunchbox Conundrum

lunchbox conundrum


What do I pack for the kids??  This is the question that used to haunt me everyday about ½ hour before we were supposed to leave the house for school. 

I think most of us who are parents or caregivers, want to feel like we’re giving our kids clean fuel to keep them happy and energized.  But we also need to know that after we’ve spent the money on groceries and gone through the effort of packing a wholesome and well thought out meal, that those little stinkers are actually going to eat it!  

Well, I can’t promise you a secret formula, but as a Mom who’s also a Nutritionist (poor kids,) after much research and trial and error, here’s what’s worked for me and my small humans.  I hope you can find something here to make your life easier and your kids’ bodies and minds a little more nutrified. 


1. I taught my kids when they were 5 and 11 that a healthy lunch included a protein, a fruit, a vegetable and a fun thing.  We drew a picture of a round plate split into 4 sections, that we posted in the pantry. We brainstormed some of their favorite foods in each category and they got to draw examples for each category. (See our list below)  
    Then, I bought lunchboxes with four divisions (you can use Tupperware etc.) On the weekends I had them put their own lunches together so they could feel a little empowered about their choices.  Now when they go to school, sometimes they pack their own lunch because they’re used to it (major win!) but either way, I know THEY know what to expect in their lunch and are usually pretty happy about it.
    2. Buying a lunchbox that was durable and had the right amount of sections in it helped my anxiety levels so I never had to think about whether I was packing “enough.”  As long as I had my categories and a section for each, I could fill them up and lock it down.  End of story. I like stainless steel lunch boxes because they are durable and super easy to clean.
    3. I let my kids pick out healthy foods at the grocery store.  Sometimes when we’re in the produce section I say, “Walk around and pick anything you want.” And sometimes there’s even excitement about it. They’ll bring me two or three things. I always try to say yes within our budget, so they are excited about what’s in the fridge.
    4. On Amazon, I bought the cutest little vegetable cutters that quickly turn sandwiches into stars, cucumbers into hearts (stack them with a little peanut butter in the middle,) and cheese slices into bunny faces. Look up Japanese Food Art to get really crafty and creative ideas.
    5. Think beyond the sandwich, chips and apple formula. A little warmed-up pasta or baked potato from the night before, hard-boiled eggs peeled and sliced in half, chips and guacamole, my kids even love a half avocado with lime or lemon juice squeezed all over it and sea salt sprinkled on top.  
    6. Fun things can still be on the healthier side. Think gluten-free pretzels, popcorn, or fruit gummies.  Stores like Trader Joe’s often have m&m style chocolate candies with natural dyes.  They look like pastel m&m’s and taste the same…at least to a health food junkie nutritionist.  😉

    Protein: Uncured salami (with no nitrates,) turkey rolls with cream cheese or grass-fed cheddar slices inside, whole wheat bagel with cream cheese, roasted chicken legs, rice cakes with almond butter and drizzled with honey

    Fruit: Apples, peaches, watermelon, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, smoothies in a thermos, bananas with almond butter or peanut butter, fresh figs, no sugar added dried fruit (try our Mariani Simply Dried Mango and Pineapple, or our Probiotic Prunes for a sweet dose probiotics to support their immune system.) 

    Vegetable: baby carrots, celery cut in moon shapes, red bell pepper slices with hummus, carrots cut into flowers with a vegetable cutter, baby bell peppers, half a corn of cob from the night before smothered in grass-fed butter and sea salt, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, baby gem lettuce with mustard and a slice of cheese all rolled up

    Fun things: Gluten-free pretzels, popcorn, fruit gummies.  Stores like Trader Joe’s often have m&m style chocolate candies with natural dyes.  (They look like pastel m&m’s and taste the same…at least to a health food junkie nutritionist. 😉) baby marshmallows, dark chocolate with mint, candy cane white chocolate.   


    I hope this helps. Enjoy!  

    From our family to yours,  

    Natalie Mariani