Help Moms- Need Expert Advice on Quick Healthy Food to Pack Lunchbox

Updated on August 31, 2009
J.C. asks from Sayreville, NJ
16 answers

Penelope has always given me issues when it comes to eating at school- She's going into 2nd grade and I would love her to eat healhier. She's so picky and is a very slow eater. When I check her lunchbox when she returns from school- it looks as if she only had a few bites and would tell me she didn't have enough time to finish. I hate the lunchables but she would eat it because it seems easy to just put in her mouth and go!! No go with pb&j sandwiches- she loves macaroni w/out the cheese and only add butter. Any advice on what I can pack this kid - I gues they give her about 20' minutes to eat because she goes to the bathroom at that time. Would love some advice. Unfortunately, my mother is not with me and have no one to talk to.
Thanks! Appreciate any comments- esp those moms that have kids that are very picky like my daughter!

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for the great ideas- will definitely start a lunch menu with all these ideas!! I especially want to thank the mom that knows what really goes inside a lunchroom - this has helped me tremendously. I will make sure to pack things that are easy to open and that can pop in her mouth- thanks!

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S.S.

answers from New York on

Have you tried edamame? My son loves it -- either shelled or unshelled. Also, I pack all kinds of berries and fruit (cut up) to make it easier to eat. Another fool proof item is raisin bread with whipped cream cheese and fruit. And lastly, he also loves cucumber sandwiches (really - whipped cream cheese and slices of cukes, I leave the crust on b/c that is where most of the nutrition is). I also do soup in a thermos. Good luck...

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S.H.

answers from Albany on

How about some homemade fruit salad? It's self-digesting and nutritious and will give her energy and mental alertness. Kids tend to eat fruit pretty quickly compared to cooked stuff because it's yummy. Use whatever is in season or whatever she likes. Don't add anything to it, just fruit.

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G.T.

answers from Rochester on

No matter what you give her, she will probably still not eat all of it. I have worked at schools and watched kids in the lunch room for years. Technically they may have 20 minutes for lunch. But realistically, the first 5 minutes are used for talking, giggling and playing with their friends and unpacking their lunch boxes and laying their food out on the table the way they want it. The last 5 minutes is for cleanup. This gives them 10 minutes to eat, right? Wrong. Another 5 minutes is spent watching the class clown make jokes and faces about what his mom packed for him. Or watching the kid that just spilled his milk all over the table or in his lap. This gives them only 5 minutes to eat. That's only enough time to eat the snack foods you packed (they always get eaten first) and drink whatever you give them to drink. Then maybe they will take a bite or 2 of the sandwich or main part of the meal. I can't tell you how much food goes to waste in a school lunch room. And it doesn't matter if it's their favorite foods or not. They just don't have the time to eat it and most times no matter what it is they will not eat it anyway because you are not there to tell them to "eat your food".

BTW As a lunchroom mom, I hated lunchable too. Not because of the foods that were in them but because of the packaging. Most little kids had problems opening them. Which means they have to waste more time waiting for the lunchroom mom to go down the line of kids waiting for someone to help get their milk open to help them. And if they do manage to get them open on their own, half of it usually ends up scattered all over the table (which sets about a new round of giggling) or on the floor (which means everyone has to stop eating to see this).

Give her a couple of her favorite snack food (open the packages and put them in a plastic baggies). And half of a sandwich of whatever she will eat. And stop worrying so much about it, she will do just fine.

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L.N.

answers from New York on

gosh i so dislike those lunchables...and thank god my daughters hate them too.
really if she's a picky eater even if you pack a healthy lunch and she doesn't eat that usually she won't especially with you not being there. it's important your child gets some food while in school otherwise she won't be able to concentrate
my kids are starting K this year and this is what i plan on rotating between for lunch:
1.creppes (made that morning) either with cream cheese, or crumbled feta, or raspberry jam
2. dino nuggets (in aluminum foil to preserve some of the heat), ketchup on the side, fruity yoghurt
3. boiled egg, string cheese, a slice of bread, and grapes
5. grilled cheese sandwich with apples on the side
6. homemade soup (make a day/night before, have it have plenty with diced potatoes, carrots, corn) with a slice of bread.
7.hot dog (in aluminum foil), yogurt. (if your child is a bread eater then a slice of bread as well).
7. mac n cheese, and side of steamed broccoli
8. ham and cheese sandwich + some kind of fruit (make sure sure you pack different fruit each day for varieties sake
etc
that said...plan on having healthy breakfast and dinner at home to make up for the food they eat in school. my kids aren't picky eaters but they're slllloooowwww eaters so i know the time allotted for lunch in school is NOT enough for my kids. that is why i will have to pack what they usually eat without a fuss. carbs seems to keep my kids filled for a few hours. and my kids eat bread plenty so i have bread planned on packing almost for every day of the week.
good luck

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M.T.

answers from New York on

J.,
My advice is to train her with a timer to eat in less than 20 minutes. This is the advice I've always given to friends in the area when their kids are starting full day school in first grade. It's best that she brings lunch and does buy, because precious time is used up on the lunch line. I'd suggest anything bite sized - cut up pieces of chicken, turkey, ham ... string cheese ... raw veggies, bite sized chunks of fruit, stuff that she can quickly pop into her mouth. But really, the key isn't what she's eating but training her to eat in the time limit. Even in 10 minutes, you have time to take more than a few bites of sandwich. It's easy to be distracted during lunch ats school, the cafeteria is noisy, you're sitting with friends and talking after a morning in the classroom of working and not talking.
Good luck

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C.H.

answers from New York on

Hi! I have very similar issues w/ my son who is also a very slow eater and has become more picky w/ time, but less so than your daughter, it seems. I figured out last year that it takes a long time to even just buy milk! So I started sending juice boxes or shelf stable milk in his lunch box. This summer I've also started to suspect that he's lactose intolerant, so I'll send a yogurt and (reusable) bottle of water instead along with his sandwich (and an icepack).

I sometimes make my own 'lunchables' by cutting my own selections of meats & cheeses into small sizes and using whole wheat ritz crackers. Much cheaper & I can better control the quality of the food. But don't forget the sweet treat which is part of what they love w/ the lunchables :). I'm eager to see your other responses, too. Good luck!

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R.C.

answers from New York on

No matter what you give her for lunch will end up the same way...
Make sure she eats a well balanced breakfast and dinner and takes her vit..
Put easy to eat fruit, juice and half a sandwich in her lunch box. And don't make an issue over what she doesn't eat of it...She'll be fine.

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R.D.

answers from New York on

Hi!
I certainly have a picky eater! I pack him one lunchable a week as his treat and the other days I do egg salad sandwiched between saltines, bologna and cheese rolled up individually with crackers..i have basically tried to replicate the lunchable in a healthier wasy (minus the bologna). I always cut up vegatable...cucs, carrots... I give him so many choices that he has to eat some of it. What about yogurt? My son loves trader joes yogurt or the gogurts. Can you put the pasta in a thermos? Does your daughter eat well at home?

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A.H.

answers from New York on

Some more ideas:

Pack slices of cheese separately from crackers, or the crackers get soggy. Add a small cup of yogurt and a granola bar.

Try dry sandwiches (eg just turkey on bread). Add baby carrots or a container of cut up strawberries or grapes.

Buy a wide-mouthed thermos at CVS and pack soup or chicken nuggets or meatballs in it.

Good luck!

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C.R.

answers from Albany on

My oldest son (he is 7 1/2) loves to take a thermos to school with either soup, chicken nuggets, pasta salad, macaroni and cheese, or anything else.) Also, if she likes lunchables, make your own and save your money and all those preservatives that may be in them. Send in either peanut butter and crackers, or cheese, turkey or ham, and crackers and have her put them together herself. They have a ton of containers that will make it both fun and easy on the environment. Also, maybe she would like yogurt. They have drinkable ones, tubes or even a container. Fruit salad is always good too. 20 minutes is a long time to eat so she should have plenty of times. I think most schools average about 15 minutes to eat and the other 15 minutes is recess. Good luck and I hope that helps.

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M.R.

answers from New York on

I care for my 9 yr old nephew - he is the same as your daughter - for the LONGEST time I would send him to school with cereal - I already paid for him to get milk daily at school - so I would just send him with cereal - he hated pb & j sandwiches.. and forget getting him to eat lunchmeat!!! I refused to buy the lunchables - too much $$ in my opinion. He, too, would only eat macaroni with butter. - I would heat it up in the morning and EXPLAINED that by the time he would get to eat it - it would be cold... he had no choice but to eat it anyway. Since that time - I've gotten him to eat lunch meat (chicken breast only.. grrr!!) but he has a sandwich now for lunch every day (and his school does not offer a hot lunch program (catholic school) so he has no choice but to bring a lunch everyday)...

good luck...!!

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J.D.

answers from New York on

I pack my son rolled up turkey and cheese with crackers. I cut the rolls into small pieces. You could do that or if you want to add more to it, use a tortilla, spread some hummus inside or something else simmilar then layer and roll - cut up into pieces. I have one of those laptop lunch boxes - the bento box and love it b/c you really put good healthy items in the containers and I think just recently Parents Mag online had a whole bunch of ideas of what to pack. It looks fun too - consider it your own homemade lunchables. I LOVE the thermos idea - I've been seeing moms suggest that a lot and I might start doing that for my son too b/c I HATE microwaving and I'm sure thats how they heat up my sons food (he's only 2.5 so he's in daycare - different then elementary school) But I think the thermos idea is great - i've heard people putting grilled cheese in there, chicken nuggets (I think that was suggested below) You could put pasta in there. I remember as a child having chicken noodle soup in my thermos. Ahhh -just seems so much more comforting than a sandwich IMO.

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T.Q.

answers from Albany on

Hi There,
I don't have the same exact situation as you, but a similar issue. My 3 and 1/2 year old is a pretty good eater, but isn't much of a sandwich eater. (She will eat Nutella sandwiches, but nuts aren't allowed, and grilled cheese). Lunch is fine at home because I can make her those things and other warm things like mac'n'cheese. She is also a relatively slow eater and is very distracted from eating when other things are going on (ie. at pre-school, parties etc.). Last year she at lunch at school once per week, and would only eat a little bit, but because it was only one day per week, and she came home early in the afternoon, I didn't worry. This year she will be eating lunch at school 2 or 3 days per week and stay later, so I am trying to be more creative too! I did start to find some things that were quick and easy for her last year... She really likes yogurt smoothies so I gave her the "Danimals" and sent them with a straw... she also likes to use a straw to drink applesauce. I just send her with the little applesauce cups and a straw which she can just poke through the foil, this seems to be a quicker alternative than using a spoon. I also do a lot of healthy snack type things like crackers, cheese sticks (which come in a variety of cheese types now) and deli turkey rolled up. (you could give her chunks of cheese and deli meet to make a healthier version of lunchables). My daugter also likes the little mini bagels with cream cheese. What about doing pieces of fruit on wooden skewers or using cookie cutters to cut fun shapes in sandwiches or even pancakes, waffles or french toast... I am going to try that this year.

Good Luck!

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T.W.

answers from New York on

Try making your own Lunchables, I do that not only for my kids but for myself and it works out not only cheaper but great because I can pack whatever my kids like at the time and can do so the night before then come morning you just pop it into their lunch boxes and you are done. I work full-time plus go to school full-time so mornings are rough around our house. One other thing your daughter will adjust to having to eat quickly at school, my son did, he is entering 5th grade now.
Hugs,
Ton

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K.C.

answers from New York on

Hi J.,

Luckily, my daughter loves veggies. We eat 2 salads a day: one when she gets home from school and a small salad before dinner (w/ carrot, cuc, onion, olives, leafy greens(a tad mixed in the other lettuce), chopped broccoli and chopped califlower. I eat the salad, too.

When it comes to other foods, she's picky, too!

Therefore, I pack her 1/2 a sandwich w/ a slice of organic cheese and a serving or 2 of fruit. She doesn't get much time to eat @ school.

Occasionally, she'll eat a small container of organic [email protected]____.com likes Gorilla Munch or organic, whole grain cinnamon squares...

There isn't alot I can pack due to allergies the other kids have.

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S.S.

answers from New York on

Hi, It seems to me that most children are picky eaters, and like what they like. Both my children are picky eaters as a result of mild food allergies and acid relux, nor do they like school lunches.
I purchased a great thermos at Target that heats up in the mircowave and seems to keep the food warmer than a plan thermos (we pack chicken nuggets which are made in the toaster over in the am). I purchased a cold thermos at staples, It's advertised for cereal use but works great for yogurt.
My daughter helps put her lunch together which also helped with her eating it.
Items eaten, cut up seasonal fruit and carrots, peanut butter with cracker, bagels w/ cream cheese, mac n cheese

Good luck,
S.

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