Lunch Sack Ideas for Our Daughter Entering Kindergarten

Updated on August 19, 2009
L.W. asks from Laguna Hills, CA
7 answers

Our daughter will be entering Kindergarten in September. My husband and I both work full time and she has been in day care since she was 4 months old but other than breast milk or formula the first year we never need to provide her meals there. She will be doing the on campus before and after school program so she will be there all day. Any tips of healthy lunches and snacks (I'm assuming they do a morning and afternoon snack break at that age) that could be made up the night before that she can take with her would be so appreciated. Our daughter has no allergies but I know the schools now have restrictions of what can be packed to protect the other children that do.

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answers from Visalia on

This is from an article in my local newspaper:

•Have the children participate in preparing the lunch. "It will teach them skills in the kitchen and they will have an actual buy-in to the lunch and will be more likely to eat it."

•Make sure juice boxes are marked as "100 percent juice" and are not just cocktails full of sugar.

•Don't have sodas and pre-packaged junk food lying around, or you'll be more likely to throw that in a lunch box last minute than a healthy snack.

•Make sure to include an ice pack and use an insulated lunch box. This ensures that the food you packed stays fresh.

•Stay away from egg-based products such as mayonnaise (which means chicken and tuna salads), as they are more likely to spoil.

•"Make the lunch the night before and let it sit in the fridge over night."

Make a fruit cup and freeze it — by the time your child opens their lunch box, it will have melted and acted as an ice pack for the rest of the meal.

•Plan. This is the best way to keep packed lunches healthy. Making meals the night before, or even planning them out for the week on a list means you're less likely to throw together a last minute bag of junk food.

•Cut up fruit. "A lot of elementary age kids don't have their front teeth, and they can't bite off an apple or a pear," she said.

•While being more accessible, cut up food can also just be more fun to eat. "Kids really like finger food, and even little cut up cubes of cheese and some crackers are a healthy thing to send along instead of a sandwich."

•Try new things at home first. "You have to offer children new items more than five times for them to catch on. So try something new at home first, and then pack it in their lunch after you get them to eat it."


String cheese

A baggie of frozen grapes, melon balls, bananas or other fruit.

Individual serving of unsweetened applesauce with vanilla or cinnamon for added flavor

Cooked pasta (cold) topped with veggies, canned beans and low-fat (non-dairy so it won't spoil) dressing.

A sub sandwich with fat-free lunch meat, chopped lettuce and a drizzle of fat-free Italian dressing. Add spinach, shredded carrots, ortega chilies or other vegetables as desired.

Add sliced bananas and a sprinkle of raisins to peanut butter and fruit spread on whole wheat bread (or at least try one slice of whole wheat and one slice of white bread for a healthier compromise).

Turkey sandwich on whole wheat with mustard, ortega chilies and lettuce or sprouts.

Fat-free hot dog on whole wheat bun with "carrot fries" (carrot sticks).

Taco salad: leaf lettuce, black beans (canned, rinsed), red onions, tomatoes, low-fat cheese and baked tortilla chips.

Sandwich meat rolled into logs around string cheese, along with whole wheat crackers or a roll, and fruits or veggies.

Spread refried beans on a tortilla and sprinkle with low-fat cheese, drained corn, chopped bell pepper or onion, chili powder, cumin, hot sauce and chicken breast pieces.

A veggie burger on a bun with a slice of tomato and low-fat cheese.

Low-fat canned chili topped with sliced green onions and/or tomatoes.

A bowl of lentil or other low-fat hearty soup with crackers.

Bag of mixed dried fruit, pretzels and unsalted nuts — homemade trail mix.

Baggie of pre-cut veggies and a plastic container of salsa or non-fat dip.

Apple with cinnamon sprinkles or two tablespoons of peanut butter or apple butter.

Dip apple wedges in juice with vitamin C to stop browning before packing.

Sparkling water mixed with fruit juice.

Baggie of whole grain cereal or low-fat granola.

Any fruits or vegetables!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

Here are a few sites that you may find useful: (has a lunchbox section in their menu page) (great toddler food ideas) (there's a link to their back-to-school-guide along the top of the page)

Have fun and be creative!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I like to break it up with as many easy, healthy and fast options to prepare as possible. Pasta with pesto, hummus pinwheel sandwiches, garbanzo burgers, veggie pancakes or even leftovers reinvented from the night before. You can find all the recipes on the website. We're going to be doing a list of all our recipes with snacks and a shopping list for back to school next week. Check it out!

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answers from Las Vegas on

L., I have been packing lunches for my two boys for over the past 5+ years and it is definitely a challenge. The challenge mainly in keeping their lunches not only hearty but healthy. A few tips I've picked up are packing more than one type of sandwich (if you're packing sandwiches), in case they just don't feel like having that PB&J again. This way they can have one at lunch time and possibly the other at snack time. I normally pack their lunches w/ a wide variety of snacks along w/ one main dish (like various noodle dishes, various sandwiches, mac-n-cheese). snacks such as celery sticks w/ peanut butter, yogurt covered raisins, cinammon almonds, pretzel sticks, various fruit they can eat w/o struggle (i.e. frozel grapes), baby carrots, wheat ritz, fig squares (like fig newmans),cheese sticks, yo kids (frozen or not)...are just a few ideas. good luck! - Cyn

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi L.! I am in the same situation as my daughter starts kindergarten in Sept. I did find a blog with some ideas. Sorry this is so long, but the exerpt is below.

With the increasing popularity of full-day kindergarten, many parents are now finding themselves trying to figure out just what to pack in their child’s lunch every day. When my kids were in kindergarten, they needed a lunch plus TWO snacks every day. And like most five year olds, my boys ate a lot some days and barely anything on other days, so it was very frustrating for me.

So, how much does your kindergartener need per day? It took me a few minutes of Google searching to finally find a website that would tell me exactly what the recommended daily servings are for the average kindergartener. Of course, you should take your child’s individual nutritional needs into consideration and check with your pediatrician if you have specific questions about food. I found this information in an educational worksheet used by teaching students at Ole Miss University to teach the MyPyramid food guide to kids in grades K-8.

*Kindergarten-age children require between 4 and 5 ounces of grain products per day. Send half a sandwich (whole grain bread is best) for lunch and an ounce of whole wheat crackers (like wheat thins) or a whole grain cookie for snack time.

*The recommended intake of Vegetables for kindergarteners is 1½ to 2 cups per day. Measure half a cup of baby carrots, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, even cooked corn kernels or green peas into a small plastic (reusable) container or baggie. Serve another half cup after school for snack and half to one cup at dinner time and veggies are covered for the day!

*For kindergarteners, between 1 and 1½ cups of Fruit are recommended daily. If you buy fruit cups, buy the kind where the fruit is packed in it’s own juice. Even the “extra light” syrup is too much sugar for tiny tummies. A small apple sliced into quarters with the core removed is perfect for a kindergartener, they can eat it all at lunch or have a few pieces for lunch and the rest at snack. A half cup of grapes (cut large ones in half) or a small peeled orange is good too. A cup of 100% fruit juice is equivalent to a cup of actual fruit.

*It’s recommended that kindergarteners get 2 to 3 cups of milk products daily. This includes whole, lowfat, and nonfat milk (including flavored milk), lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream. Two slices of cheese count as one cup of milk, but if you buy cheese singles, make sure they are the kind made with actual milk. Some are made mostly with oil-yuck. So a cheese single on that half-sandwich, and a Yoplait kids yogurt cup or a Gogurt tube is one cup of milk right there.

*The Meat & Beans is represented by purple, and includes beef, pork, chicken, eggs, fish, nuts and seeds, and dry beans and peas. Kindergarteners should get 3 to 5 ounces of meat and bean products daily. Use one or two ounces of lean deli meat or leftover cooked meat that’s finely chopped on your child’s sandwich, or to just eat plain. Ham can be rolled up around slices of cheese or a thin slice of dill pickle for a fun lunch. Measure out an ounce or two of canned tuna in water, mix with mayo and a tiny bit of chopped onion or pickle relish for an easy tuna sandwich. For snack time, send trail mix that includes an ounce of nuts and seeds IF nuts are allowed in your child’s classroom. Getting enough protein is rarely an issue for most kids today.

Most kindergarteners need 1200 to 1600 Calories a day, which really isn’t much. Don’t be angry if they don’t finish their lunch or snack, letting kids listen to the cues their body sends them and stopping when they have had enough to eat is something we ALL should be doing. Some days they will eat their whole lunch and snack and some days they won’t, but unless there is a medical issue involved, provide your child with a healthy selection and let them decide how much of it they need to eat. You can always wrap things up and send it again the next day. I hope this helps you plan what to send with your kindergartener for lunch!



answers from Los Angeles on

You might want to just pack a morning and afternoon snack - fruit, nuts, trail mix, muffins, croissants, cheese sticks, juice, bagel and cream cheese) and have her buy lunch - it's inexpensive, is a complete meal, and kids LOVE to have the cafeteria lunch. Public school lunch costs $1-2; private school costs about $5.

Public schools have a morning snack available in the cafeteria for purchase, and there is always a boxed cereal option. She could also opt for the cafeteria breakfast available to the before-care students. There is a morning snack break. In the afternoon she would have the snack after school is over - there is no afternoon snack break. Most schools do not provide afternoon snacks, whether in school or in aftercare, but you can call the office and ask if they do. Whatever you give her for afternoon snack will have to tide her over until dinner - you can include things like salami, crackers and cheese, pretzels, corn chips, apple slices. If you include something perishable, don't forget to put an ice pack in her lunchbox - they don't refrigerate the lunchboxes.

And don't forget to take a picture of her with her backpack and lunch box on the first day of Kindergarten! Good luck and have fun.



answers from Los Angeles on

Peanut butter with celery or apple is a good healthy snack for your 5 year old. Cheese and crackers as well. Does she like yougurt? That too can be healthy. All the things I listed have good protein for a small snack for your little one. Good luck!

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