This post about healthy lunch box tips is sponsored. All opinions are my own.
Want to skip the fast food and vending machines at lunchtime? These healthy lunchbox tips will help you avoid temptation and eat a balanced lunch every day. Healthy habits like packing lunch from home mean more energy and sustained focus as you tackle the afternoon slump.
Healthy lunches include all the food groups but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Don’t get sidetracked by that fancy designer bento box you see on Pinterest and your social media channels. You don’t need to be a food artist to create a tasty meal even a picky eater will enjoy.
I am a big fan of Michael Pollan’s saying “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Hopefully, these lunchbox ideas will help you and your family make it through work and school without hitting the drive-through.
How to Pack a Healthy Lunch Box
It’s easy to pack a lunch for you or your child. There are tons of prepackaged foods on the grocery store shelves, right? You could throw candy, cookies, and Twinkies in a bag and call it lunch but you wouldn’t be doing your kids much of a favor.
It’s not always so easy to know how to pack healthy lunchboxes. I admit this may take a bit of meal prep the weekend before. Make sure you get kids involved in choosing healthy food. They will be much more amenable to eating it if they helped shop for it, grow it, make it, or pack it.
Make things from scratch
So many prepackaged foods have artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. These ingredients may have questionable effects on our health. You can pack healthy lunchboxes by avoiding overly processed foods and making things from scratch.
Your packed lunch may include homemade meatballs or savory muffins. Packed lunches can be as simple as apple slices and cottage cheese. Cooking from scratch allows you to avoid added sugar. For example, homemade applesauce is healthier than store-bought.
Don’t think you have to skip dessert, either. While I eat a lot of healthy snacks during the day, I have a serious sweet tooth. Want homemade desserts for lunch? Try this pumpkin pie homemade pudding recipe.
You could make it up on the weekend and put it in reusable containers to slip quickly into your child’s lunchbox. Desserts are not unhealthy. Trans fats and artificial ingredients that come in pre-made desserts and massed produced tinned fruit ARE unhealthy.
Avoid high fructose corn syrup
While it is a small thing, I really do think it is one of many important healthy lunch box tips to keep in mind. Honestly, HFCS is everywhere, even in foods you think sound healthy. Granola bars are a particularly common snack food that contains this highly processed sweetener.
Many brands are starting to realize that consumers are avoiding it and coming out with new versions of their snack foods. Read the labels on the back of the package to be sure that it doesn’t contain it. If you want to pack a healthy school lunchbox, ditching the HFCS is a great first step.
Skip the sugary drinks
People today do not drink enough water. There is no reason to pack soda, sports drinks, or flavored milk in a lunchbox. All that does is add unneeded calories, sugar, and artificial junk.
Pack a stainless steel water bottle full of plain water instead. If your child doesn’t like water (like mine!) try using a natural product to flavor it like True Lemon Natural Flavored Water Enhancer. It has zero artificial ingredients and is easy to toss into your lunch box.
One great way to add nutrients in drinkable form is to include smoothies and vegetable juice. Since these are often time-consuming to make, consider buying a box of them from Splendid Spoon.
Save time with plant-based, ready-to-eat meals that’ll have you feeling your best.
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Find a balance between healthy and convenient
While it is great to say you want to pack a healthier lunchbox, it really does take a little bit of extra time. Making a homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwich doesn’t take long but it isn’t as fast as throwing one of those pre-made frozen ones into a lunch box.
Slicing cheese and apples to go with whole wheat crackers takes longer than just throwing a Lunchable in a bag. You will need to find a balance when it comes to packing a healthy lunch box and realistically getting your kid out the door on time for the bus.
Do what you can and don’t kick yourself because you aren’t designing some creative Bento Box art project for your kid. Personally, I was thrilled with the selection of Splendid Spoon grain bowls, smoothies, and juices I received. I make my lunch at 5:30 AM. I am all for healthy eating but I am not all that awake before the sun comes up! If you have trouble just finding the lunch boxes in the morning, Splendid Spoon can help. Especially with their $50 off promo that they are running right now.
Choose whole grains
If you are making a sandwich, make sure to choose whole wheat bread rather than white. You could also include multi-grain crackers with sun butter, trail mix made with whole-grain cereal, dried fruit and sunflower seeds, etc. Adding whole grains is an easy way to make a healthy lunch box and also significantly increases your child’s fiber intake.
More Healthy Ideas for Lunch Boxes
Sometimes, you just run of ideas to put into a healthy lunchbox, right? I spent 12 years packing a lunchbox for my kids and husband. Honestly, as long as I hit most of the food groups, I consider it a win. I’m not going for art, just nutrition. Here are a few of the things I like to toss in that take very little effort at the crack of dawn.
- Cherry tomatoes
- Baby bagels with cream cheese
- Cut up lean meats like chicken or turkey
- Dried apricots and other dried fruit
- Savory muffins or biscuits
- Sandwich meat and cheese rolled up in lettuce leaves
- Granola bars. (skip the super sweet ones. Look for ingredients like rolled oats, nuts, dried fruit, etc)
- String cheese
- Sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly was one of my kids’ staple foods for 12 years.
- Homemade fruit bread (try my applesauce oatmeal bread!)
School lunches are designed to feed a lot of kids on a very limited budget. Eating out every day as an adult may be convenient but you are wasting a ton of money and probably not eating as healthy as you should.
Food Safety and Lunchboxes
You’ve packed a delicious lunch for the day, but by the time you’re ready to eat it, it’s either wilted or gross. How long is food safe in a lunchbox?
It’s frustrating when your carefully planned lunch is ruined by food spoilage. Not only is this wasteful, but it can also be dangerous if you’re eating something that has gone bad.
There are several ways to keep your lunch fresh all day long. One easy solution is to use a food thermos. Thermoses work by trapping in heat and keeping your food at a consistent temperature.
If you’re packing a cold dish, such as salad or fruit, consider using an insulated lunchbox with ice packs. This will keep your lunch fresh for at least 3 or 4 hours.
Always make sure to wash your hands before preparing or eating your food. And of course, toss any leftovers when they come home uneaten.
With back-to-school season upon us, consider investing in a decent insulated lunch bag and packing a healthy lunch box to take with you. Your waste line AND your budget will thank you for it!
Like these healthy lunch box tips?
Healthy eating isn’t always as easy as grabbing fast food. However, eating from all the food groups and eating healthy fats, vegetables, high fiber snacks, and lean meat like chicken will give you much more energy.
Here are a few more tips to get you started on your meal prep this week:
- Put these Homemade Gingersnap Energy Bars in your lunch.
- Learn how to pack an eco-friendly lunchbox. Pack a sustainable and well-balanced meal quickly with a few reusable items and a little bit of planning.
- 5 reasons why you should pack a lunch for work.
Make a big batch of vegetarian chili this weekend and throw it in a stainless steel thermos. You won’t miss the drive-through one bit. And your kids will be happy to skip school lunch with a healthy lunchbox from home, even if they are picky eaters.
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire and has worked in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging and freelance writing to share this knowledge with others. Learn more about her HERE.