Tips for Making Healthy School Lunches that Kids Will Actually Eat

healthy school lunches

Back to school can be challenging enough without having to think about making healthy school lunches that your kids will actually eat. Packing kids lunches is not always an easy task. As parents it can be challenging figuring out what to put in there that won’t come back at the end of the day half eaten and you’re wondering what your child had for lunch that day.

There are many ideas on recipes and creative things to put in kid’s lunches that will entice the kids to eat a healthy well balanced lunch but what I have learned is it is not all the fancy recipes and creativity that does the trick, though that certainly may help, it is knowing what your kids like and putting those items into their lunches that is the key. Or one of. In order to make a healthy school lunch that your kids will actually eat I have discovered the following tips that will create success.

Tips for Making Healthy School Lunches

1.Put in foods that you know your kids like – this is not the time to try out this new healthy food recipes. If kids don’t know what it is they will likely not touch it or tentatively take a bite and skip it. The best time to try a new food or recipe is at home, where you can offer a supportive and happy environment. If you discover that they like it, then you can pop it in their lunch.

healthy school lunches2. Get the kids to help – depending on the age of the child they can help or do it all on their own. Research shows that when kids participate in creating their own meals that they are more likely to eat it.

3. Offer them choice – this can be a win win situation. You as the parent can choose two healthy options and ask them which one they would like, ie the tuna sandwich or the ham. The child feels empowered because they got to choose what they wanted and you are happy because they have made a healthy choice that you are happy with.

4. Have variety – put in a variety of healthy items into your child’s lunch but in smaller portions. This way they have lots to choose from and enjoy and food is not wasted. My daughter often has a sandwich in her lunch but usually eats her spinach dip, apple, muffin and a bit of her sandwich. She is happy and is full and I know that she has gotten a variety of nutrients into her growing  body. It’s ok that she did not eat all of her sandwich as she saves it for the next day. The point is if I had only put in the sandwich and apple then she would have likely still been hungry and not had enough energy for her afternoon. There is also value in having variety from day to day or week to week. Change it up! as no one really likes the same thing day after day after day.

healthy sweet treats for kids5. Add in a healthy sweet treat – who doesn’t love a little sweet treat in their lunch? The kids will love it and see it as a bonus. There are lots of recipes out there for healthy sweet treats that you can feel good about putting into your kids lunch. Ones that are delicious and rich in nutrients so even if they eat that first you know that they are still getting good healthy stuff.

6. Make lunches fun and interesting – adding a little creativity to your kids lunches can not only make it more enticing to eat but can make it fun for you as well. There are many quick easy things that you can do like making faces out of their vegetables, cutting cheese out in shapes, make two tone sandwiches, etc.

7. Make lunch the night before – this takes so much pressure off you and makes mornings smoother and easier, with one less thing to do before you head out the door. If you make it the night before (I do everything except the sandwiches as I like them fresh), then you have time to put things in that are healthy and have the kids participate without everyone having to feel rushed and just tossing in whatever so the kids have at least something for lunch. When you’re not rushed you make better clearer decisions and it enables you to do any extra prep if you need to.

how to make tacos with kids8. Lastly, talk to your kids about their lunches. Ask them what they would like in them, offering a variety of choices that you are happy with. Ask them each day what they ate and enjoyed, what they didn’t like. Did they have enough in their lunch? Having a dialogue about their lunch not only gives you an idea of what they need and like (yes kids tastes can change often) but also helps you create healthy lunches that they will eat. One thing that is very important is to make sure that you do not reprimand your kids for not eating something or become upset, this will have the opposite effect of what you want, to get them to eat. Instead, ask them why they did not eat it – it may be as simple as they were full – or if they didn’t like it – ask them what they would like instead – again offering them choices. For example, if they didn’t eat their apple and tell you they’re tired of apples, offer them a couple other fruits that you would be happy with.

The two most important things that will help you create healthy school lunches for your kids are putting in what they like and getting them to participate. It can also be a great opportunity to spend time with your kids in the busy day doing something you have to do anyway. And guess what? If they help that means you have a little more time for yourself in the evening because lunch is already done.

Favorite Healthy Lunch Recipes

That being said it’s always nice to have a pool of recipes to pull from to create variety in your lunches. Here is a list of some of our favorite healthy lunch recipes for you to try (and remember if it’s new to you, try it at home on a weekend first before popping it into your kid’s lunch).

Veggies & Dip




Healthy Sweet Treats

Do you have a favorite healthy lunch recipe? Share in the comments below.

Delicious Dairy Free Dips

Matthew and Chloe enjoying a cucumber

While having all the kids at home over the Christmas holidays I discovered that my kids will eat pretty much anything, that they are not fussy eaters. I also discovered that whatever I put in front of them they ate. So even with the surplus of yummy sweet treats around, if I put  fruit or vegetables in front of them that is what they would eat. Not that they did not ask for the sweet treats mind you, I did too at some points. But I noticed that when I was prepping a veggie tray and Matthew came wandering by, he would pick up a carrot or celery stick and start eating – without being asked! – and then he would come back for more. I felt I was onto something…

Now my kids will eat their fruit and veggies regardless if there is a dip to go with it or not. Which is great because sometimes when I am running out of time, the dip is the thing that does not get done! But they and I do enjoy a yummy dip to go with it. In fact, often Chloe will eat only the dip, which I know defeats the purpose, but the dips I provide have good stuff in them too so it is ok. Sometimes though I do use it as a bargaining tool, “more dip if you eat your carrot stick”, not always the best tactic in getting kids to eat I know, but I think you would agree that we all do it to some degree.

So today I am sharing you with some of my favorite dips that are great with a variety of things, fruit, veggies, fish even, depending on the dip. (My sister made a fabulous dinner at Christmas of fish and chips and I could not get enough of dipping my fish in the Peppery Dip, it was delicious!)

Dill Dipgreat with veggies and/ or tortilla chips

1/3 c. veganaise

1/4 c. vegan sour cream*

1 tsp. parsley flakes

1/2 tsp. dill weed

1/8 tsp. onion powder

1/16 tsp. celery salt

1/16 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve immediately or chill until ready to use.

Recipe can easily be doubled. Makes about 1/2 c. dip

Peppery Dip

1 c. veganaise

2 tbsp. grated onion

2 tsp. tarragon vinegar (can use regular vinegar and tarragon seasoning)

2 tbsp. chopped chives

2 tbsp. chili sauce

1/2 tsp. curry powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/8 tsp. thyme

Mix all ingredients together. Serve with veggies, also great with fish!

With fruit I use this homemade caramel sauce that is made from dates. It is especially good with apples, but goes with any fruit well. All the dips will keep in the fridge for at least a few days, so make ahead of time or keep until later -that’s if you have any left 🙂

Enjoy and happy dipping!

*when I first started making dairy free dips I used Tofutti sour cream and cream cheese, a soy based product. I discovered that they use sugar in their product and since then have moved to using Earth Island, which has no sugar and I feel is a better product in general. Both work well and is up to you as the cook which one you’d like to choose – or maybe you have another favorite vegan sour cream 🙂