Breaking the Lunchbox Blues

Nothing quite brings on the excitement of new beginnings like the first day of school! Fresh shoes, backpacks, supplies, and lunchboxes all make the end of summer break seem less depressing and the onset of the new school year more exciting. If you have been diligently packing those snacks and lunches you know that the excitement can quickly wear off and you may already be hearing from your children that their lunches need a refresh. Here are a few tips and tricks to bring life back into those lunchboxes!


  • Take a break from packing and check out school meals.


Chicago Public Schools provides all students with breakfast and lunch daily at no cost to families. The meals meet or exceed USDA nutritional standards and are chalk full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains! Does your child’s school participate in the National School Lunch Program? Find out by asking the Principal or searching the school’s webpage.


  • Mix up the entrees.


It’s easy to make the same entree while mixing up the sides so try the reverse and pack fun different entrees like pasta salad, hummus and pita, or deconstructed parfaits. Change up the bread carrier (buns, tortillas, rolls, biscuits) or even try breakfast for lunch (whole grain muffins, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, or french toast sticks).  


  • Get ideas from retail markets and trends.


Walk into any Starbucks, Panera, Target and look at the grab and go options. Protein boxes, dippers, or even the famed lunch kits are a fun alternatives to traditional lunches. As long as the meal is balanced (grain, protein, fruit, vegetable, dairy) it is ok if it seems more like snacks and less like a meal.


  • Make it with love.


Step away from Pinterest. Is the daily cookie cutting sandwiches and fruit weighing you down? Searching for ways to be more creative? Remember at the end of the day it’s food, not art. Kids will eat their food (including fruits and vegetables!) if you regularly expose them to it. No need for them to always be stars and hearts. Spend that time coloring one more picture or playing one more game of soccer before school. Finally, a handwritten note wishing them a great day or saying “I love you” makes any lunch the best lunch ever!

Samples Lunches:

  • Protein Boxes: Hard boiled eggs, nuts*, cheese, hummus, fruit, and vegetable.
  • Peanut/Sunbutter* Dipper Boxes: Peanut/Sunbutter*, carrots, graham crackers, and apple slices.
  • Deconstructed Yogurt Parfait: Yogurt, graham crackers/granola, and fruit of choice.
  • Mini pinwheel rolls: Tortilla, spinach, cheese, and hummus sliced to a few sushi roll sized pieces.
  • Snack Box: String cheese, whole grain crackers, cucumbers, peppers, and oranges.


*Be sure to check with your school for any allergen policies before packing nuts or nut butters.

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Stephanie Hofhenke

Stephanie Hofhenke

Bringing you the best nutrition information...

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