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School Snack & Lunch (Part I)

Edamame, whole wheat pretzels, peach slicesEdamame, whole wheat pretzels, peach slices

I often am asked for ideas regarding school snacks and lunches because keeping these varied and interesting while also familiar and comforting are what help kids enjoy and finish these meals.

This is the first year I am packing both snack and lunch for my daughter and going forward I will continue to post more examples.

One of the most important things to do first is to ask for input from your child and encourage her to prepare as much of her snack and lunch as she can. Provide containers which your child can open and close herself and if need be practice opening and closing at home.

Grilled cheese on seeded whole wheat, watermelon, home-grown cherry tomatoes, baked pita chips, Whole Foods lemon & artichoke dipGrilled cheese on seeded whole wheat, watermelon, home-grown cherry tomatoes, baked pita chips, Whole Foods lemon & artichoke dip

If you see certain foods returning home uneaten, have a conversation with your child about why this food was not eaten. One day my daughter bought her cheese home uneaten, the reason? Because it was “too sweaty” and the simple solution was to put the cheese in a better insulated container so it would stay chilled and put it in her snack rather than lunch so that it would be eaten earlier in the day.

Pasta with tomato, sausage & eggplant and baked snap peas & carrotsPasta with tomato, sausage & eggplant and baked snap peas & carrots

As the mother of lean children, I am often worried that they are not eating enough and so I tend to over-pack. I have been trying to resist this urge because overwhelming the child with too much food which she cannot finish is not only wasteful but does not give the child a sense of fulfillment at the end of the meal. It has taken a few weeks to calibrate my snack and lunch packing but these days, little to no food comes home uneaten and my daughter is satisfied with enough energy to make it through the end of the school day.

For snack there is always a combination of veggie/fruit, carb and protein which is repeated in larger portion for lunch. In the lunch I will sometimes include a healthy dessert.

Zucchini-carrot muffin, mozzarella string cheese, grapesZucchini-carrot muffin, mozzarella string cheese, grapes

I also pack a small thermos of whole milk (which I keep in the fridge overnight to get it extra cold) and the required water bottle.

If there are foods like soup or pasta which need to stay warm, I will pack these in a separate thermos rather than the bento box (making sure to fill the thermos first thing in the morning with boiling water from the kettle).

This year has been particularly challenging because my daughter’s school is completely nut-free and so I cannot rely on nuts for their compact and easily portable energy boost. When my daughter is craving nutbutter and jam sandwiches I substitute sunflower seed butter for the nutbutter which is very delicious in its own right.


  • Make breakfast for lunch, french toast wedges, a couple slices of bacon and cut melon
  • Cube chicken try this recipe , add some farro and fresh snap peas
  • Put two leftover pizza slices topping side together and reheat for a triangular calzone
  • Dress up pre-made tomato soup with a swirl of sour cream and scallions, then include a handful of pumpkin seeds  and croutons to toss on top
  • If you have leftover rice, do a quick stir-fry with frozen peas, carrots & corn, cubed ham or a scrambled egg

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