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Sack Lunch Ideas

Sack Lunch Ideas

Parent Tips > Education, Schools & Tutors > Sack Lunch Ideas

Brown Bag Success

Submitted By: Leah Diamond

Leah Diamond,


Ideas for nutritious lunches your child will eat


Perhaps one of the most challenging tasks for today's parents is the simple act of preparing and packing your child's school lunch. As parents, we want to prepare a lunch that is tasty, nutritious, and filling. A child's diet can have an incredible impact on their ability to focus and perform well in school. Yet as parents we are faced with the pressures of today's fast paced lifestyle. Face it-most parents are extremely busy, and despite our best intentions, we cannot escape the prepackaged chips, cookies, and other refined and processed foods that are on grocery shelves everywhere. Add to this mix the outside influences of peer pressure and junk food marketing, and it becomes clear why parents everywhere have thrown up their hands in frustration. The battle is far from over however, and the small steps and tips that follow in this article are excellent stepping stones to help you, your family, and your children make a transition towards a healthier "brown bagged" tomorrow.


Based on my experiences as a mom and as a teacher of kids cooking classes for the past 15 years, I have learned that it is very important to include your child in both the lunch-planning and lunch-making processes. Once a child is in the third or fourth grade, they can help to make at least part of their lunch. For instance, the night before they can help measure the ingredients for a recipe, mix something together, or even simply place their snacks into Ziploc bags or tupperware containers. I have seen many "picky eaters" eat more of their lunches when they were involved in the planning and the making of the meal. Including your child will allow them to feel important and valued, which can improve their self-esteem and confidence. Additionally, school lunch planning and making doubles as a fun bonding time for the whole family.


Organization and planning are crucial to making "brown bagging" a success for you and your family. Set aside a weekly time (Sundays work well) to sit down with your child before you do the week's grocery shopping. Together you can plan the upcoming week's lunch menus. As a parent, you can offer guidance about your child's suggestions, ensuring that the result is agreed-upon, nutritious menu options. If your child is younger and does not have concrete menu ideas, you can offer them three (or so) options and ask them what they would prefer.


Good communication is also essential to making "brown bagging" as success. How often have you opened your child's lunch box after school to find that they did not eat most of what you had packed? It is important to clarify what your child likes to eat, but also when they like to eat, and what portion sizes they prefer. For example, some children (especially five and six year olds) prefer to eat several snacks at school and have their lunch when they get home. In a case like this, leftovers from the previous night's dinner could be the next day's lunch. If your child does prefer multiple snacks instead of a full meal, just be sure that the snacks are nutritious (i.e. cut vegetables, nuts, dried fruit, tortilla chips, etc) and that they do not fall into the "junk food" category (i.e. greasy chips, sugary cookies, etc).


The loving effort you put into preparing your child's lunch today will continue to reap benefits far into the future. The tastes we develop for certain foods as a child stay with us into adulthood and influence our dietary choices. That is why it makes sense to prepare tasty and healthful foods and let your child help in the planning and preparation as much as possible.


Here are a few creative, fun, and new lunch ideas to help make "brown bagging" a reality:


1. Younger kids love fun and creative things, such as food in unusual shapes. Use cookie cutters to cut their sandwiches in different shapes. There are tools to cut fruit and vegetables in unusual shapes, too.

2. Include a love note in your child's lunch to remind him or her that you are thinking of them.

3. If your child will only eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, try using a spread of equal parts peanut butter and almond butter (or another nut butter) to create variety. Try using new jams or add banana to the sandwich. Or top the nut butter with grated carrots and raisins.

4. Sandwich fillings can include: Almond butter with honey and banana, egg salad, cream cheese with strawberry jam (low in sugar), meatloaf, sliced turkey, cheese, etc.

5. Non-sandwich items can include: Quesadillas, burritos, potato salad, spaghetti with red/white sauce, pasta salad, rice salad, chili, baked chicken, egg rolls, last night's casserole, etc.

6. Snack ideas include: Trail mix (mixed nuts and raisins), granola with yogurt, raw vegetable slices with humus or dip, pancakes or waffles with nut butter, string cheese, fresh fruit cut up in interesting shapes, healthy pudding, homemade dessert, etc.


I wish you the best in creating healthy lunches with your children. Enjoy!


For more information, call Leah @ 805-683-2525 or email her at

Creative Foods & Ideas for Kids Lunches

Make lunches healthy by including: one serving of fruit (grapes, bananas, applesauce) one serving of vegies (carrot sticks - they have mini packs at Trader Joes, tomatoes, snap peas), one serving protein (peanut butter, deli meats, hard boiled egg, string cheese, yogurt). Use wheat bread for sandwiches. Encourage kids to drink water instead of a lot of juice. Keep sweets to a minimum.


Ideas from Parents: 

  • Give your child a 'hot' lunch by putting heated chicken nuggets, waffle sticks, fish sticks etc.. into a thermos. They will stay warm till lunch and are a nice change of pace from the traditional sandwich.
  • I have found that if I keep my daughter's lunch simple, she is more likely to eat it. Rather than put every food group in her lunch box, I give her a sandwich (crust cut off and in fourths) and one fruit or vegetable item.
  • I have burned out 2 of my kids on Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so now I have to try hard to be more creative. My kids like trail mix that I make using a variety of cereals, raisins or crasins, and pistachios.
  • My 3-year-old son enjoys ""dipping"" things: bananas in yogurt, pita in hummus, vegetables in peanut butter, and whole wheat pita in pureed sweet potatoes or tomato soup.
  • Kids love dips and smoothies! For the smoothie, I send a yogurt & straw. At lunch, he shakes the yogurt up, removes the plastic top and puts the straw through the foil top. By that time of day, the yogurt is nice and soft and can easily be sipped through a straw-a fruit smoothie! I also send cut up fruits, vegies, meats and cheeses in a handy tupperware that has a couple of dividers. In one of the dividers, I serve a dip to add appeal! For one of our favorites, we combine plain yogurt, cream cheese, peanut butter, and a tiny bit of real maple syrup. Yum! Yum! Finally, our problem isn't so much lunch as it is getting a breakfast in before school. (My son loves to sleep in!) So on Sunday evening, I make up a bunch of waffles and freeze them. When we are in a mad rush to get out of the door in time for school, we can take a waffle out of the freezer, pop it in the toaster and he usually ends up eating it on the way to school folded over with a bit of peanut butter or sliced bananas. I make them more nutrituous than the store bought frozen ones so I can feel good about him getting a good start to the day!
  • Mix chocolate soy milk and regular milk for a special treat - it will taste like chocolate milk but not have as much chocolate. The regular milk also masks the taste of soy if they don't like the soy flavor.
  • Make a week's worth over the weekend with all the non-parishables (raisins, crackers, juice box, whatever else) and then just toss in a fresh sandwich, gogurt and/or cheese stick in the am. Utilize more whole foods which are easier to pack, cheaper and healthier: nuts, apples, homemade granola bars, dried fruits, bread, etc. Only pack two or three things...more likely to get eaten. Don't pack desserts, save those for a treat after school.
  • My kids don't eat much at school because they are soo busy (distracted). Therefore, what I do put in their lunch really has to count. I've had great success with 1/2 sandwiches that the kids help me make - (turkey/cheese, or PBJs). String cheese or cheese sticks are always popular, cashews are a high protein snack. Baby carrots are accepted, BUT, if I buy the Trader Joes prepackaged carrots and dip... well, then, I'm just super mom. My kids also enjoy Clif Bars which do have adequate protein to include in a lunch. Grapes travel well as do applesauces. I also include a small water in their lunch box. We steer clear of Gogurts - too messy, and avoid chips, cookies and other snack type items. They can have a treat for an after school snack IF they did a good job on their lunch.
  • A good, healthy kids lunch is hummus and whole wheat pita bread cut into triangles. I also like to make ""ants on a log,"" which is celery with almond/cashew butter spread on it, and raisins on top.
  • My daughter loves to have the basics in her lunch - cheese sticks, go-gurts, hot dogs, and for her veggie she loves edaname beans! They are fun to unwrap and easy to pack!

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