Packing the perfect lunch for your child doesn’t have to be complicated. Personally, I rarely make anything fancy for my kids’ lunches. But I do try to make sure that their lunches are balanced and full of variety.

What Does a Balanced Lunch Look Like?

Below is a visual of what should ideally go into a child’s lunch each day. Granted, kids are human, not robots, so they’re rarely perfectly predictable and compliant. But this list should give you a good idea of what you’re aiming for.

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How To Pack The Perfect Lunch

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Keep in mind, the ideal amounts listed are for one meal (i.e. lunch) and not for the whole day. On a per day basis, the average 5- to 8-year-0ld should aim for about 1.5 cups of fruit, 2 cups of veggies, 5 ounces of grains (half of them whole grains), 5 ounces of protein and 2.5 cups of dairy.

What If My Kid Won’t Eat All Those Foods?

Well, that just means your kid is normal. The truth is, vegetables are missing from most kids’ lunches. And most adults don’t eat what they should for lunch either. But now you have a goal to set. Spend some time thinking about how you can inch your little one closer to a more balanced lunch. You may need to start by adding just one baby carrot or one sugar snap pea.

Or, if it’s just too difficult to make changes to your child’s lunch right now, focus on making the change to another meal, like dinner or even the after-school snack.

10 Simple Ideas to Inspire You

Looking for ways to make the ideas on the list a reality? Check out some of the lunches below. Granted, not all of them are perfect, but they’re all super simple to make, are pretty balanced and offer lots of variety.

MAKE YOUR OWN “PIZZA”: whole grain pita, cheese stick, black olives and green peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms, dried cranberries

 

Turkey avocado roll ups, peaches, cucumber, cheddar bunnies with raisins and pumpkin seeDS

 

Chopped salad, apples, crackers, pumpkin seeds, brownie bites

 

Whole grain couscous with parmesan, yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, apples, candy

 

SNACK ATTACK: PRETZELS WITH CHEESE, STRAWBERRIES, CARROTS, GRANOLA BAR, ALMONDS, DRIED CRANBERRIES

 

Plain Greek yogurt with honey, sliced pita, almonds, strawberries, mini peanut butter cups

 

Turkey, cucumber, yellow pepper, mixed berries, cheese

 

Whole grain penne, cucumber, yellow pepper, carrots, ranch dip, raspberries, m&ms

 

TURKEY CHEDDAR TOMATO SKEWERS, SIMPLE SALAD, WATERMELON, CRACKERS, CANDY

 

WHOLE GRAIN NOODLES, PARMESAN CHEESE, TOMATOES AND YELLOW PEPPER, CANTALOUPE, RAISINS

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