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This week’s blog is by Flora McKay, Wellness Liaison for Butter Beans and blogger for

Knee deep into the new school year, children are forging new friendships, connecting with their teachers, while learning and growing everyday. Their days, packed with back-to-back scheduling, are busy and invigorating. As 11am rolls around, their tummies are rumbling, and they are ready to eat.

Lunchtime is a crucial moment in a child’s day; a time to re-fuel for the afternoon ahead, while also having fun and making memories with their friends.

For some of you, part of the school routine includes whipping up healthy school lunches for your children on the fly, which isn’t always easy, especially while juggling four other things at once.

We at Butter Beans love making lunch and are here to help! Here are our top 5 suggestions to help you pack a healthy school lunch for your children:

1.    Find a container that works for you. Choose what works best for your children from various options including:

  1. Builtny neoprene lunch bag: waterproof and insulated, and can be cleaned in the washer or by hand.
  2. Lunchbots: stainless steel containers, with leak proof and insulated options.
  3. Tiffins: stackable, washable, reliable – but not leak proof. They come with a handy insulated carrying case.
  4. Laptop Lunches: BPA-free, dishwasher safe, and we love their MyPlate version.
  5. Food jars: perfect for soup lovers, and great for other dishes like rice and beans, pastas, stir fry etc…

2.   Create a balanced plate. Take a look at MyPlate for a guide to creating a balanced meal. When shopping, read your labels, and stick to buying foods with ingredients you recognize. Also, remember that while your child may not obtain all of their nutritional requirements at lunchtime, finding a balance over the course of the week is a good goal. Breakfast, snack and dinner count too! This list should help get you started in putting together a balanced and healthy school lunch!

  • Proteins: edamame, lentils, chickpeas, black beans, hummus or bean dip, marinated tofu, grilled or sautéed chicken, nitrate + nitrite free cold cuts, meatballs, sardines, leftover roasted chicken, lentils, hardboiled eggs or frittatas.
  • Whole grains: brown rice, barley, millet, quinoa, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, pita, crackers, and pretzels.
  • Vegetables: chopped cucumber rounds, carrot rounds or sticks, celery, peppers, grape tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce as a wrap, or snap peas. Steamed or sautéed broccoli, green beans, or steamed sweet potatoes, cauliflower, roasted potatoes or beets.
  • Fruits: grapes, mandarin orange slices, and berries pack well. Dried fruit (sulfur free and no sugar added) are great dessert options; raisins, cranberries, apricots, dates, mangos. If you have a leak free container, applesauce or plain yogurt with honey or chopped fruit are great options.
  • Good fats: cheese cubes, olives, toasted pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and nuts (if your school allows) are great for growing bodies, and minds.

Keep it balanced!

3. Get creative and resourceful. It’s easy to pack lunch the night before, just make extra dinner! Leftover pasta dishes, rice, stir-fry, chicken cutlets, or chili dishes, make for fantastic lunches. Soups are also great for lunch! From vegetable purees, to bean and broth based soups like minestrone, tomato, miso, chicken and rice. Soups warm the belly and spirit on cold days. Heat them up and store in a thermos to keep warm until lunchtime.

4. Drinks: juice vs. water. When offered juice, most children will go for it first, filling them up quickly and leaving less room for the food you send. The extra sugar content affects their mood (not to mention social graces) and their concentration in school, especially after lunch. Water is the best choice during lunchtime. If you must pack juice, water it down.

Water or watered-down juice are the best options!

5. Include your child when you grocery shop. Let your child pick out something for their lunch, be it fruit, crackers, or their favorite cheese. If you are also packing a lunch for yourself or someone else at home, it is great for your child to see that the whole family is eating the same food while they are apart. Through out the week, check in with your child to see what they are enjoying at lunchtime.

Make grocery shopping a TEAM effort!

Lunchtime is an anticipated moment in a child’s day; a time to re-fuel for the afternoon, while having fun and making memories with their friends. The food you pack for lunch becomes a part of their memory that over time teaches them about your family’s values, and how to balance their own plate.

For more inspiration and ideas on packing healthy school lunches, follow our blog at

Share your best kids lunch ideas by leaving a comment!


7 Responses to 5 Steps for Packing Your Kids a Healthy School Lunch

  1. Leslie Estes says:

    Are the neoprene lunchboxes and insulated bags recommended in the article free of phthalates?

  2. Flora McKay says:

    Hi Leslie,

    Thanks for asking this great question.

    According to Built NY’s website, the Gourmet Getaway Mini Lunch Tote is “tested for lead safety—no vinyl or PVC used.” For their Kids Lunch Bags, they state the following: “This reusable lunch bag is tested for lead safety and phthalates and meets or exceeds ASTM and applicable safety standards. It’s also PVC- and BPA-free, so parents can rest assured their children are traveling safely and stylishly.”

    As I type this, their offices are closed. After inquiring further, I will be sure to get back to you.

    According to Lunchbot’s website, “LunchBots lids and containers are manufactured from the highest quality, food-grade, Type 304 stainless steel. Stainless steel, an alloy made from natural elements, is one of the safest materials for food storage and handling. Commonly known as 18/8 stainless, Type 304 stainless steel resists stains and rust and is both easy to clean and durable. All LunchBots products are BPA-free. The lids for our Thermals and Clicks are made from polypropylene with a silicone seal.” Their lids, “have been powder coated. Powder coating is a durable finish that does not emit any volatile organic compounds (VOC). The coating is applied electrostatically and then cured in an oven. Any resulting overspray is recycled and reused. The bottom of each lid is not powder coated and is natural stainless steel.”

    As they do not mention phthalates, I will also reach out to them and will follow up with you.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful question!

  3. Flora McKay says:

    Hi Leslie,

    Lunchbots returned my inquiry and shared with me the following: “All of our products that have plastic or silicone components are BPA free and Phthalate free. We work very hard to make sure of that.”

    More to come on Builtny’s Gourmet Getaway Mini Lunch Tote.


  4. Gina Rau says:

    These are great tips and resources! Thanks for sharing. My kids take lunch to school each day so I’m always looking for some new ideas. We have great gear, much of what is listed here, and a few more that we shared here:

    Key for us has been finding what our kids will eat and making sure they get the nutrients they need. They have such little time to eat so I have to make sure its packed with goodness!

    • Flora McKay says:

      Thanks for the compliment Gina! I’ve taken a look at your blog, great information in there, and inspiring recipes.

      I think it’s so wonderful that you are including your children in the decision making process for what to pack at lunch. It really gets them engaged, and excited to open up their lunchbox everday.

      What have you been packing for lunch lately?

  5. Flora McKay says:

    Hi again Leslie,

    Built NY returned my question with the following answer: “All of our products are tested by independent, accredited third-party laboratories and have met all applicable standards set forth by OEHHA Proposition 65 and Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), including those for BPA, lead and phthalates. They also pass the more stringent limits set forth by CPSIA that went into effect in August 2011.”

    I hope this helps.

    Wishing you all the best,

  6. [...] for a great packed lunch too! Click here to read our 5 steps for packing your kids a healthy school lunch. Share [...]

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