School lunch hacks for busy parents

Written by: Liza Balistreri Cahill

Healthy school lunches

In the whirlwind of the school week, throwing together a haphazard lunch can easily happen. We are busy. We run out of ideas. We forget to feed ourselves half the time!

But when you plan ahead, school lunches can be healthy and fun for your kids, and you transform into a rockstar parent. Ta-da!

The key is to prepare with fun “tools”...

  • Lunch box/bag/container: Whatever the style, easily washable is key. And durable. Must be durable.
  • Veggie shape cutters: Melon or cucumber always tastes better if it’s a star or a bear!
  • Silicone cupcake holders: Perfect “cups” to hold a handful of small goodies.
  • Bee Wrap: An amazing alternative to disposable food wrap and perfect for raising little eco-conscious humans.
  • Homemade ice packs: Speaking of Bee Wrap, you can also try wrapping up a wet sponge that’s been frozen for a substitute to those big, hard ice packs (or those gooey blue packs made out of who-knows-what).
  • Fun napkins: That “pop of color” thing can work in school lunch, too.
  • Little handwritten notes: Because nothing beats that personal touch from home in the middle of the school day!
  • Pack together: If you give yourself some time — like the night before — prep lunch together. Kids love to feel helpful, they get to learn about what goes into preparing a meal, and it makes things more fun.

...and clever, healthy food:

  • Sandwiches: Not that there is anything wrong with PB&J, but when you want to branch out, how about veggie, cheese and chipotle mayo? Or caprese style with mozzarella, tomato, basil and pesto? Smoked salmon with avocado?
  • Wraps: These are a fun alternative to sandwiches and you can keep them rolled up or slice into bite-sized pieces.
  • Power proteins: Hard-boiled eggs are easy to have on hand, and salmon with crackers can be fun for kids to assemble themselves.
  • Pre-cooked dishes (that can still be yummy cold): A slice of quiche is easy to pack and easy for kids to eat, plus a great way to sneak in veggies. Same with a quesadilla.
  • Shish kabob: Think cheese, veggies, fruits — they’re all more fun on a stick. And bonus points for you if any of those are cut into shapes!
  • Dips: A good dip always feels like a treat, but you can use scoops of hummus, mashed avocado, yogurt and applesauce to keep things healthy.
  • Variety: We usually think to grab a handful of a single “something” for a side, but what about mixing a bunch of fruits and veggies together? It’s more colorful, and it encourages bites of everything when there’s a slice of melon, a baby carrot, a couple of berries, and some baby corn in the mix.

A little preparation upfront goes a long way. Once you start putting some of these tricks into practice, they’ll become part of your new routine (and achieve total rockstar parenting status!).

Liza and her husband, Brian, have enjoyed the urban Chicago adventure as a duo, with their beloved pup, and now as parents. A former litigation attorney, Liza currently practices her negotiation skills with her most formidable challenger: her 2-year-old daughter. She is a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker and is passionate about helping families find their perfect home.

Related articles:

Take the stress out of making school lunches

Your kids will hate some foods, and that's OK

5 tips for cooking with little kids

The NPN blog gives voice to our members' thoughts about parenting in the city, and the views expressed don't necessarily reflect our own. Want to write for us? Email with your topic ideas.


Posted on September 11, 2019 at 5:00 PM