Robin's Healthy Take: Better Brown-Bag Lunches

I love packing lunch for my two boys every day. It’s a little part of me that I send in a brown bag (actually, a thermal lunch bag.) It like to imagine them opening lunch to find my surprises. These are my favorite simple, healthy foods to pack up, plus, my easy tips for packing it all up.
Related To:

I love packing lunch for my two boys every day. It’s a little part of me that I send in a brown bag (actually, a thermal lunch bag.) It like to imagine them opening lunch to find my surprises.  These are my favorite simple, healthy foods to pack up, plus, my easy prep and planning tips.

Prep It Ahead

Since our house is often a scramble in the morning, I prep some things the night before. The only thing I want scrambled in the morning is eggs!  The night before, I often chop fruit and vegetables and package dips, salads and crackers in reusable containers. I usually put small portions of a variety of things, since I never know what they’ll be hungry for several hours later. This picture is the perfect example of the things I put in their lunches on a rotating basis.

Make Your Own "Lunchables"

Sometimes I make homemade "Lunchables," meaning I pack individual items that the boys can assemble at school. For example, I’ll send a small pita, a small resealable container of tomato sauce and a snack bag of shredded mozzarella cheese so they can make their own mini pizzas. Or I’ll put whole grain crackers or a tortilla in one bag and smoked turkey and cheese in another bag (sometimes they want the meat and cheese together, sometimes not). My son Kyle also likes mock tuna “sandwiches:" tuna salad nestled between cheddar Sunchips.

Keep It Cold

To keep everything cold, I add a frozen tube of yogurt that thaws by lunchtime. You can also use a plain old reusable ice back, but the yogurt doubles as a healthy sweet treat.

Get The Kids Involved

If your kids aren't loving what you're packing, ask them to help pack lunch so they can choose their favorites. You might be surprised how healthy it is!  Remember, you don’t need the conventional sandwich and apple to create a balanced meal. Here are some of our other favorites:

  • Pasta with pesto and grated Parmesan (no need to keep chilled)
  • Whole wheat tortilla wraps (with ham or turkey, cheese, lettuce and mustard)
  • Whole grain pita topped with tomato sauce and mushrooms; packets of Parmesan on the side (shown in the picture – the Parmesan is from our local pizza shop!)
  • Peanut butter or Nutella sandwiches on whole grain bread
  • Cheese sticks, cubes and rounds
  • Almonds, peanuts and pistachios
  • Baked tortilla chips or whole grain tortilla chips and salsa
  • Raw green beans and carrot sticks with ranch dressing
  • Low-sugar pudding
  • Frozen yogurt tubes
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Pretzel sticks with peanut butter
  • Dried fruit (cherries, mango, cranberries, raisins)
  • Cubed melon (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon)
  • Red and green grapes
  • Small apples or sliced apples
  • Small oranges or orange wedges
TELL US: What do you pack in your kids' lunchbox (or your own)?

Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.

You Might Also Like:

Keep Reading

Next Up

Robin's Healthy Take: March Madness Munchies

So what if your bracket is busted? You can still cheer along your favorite teams, old and new, with these snacks by your side.

Healthy Snacking at Work

You'll be able to resist the snack machine if you stock your office with healthier snacks like popcorn, frozen grapes and nuts.

6 Healthier Packaged Foods

The recent Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo in Houston showcased an array of good-for-you foods that are new to the market. Here are six worth checking out.

Healthy Snacks for a Day at the Beach

Heading out for a day of sun, sand and surf? Fill your beach bag with the right snacks so you're not tempted to answer the call of the ice cream man.

Healthy Diet Excuses and Solutions

We asked top nutrition experts from around the country some of the most popular weight loss excuses they’ve heard over the years. Do any of them sound familiar?

Healthier Homemade Cheese Pretzels

You can find soft pretzels in airports, malls and carnivals nationwide. The problem is, these mass-made pretzels are often loaded with calories and salt.

Katie’s Healthy Bites: My Smarter Snack Picks

Some people think too much snacking can lead to weight gain, but the key is nibbling on the right things in the right amounts. Here are a few of my favorite choices.

Food News: Minibars, Vending Machines Offer Healthy Alternatives

Hotel mini bars and vending machines are now offering healthier snack options, since sales of nuts and trail mix are higher than the traditional junk food.

Robin's Healthy Take: Hugs and Quiches

For a healthy breakfast, brunch, lunch or even dinner, make a quiche. If you're looking to save time, make it ahead, you can refrigerate it for up to two days.

Healthy Snacks

Tips for making healthy choices whenever a craving strikes