Lunchbox Essentials Made Easy


Many kids are back in school already, but even for those of us who get to enjoy a few more weeks of summer, it’s not too early to start getting our lunchbox essentials together.

Photo Credit {Planet Box)

Photo Credit {Planet Box)

Insulated Lunchbox

Long gone are the days of brown bagging it for most of us. The options when it comes to lunchboxes today are as varied as those of us you use them. Shop around for a lunchbox that makes your child happy but keep your basic needs in mind as well. You’ll want to make sure that the lunchbox is big enough to accommodate a main meal and a couple of snacks, utensils and a good size water bottle. A well insulated lunchbox is best, to keep food fresh. And no mater how well you seal the containers inside your lunchbox there will most likely be some spills so choose a lunchbox that is easy to clean. Sabrina fell in love with a fushia neoprene lunchbox last year which was great for the first half of the year. Because there was a refrigerator in her classroom and the teacher placed all perishables in it every morning keeping foods cold was not a problem. But keeping it clean was a bit of a problem. I did put it in the washing machine a few times, but neoprene is a porous material and after a while I just could not get it to smell right.

Stackable Steel Containers


Photo Credit [ECOLunchbox]

These are a wonderful option if you pack a lunch that does not need to be reheated. There are plenty of options available on the market today, with 2 to 4 containers. These are easy to clean and require and often come with a handle to make carrying easy. The only way to keep foods cold, however, is to place a small, flat ice pack inside each container so keep that in mind if you choose this option. They do come in different shapes, sizes and colors and are a fun and practical solution.


Bento Style Boxes


Photo Credit [Bentgo]

This traditional Japanese meal box has inspired many contemporary versions that make packing a lunchbox a breeze. You can find many variations of these, including BPA free plastic option with one main container, and two to four split containers, along with a set of utensils. These are fun and easy option for kids of all ages, including mom and dad who bring a lunch to work.

Insulated Food Jars

Screen shot 2013-08-23 at 6.21.40 PM

Photo Credit [Klean Kanteen]

These are wonderful for packing a hearty soup or stew during the cold winter months as they keep food hot until your child is ready to enjoy it.  They are also a wonderful choice for any food that should be consumed hot and you prefer to avoid plastic and microwaves like I do.  These jars do as good of a job keeping foods cold as they do hot so they are ideal for a cold savory or sweet salad.  These vacuum sealed jars come in a variety of sizes.  I find a 10 oz jar to be just right for my girls.  For an active teen a 16 oz option may be a better choice.


Water Bottle

This is a lunchbox essential! I prefer a stainless steel water bottle but if your child likes the feel of a plastic water bottle make sure it is BPA free. There are many choices available so pick a style that pleases your child to make sure they are eager to use it. You can find insulated water bottles, which are a great option if you live in an area with hotter temperatures. A water bottle with a fruit infuser is a great choice for a child who prefers a little sweet flavor. Make sure the water bottle opens and seals easily to avoid spills. Water bottles come in all sorts of sizes. I prefer 24oz though that may be too big to fit inside the lunchbox. Depending on your child’s age, you can clip a larger bottle to the lunchbox or backpack.

Ice packs

No matter where you live and what time of year it is, ice packs are a must! You can buy these in packs of four just about anywhere. No matter how well insulated your lunchbox is one ice pack is just not enough so use 2 to 3. Buy multiple sets so you’ll always have a cold set in the freezer.

Packing your lunchbox with healthy choices

Depending on the age of your children and the number of hours they are in school, you’ll be packing a healthy lunch and 1 to 2 healthy snacks.  Here are some simple guidelines to ensure these food choices provide your children with clean energy that will

Lean protein

If you want your child to stay alert and focused all day, lean protein is essential. The ideal lunch will include a choice of lean protein (chicken, turkey, fish or egg) along with some veggies and whole grains, with the bulk of your meal being protein and veggies. Use whole grains or rice warps for sandwiches, or a large leaf of romaine lettuce. If your child won’t eat anything other than pizza or pasta, choose a whole grain option and add some green veggies along with some grilled chicken.

Plenty of greens

Greens are and essential part of any healthy diet and you should have at least one choice a day in your child’s lunchbox. The easiest way to include greens is to add them to a sandwich or wrap. Add some romaine lettuce, a few slices of avocado, cucumber and some fresh herbs, such as basil or cilantro. If you can keep foods cold, pack a green salad to go with the sandwich. Adding celery and pearl tomatoes to a tuna or chicken salad is another great option.

Avoid sugary treats

If you don’t want your child to crash or have brain fog after lunch, avoid sugary treats in their lunchbox. This includes many of the “healthy” cereal bar option. Choose instead a healthy piece of fruit and leave the cookies for pick up time.

Water, water, water!

Water is one of the most important “foods” for your child and you want to make sure they get plenty of it. If your child has always drunk juices, you can start by diluting a little bit of juice in water. Use sparkling water to make it more fun and easy to swallow but be careful not to shake your water bottle or you’ll get an unexpected shower! Juice boxes should be kept as a special treat at the end of the day and only in small sizes.

Healthy snack

A healthy snack will include some protein. Some great options:

  • nut butter and apple wedges
  • a handful of trail mix made with raw nuts and unsweetened dried fruit
  • “Ants on a Log” – celery with nut butter and dried raisins or cranberries
  • Celery stuffed with goat cheese
  • Cheese and crackers
  • hummus and raw veggies

I like to get the girls involved in selecting what goes in their lunchboxes everyday. It makes my task easier and I am a lot less likely to find half eaten meals when they come home from school.

Here are a few of my girls’ favorite lunchbox recipes:


Smoked Salmon and Zucchini Quiche

Spinach and Zucchini Quiche

Chicken with Papaya and Zucchini

Cinnamon Chili Chicken

Black Eyed Peas and Peppers Salad


Coconut Cherry Bars

Lemon Cilantro Hummus

Parmesan Kale Chips

What is your favorite lunchbox style and what are your “lunchbox secrets”? Do you have a picky eater or a child who likes a variety of healthy options?

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