As much as I enjoy summer and all the fun things to do, I am looking forward to getting back into a routine as this summer was #campmom. With summer-mode in full-swing, and not having a schedule, it was nice to take a little break from the lunch packing and meal planning.

Now, with school right around the corner, I’ll have to hit the cook books a bit harder. As a mom and a registered dietitian and now a  self-proclaimed “professional school lunch packer”, I have created a few tips and tricks to help plan and prepare a stress-free school year. Well, at least in the kitchen.

1. Get them involved
Depending on the age of your child, your little one (or tween) can help make lunch. As a mother of a 2 and 4 year old I am not expecting them to pack their own lunch. However,  involving them at their level benefits everyone.  Whether it’s putting the napkin or spoon in the lunch box, or closing a container, to spreading cream cheese on a bagel, allowing them to help teaches responsibility. With two young ones, I also like to involve them by having them choose what they’d like to eat. By offering choices (ex: cucumber or carrots? strawberries or grapes?) let’s my children feel they are contributing and there won’t be any surprises at lunch…unless I sneak in a little note (or a sticker).

2. Plan and prepare ahead of time
As nice as it may be to prep lunch with your little one, it also takes a little bit longer (which explains why most of us just do it on our own). To help with timing, pack up and prep as much as possible the night before. Try to make it a goal this year (I know I am) to have the lunch ready to grab ’n go right out of the fridge…don’t forget the ice pack!

3. Aim for MyPlate
MyPlate is a food diagram guideline showing all five food groups: Fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy and works as a tool to show the different foods to include at each meal. If your teen is already making their lunch, show them the diagram to help pack a well-balanced meal. For my little ones, I make this a goal each day. A tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread, with a side of cucumber, strawberries and a yogurt is a simple easy and healthy meal that achieves MyPlate.  When we provide a well-balanced meal, it’s perfectly ok to give a small dessert, because we know it will give a big smile.

4. Have fun
Packing lunch (on top of everything else we do) certainly can feel more like a chore than a hobby.  To get your child motivated as well, call this time a “Lunch packing party”.  Pretend to be chefs and make it a fun learning experience – ask questions about the different shapes, the colors and the textures about the food.  Find a fun lunch box your kids will like, and cool napkins.  Those left over birthday party napkins certainly come in handy!


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About Emily Price

Emily Price is a registered dietitian who recently moved back to metro Detroit after living in New York City for 10 years. She is so happy to bring her East Coast hubby and two daughters, Phoebe and Josie, to her hometown of Huntington Woods and looks forward to exploring all the great things Michigan has to offer.  Emily likes to spend time with her family, break a sweat at a Zumba class, and enjoy a glass of Cabernet.