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Lunchboxes Through the Ages

Lunchboxes Through the Ages


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The Daily Meal takes a look at the evolution of lunchboxes throughout history

The lunchbox is the classic symbol of happy childhood memories. Nearly everybody has carried one at some point in his or her lifetime, filled with sandwiches, sides, and juice boxes — all the fixings of hopefully healthy and delicious lunches.

Since the original rendition of the modern-day lunchbox in the early 1900s, this American staple has taken many forms and born many images, often representing pop culture and social trends of the era. From cartoon characters to iconic and relevant imagery, lunchboxes have since been a subtle reflection of contemporary culture.

Interestingly, though, the concept of the lunchbox did not originate in the twentieth century. Decades prior to this first version of the lunchbox we know today, a simpler lunch pail was carried — a cylindrical metal container used to transport food for a midday meal. This initial lunch pail was originally considered to be a symbol of low socioeconomic status; those who could afford the time and money necessary to eat a proper lunch would not need such a container. Additionally, these lunch boxes were often fashioned from old tobacco boxes. However, as the lunchbox developed over time to be a far more practical and socially acceptable tool, it came to embody all that was popular at the time. The monetization of lunchbox-cover imagery hit its stride in the 1950s, when a company called Aladdin emerged, capitalizing on the mass-production of lunchboxes.

Here we take a look at a variety of lunchboxes throughout history, and highlight just how they’ve evolved — and how they’ve stayed the same — in both shape and design over the decades. Inherently, in doing so we also take a look at how pop culture and mass consumption of popular television characters has shifted.

Happy lunching!

Lunchboxes Through the Ages

The lunchbox is the classic symbol of happy childhood memories. Inherently, in doing so we also take a look at how pop culture and mass consumption of popular television characters has shifted.

Happy lunching!

1880s Tobacco Box

The origins of the lunchbox, specifically those metal boxes outfitted in pop-culture references from Mickey Mouse to Lost in Space, can be traced back to the metal pails that mill workers and coal miners would carry with them to work each day in the late nineteenth century. The sturdy, metal tobacco boxes were an ideal way to protect your lunch from the rugged, workplace environment.

From Practical to Popular

Children started to emulate their fathers by packing their lunches in metal cookie boxes and tobacco boxes for school. In 1902, the first commercial lunchbox landed on shelves. The metal lunchbox looked like a traditional picnic basket.

First Ever Cartoon Lunchbox: Mickey Mouse

It wasn’t until 1935, when Mickey Mouse got his first starring appearance on a lunchbox, that the first pop-culture figure was depicted on a lunchbox. By the 1950s, executives at Aladdin realized the potential of these metal lunchboxes adorned with popular cartoons, celebrities, and pop-culture icons to become a cultural phenomenon among school-aged children.

The Lone Ranger

Released in 1954, this Lone Ranger cowboy-themed lunchbox reflected one of the most popular cartoons of its era.

1957 Red Barn

The rounded top of the red barn lunchbox that would be rereleased over the next decade, looks more similar to the classic worker pales and lunchboxes carried to factories and mines in the 1920s, only with a colorful barn scene added.

The Lunchbox Reinvented

Using the newly popular rectangular shape that would remain for decades to come, this Mickey Mouse lunchbox provided a modern and updated interpretation of the original cartoon likeness nearly two decades after the original.

Snoopy Goes to School

Also popular in the 1950s was the timeless group of Charlie Brown characters, particularly Snoopy. This matching Snoopy box and thermos provided the perfect way to transport both food and drink away from home.

Lunching with the Beatles

No pop culture discussion would be complete without mention of The Beatles, and lunchboxes are no exception — seen here is a box from the 1960s, bearing the famous foursome’s images.

1962 Barbie

Barbie was released in 1957 and immediately became a pop-culture icon as one of the most advertised toys on the market. This black, vinyl lunchbox by Thermos marks a slight deviation from metal lunchboxes that dominated this era.

Gang's All Here

As Disney gained steam and developed more characters, another round of Disney tins was created — in this 1960s school bus rendition, many of the best-known figures are pictured.

Aaaaeeeyyy!

This 1976 box shows the popular sitcom Happy Days, highlighting a cartoon likeness of Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli.

E.T. Phone Home

As one of the most famous movies of all time, the 1980s film E.T certainly deserves a place on our list of lunchboxes throughout history.

1980s From Metal to Plastic

It wasn’t until molded plastic in the 1980s that lunchboxes saw a major redesign. The classic metal designs remained, but the hard plastic boxes with plastic thermoses became increasingly popular.

Cowabunga, Dude

One of the most iconic boxes of the 1990s bears a classic image of the beloved cartoon show Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Lunch Gets Modernized

Thinkstock/iStockphoto

Today, much of the focus of commercial products is on efficiency and practicality — this simple lunchbox highlights this trend, keeping the entertainment value low, but the efficiency level high.

Today’s Trends: Thermos Becomes a Water Bottle

The thermos, which was popularly used to keep milk cold or soup hot, has been replaced in many instances with a matching plastic water bottle.

Today’s Trends: Soft, Foldable ‘Lunchbox’

Today, children are more likely to carry with them soft, foldable lunchboxes with characters like Dora the Explorer on them, than the classic hard case metal boxes from the 1950s.

The Future

Representing what is perhaps the most iconic commercial image of the modern-day era, this Apple lunchbox is simple and characteristic of American pop culture in the early 21st century.

One of the Most Valuable Vintage Lunchboxes

Adco’s Davy Crockett at the Alamo lunchbox from 1955 is worth around $1,800 on its own, and $3,500 with the matching thermos.


20 Healthy Lunchbox Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My friend and fellow dietitian Holley Grainger packs lunch throughout the week for her two girls, ages 4 and 2. She also takes photos of the lunches she packs and post them for inspiration (check out #healthylittlelunchbox on Instagram!). I’m always amazed at how well she balances the nutritional needs of her two littles ones with variety and fun–and so many of her lunch box photos make me say, “That’s a good idea!” So I asked her to share some of her preschool and toddler lunch box ideas, plus her best tips, with all of you.

Lunch Box Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My girls, Ellie and Frances, tend to be “choosy” when it comes to what they eat. But I’ve found that lunch is definitely when they eat the most food, as well as the best variety. Maybe it’s from peer pressure–or maybe they’re just hungrier midday. Either way, I take advantage of their undivided attention to provide a wide variety of nutritious foods. In this post, I’ve shared 20 of my favorite lunchbox concepts with you as well as what I call the “ABC’s of Lunchbox Packing”.

The first five lunch boxes have a few concepts that are a bit more like an actual “recipe” than just finger (or favorite) foods. They also reintroduce some foods (specifically vegetables) that the girls have rejected in the past like bell peppers, asparagus, black beans, and tomatoes. The end-of-the-day results from these lunches: one ate almost everything (minus the peppers) and the other didn’t. I’m not telling you this so you’ll wonder why I’m not sharing 100% no-fail lunchbox ideas with you. I’m sharing because I want you to know that as moms we all are faced with many of the same challenges around the table (or in this case, lunchbox) and there just isn’t one perfect meal (or lunchbox) prescription. It is up to us as parents to offer variety, color, and, of course, fun so our little ones learn to grow and cultivate an appreciation for food.

  1. Southwest Quinoa (quinoa tossed with corn, black beans, avocado, and chopped tomato), chicken breast, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ strawberry), steamed broccoli, grapefruit
  1. Apples with sunflower seed butter, mini bell peppers, low-sodium turkey rollups, pickles, dried cranberries
  1. Graham cracker and peanut butter sandwich, “Dippable Salad” (thanks Sally for the idea!) with butter lettuce, rainbow carrots and ranch, Pirate’s Booty, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate square
  1. Mini Veggie Quiche, raspberries, string cheese, low-sodium turkey, pistachios (I swapped pistachios for raisins for my 2yo since nuts are a choking hazard for toddlers.)
  1. “White Out” Lunchbox: Kitchen Sink Couscous (couscous with feta, zucchini, rainbow carrots, and asparagus), apples, grilled chicken, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ vanilla), white chocolate chips

  1. Fruit salad, low-sodium ham rolls, brown rice, brownie, green beans
  1. Breakfast for Lunch: homemade whole grain chocolate chip pancakes, maple syrup, plain Greek yogurt with strawberry yogurt heart, and a happy (stickers)
  1. Hummus and veggie skewers, chicken breast, pears, whole grain O’s, happy (Cinderella sticker)
  1. Honeydew melon, hard-cooked egg, cottage cheese, whole grain pretzels, note from Mommy
  1. Applesauce pouch, graham cracker, low-sodium ham, green beans, noodles

  1. Mini Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins, grapefruit, low-sodium turkey, English cucumber, ranch
  1. Sunflower Seed Butter and Strawberry Wafflewich, hard-cooked egg, grapes (cut in small pieces for toddler), love note from Mommy
  1. Greek yogurt pouch, low-sodium turkey, strawberries, bell peppers and carrots with ranch
  1. Penne noodles with tomato sauce, carrot sticks, grapes, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate chips
  1. Hawaiian roll ham sandwich, cucumbers and bell peppers, homemade marshmallow, graham cracker, hummus

  1. Carrots and hummus, low-sodium turkey rolls, mandarin orange, fig cookie bar, note from Mommy
  1. Sunflower seed quesadillas, English cucumbers, plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate arils, cheddar bunnies, hummus
  1. Yogurt pouch, whole grain pretzels, mandarin orange, noodles, cheddar cheese
  1. Chicken and cheese skewers, watermelon, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Bread Muffins,
  1. Pancakes with maple syrup, cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple ribbons, carrot coins
  • Aim for Balance: While some lunches may miss a food group here and there, I always aim for a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and protein (from either lean meat or dairy and sometimes both) in each box. I don’t always include a dessert like a cookie or candy but sometimes I do and I’m okay with it. Again, it’s all about balance. If I miss a food group in the lunchbox, I make sure we make it up at another time of day such as an extra veggie at dinner or whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt at breakfast.
  • Bring in the Kids: In the same way that Sally and other feeding experts recommend, involving your children in lunchbox planning and preparation is key increasing their knowledge and acceptability of food. If it were up to my girls, they would have yogurt, waffles, chicken nuggets, and strawberries for every meal. And if you scroll through my lunchbox pictures, it is likely that we have one that looks like that. Since the girls are still young, I often give them choices to help guide what we pack (i.e. blueberries or apple carrots or cucumber). At other times, they may just help to put everything in its place and close the box (that’s a big job for a 2 year old!).
  • Chill: As a mom, it can get stressful when I see food returned home uneaten. However, I don’t let myself get upset because I believe in the power of repeated exposure to the same foods (something my very smart mommy mentor, Sally, has taught me). If something didn’t work, give it a few days (or even a few weeks) and try it again at another time. Allow yourself time to plan and pack lunches on the weekend or the night before so your mornings are more relaxed.

About the Lunchbox: The lunch boxes we’ve used this year are called Bentgo Kids (my affiliate link). I like them because they offer five individual slots for food, dips, or treats similar to another popular lunchbox brand (and another one of my faves), Planetbox. This allows me to offer lots of options in small portions versus one larger entrée and possibly a side (similar to how adults may eat).

For more tips and lunchbox concepts, check out my most recent lunch box post, 125 Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids.

Holley Grainger, MS, RD is a nationally recognized nutrition and lifestyle expert, who has instructed millions of home cooks on how to make simple, fast and healthy meals through her online videos, media appearances and writing. You can find her blog or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for healthy recipe suggestions, smart diet advice and motivational healthy eating tips.


20 Healthy Lunchbox Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My friend and fellow dietitian Holley Grainger packs lunch throughout the week for her two girls, ages 4 and 2. She also takes photos of the lunches she packs and post them for inspiration (check out #healthylittlelunchbox on Instagram!). I’m always amazed at how well she balances the nutritional needs of her two littles ones with variety and fun–and so many of her lunch box photos make me say, “That’s a good idea!” So I asked her to share some of her preschool and toddler lunch box ideas, plus her best tips, with all of you.

Lunch Box Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My girls, Ellie and Frances, tend to be “choosy” when it comes to what they eat. But I’ve found that lunch is definitely when they eat the most food, as well as the best variety. Maybe it’s from peer pressure–or maybe they’re just hungrier midday. Either way, I take advantage of their undivided attention to provide a wide variety of nutritious foods. In this post, I’ve shared 20 of my favorite lunchbox concepts with you as well as what I call the “ABC’s of Lunchbox Packing”.

The first five lunch boxes have a few concepts that are a bit more like an actual “recipe” than just finger (or favorite) foods. They also reintroduce some foods (specifically vegetables) that the girls have rejected in the past like bell peppers, asparagus, black beans, and tomatoes. The end-of-the-day results from these lunches: one ate almost everything (minus the peppers) and the other didn’t. I’m not telling you this so you’ll wonder why I’m not sharing 100% no-fail lunchbox ideas with you. I’m sharing because I want you to know that as moms we all are faced with many of the same challenges around the table (or in this case, lunchbox) and there just isn’t one perfect meal (or lunchbox) prescription. It is up to us as parents to offer variety, color, and, of course, fun so our little ones learn to grow and cultivate an appreciation for food.

  1. Southwest Quinoa (quinoa tossed with corn, black beans, avocado, and chopped tomato), chicken breast, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ strawberry), steamed broccoli, grapefruit
  1. Apples with sunflower seed butter, mini bell peppers, low-sodium turkey rollups, pickles, dried cranberries
  1. Graham cracker and peanut butter sandwich, “Dippable Salad” (thanks Sally for the idea!) with butter lettuce, rainbow carrots and ranch, Pirate’s Booty, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate square
  1. Mini Veggie Quiche, raspberries, string cheese, low-sodium turkey, pistachios (I swapped pistachios for raisins for my 2yo since nuts are a choking hazard for toddlers.)
  1. “White Out” Lunchbox: Kitchen Sink Couscous (couscous with feta, zucchini, rainbow carrots, and asparagus), apples, grilled chicken, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ vanilla), white chocolate chips

  1. Fruit salad, low-sodium ham rolls, brown rice, brownie, green beans
  1. Breakfast for Lunch: homemade whole grain chocolate chip pancakes, maple syrup, plain Greek yogurt with strawberry yogurt heart, and a happy (stickers)
  1. Hummus and veggie skewers, chicken breast, pears, whole grain O’s, happy (Cinderella sticker)
  1. Honeydew melon, hard-cooked egg, cottage cheese, whole grain pretzels, note from Mommy
  1. Applesauce pouch, graham cracker, low-sodium ham, green beans, noodles

  1. Mini Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins, grapefruit, low-sodium turkey, English cucumber, ranch
  1. Sunflower Seed Butter and Strawberry Wafflewich, hard-cooked egg, grapes (cut in small pieces for toddler), love note from Mommy
  1. Greek yogurt pouch, low-sodium turkey, strawberries, bell peppers and carrots with ranch
  1. Penne noodles with tomato sauce, carrot sticks, grapes, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate chips
  1. Hawaiian roll ham sandwich, cucumbers and bell peppers, homemade marshmallow, graham cracker, hummus

  1. Carrots and hummus, low-sodium turkey rolls, mandarin orange, fig cookie bar, note from Mommy
  1. Sunflower seed quesadillas, English cucumbers, plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate arils, cheddar bunnies, hummus
  1. Yogurt pouch, whole grain pretzels, mandarin orange, noodles, cheddar cheese
  1. Chicken and cheese skewers, watermelon, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Bread Muffins,
  1. Pancakes with maple syrup, cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple ribbons, carrot coins
  • Aim for Balance: While some lunches may miss a food group here and there, I always aim for a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and protein (from either lean meat or dairy and sometimes both) in each box. I don’t always include a dessert like a cookie or candy but sometimes I do and I’m okay with it. Again, it’s all about balance. If I miss a food group in the lunchbox, I make sure we make it up at another time of day such as an extra veggie at dinner or whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt at breakfast.
  • Bring in the Kids: In the same way that Sally and other feeding experts recommend, involving your children in lunchbox planning and preparation is key increasing their knowledge and acceptability of food. If it were up to my girls, they would have yogurt, waffles, chicken nuggets, and strawberries for every meal. And if you scroll through my lunchbox pictures, it is likely that we have one that looks like that. Since the girls are still young, I often give them choices to help guide what we pack (i.e. blueberries or apple carrots or cucumber). At other times, they may just help to put everything in its place and close the box (that’s a big job for a 2 year old!).
  • Chill: As a mom, it can get stressful when I see food returned home uneaten. However, I don’t let myself get upset because I believe in the power of repeated exposure to the same foods (something my very smart mommy mentor, Sally, has taught me). If something didn’t work, give it a few days (or even a few weeks) and try it again at another time. Allow yourself time to plan and pack lunches on the weekend or the night before so your mornings are more relaxed.

About the Lunchbox: The lunch boxes we’ve used this year are called Bentgo Kids (my affiliate link). I like them because they offer five individual slots for food, dips, or treats similar to another popular lunchbox brand (and another one of my faves), Planetbox. This allows me to offer lots of options in small portions versus one larger entrée and possibly a side (similar to how adults may eat).

For more tips and lunchbox concepts, check out my most recent lunch box post, 125 Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids.

Holley Grainger, MS, RD is a nationally recognized nutrition and lifestyle expert, who has instructed millions of home cooks on how to make simple, fast and healthy meals through her online videos, media appearances and writing. You can find her blog or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for healthy recipe suggestions, smart diet advice and motivational healthy eating tips.


20 Healthy Lunchbox Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My friend and fellow dietitian Holley Grainger packs lunch throughout the week for her two girls, ages 4 and 2. She also takes photos of the lunches she packs and post them for inspiration (check out #healthylittlelunchbox on Instagram!). I’m always amazed at how well she balances the nutritional needs of her two littles ones with variety and fun–and so many of her lunch box photos make me say, “That’s a good idea!” So I asked her to share some of her preschool and toddler lunch box ideas, plus her best tips, with all of you.

Lunch Box Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My girls, Ellie and Frances, tend to be “choosy” when it comes to what they eat. But I’ve found that lunch is definitely when they eat the most food, as well as the best variety. Maybe it’s from peer pressure–or maybe they’re just hungrier midday. Either way, I take advantage of their undivided attention to provide a wide variety of nutritious foods. In this post, I’ve shared 20 of my favorite lunchbox concepts with you as well as what I call the “ABC’s of Lunchbox Packing”.

The first five lunch boxes have a few concepts that are a bit more like an actual “recipe” than just finger (or favorite) foods. They also reintroduce some foods (specifically vegetables) that the girls have rejected in the past like bell peppers, asparagus, black beans, and tomatoes. The end-of-the-day results from these lunches: one ate almost everything (minus the peppers) and the other didn’t. I’m not telling you this so you’ll wonder why I’m not sharing 100% no-fail lunchbox ideas with you. I’m sharing because I want you to know that as moms we all are faced with many of the same challenges around the table (or in this case, lunchbox) and there just isn’t one perfect meal (or lunchbox) prescription. It is up to us as parents to offer variety, color, and, of course, fun so our little ones learn to grow and cultivate an appreciation for food.

  1. Southwest Quinoa (quinoa tossed with corn, black beans, avocado, and chopped tomato), chicken breast, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ strawberry), steamed broccoli, grapefruit
  1. Apples with sunflower seed butter, mini bell peppers, low-sodium turkey rollups, pickles, dried cranberries
  1. Graham cracker and peanut butter sandwich, “Dippable Salad” (thanks Sally for the idea!) with butter lettuce, rainbow carrots and ranch, Pirate’s Booty, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate square
  1. Mini Veggie Quiche, raspberries, string cheese, low-sodium turkey, pistachios (I swapped pistachios for raisins for my 2yo since nuts are a choking hazard for toddlers.)
  1. “White Out” Lunchbox: Kitchen Sink Couscous (couscous with feta, zucchini, rainbow carrots, and asparagus), apples, grilled chicken, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ vanilla), white chocolate chips

  1. Fruit salad, low-sodium ham rolls, brown rice, brownie, green beans
  1. Breakfast for Lunch: homemade whole grain chocolate chip pancakes, maple syrup, plain Greek yogurt with strawberry yogurt heart, and a happy (stickers)
  1. Hummus and veggie skewers, chicken breast, pears, whole grain O’s, happy (Cinderella sticker)
  1. Honeydew melon, hard-cooked egg, cottage cheese, whole grain pretzels, note from Mommy
  1. Applesauce pouch, graham cracker, low-sodium ham, green beans, noodles

  1. Mini Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins, grapefruit, low-sodium turkey, English cucumber, ranch
  1. Sunflower Seed Butter and Strawberry Wafflewich, hard-cooked egg, grapes (cut in small pieces for toddler), love note from Mommy
  1. Greek yogurt pouch, low-sodium turkey, strawberries, bell peppers and carrots with ranch
  1. Penne noodles with tomato sauce, carrot sticks, grapes, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate chips
  1. Hawaiian roll ham sandwich, cucumbers and bell peppers, homemade marshmallow, graham cracker, hummus

  1. Carrots and hummus, low-sodium turkey rolls, mandarin orange, fig cookie bar, note from Mommy
  1. Sunflower seed quesadillas, English cucumbers, plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate arils, cheddar bunnies, hummus
  1. Yogurt pouch, whole grain pretzels, mandarin orange, noodles, cheddar cheese
  1. Chicken and cheese skewers, watermelon, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Bread Muffins,
  1. Pancakes with maple syrup, cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple ribbons, carrot coins
  • Aim for Balance: While some lunches may miss a food group here and there, I always aim for a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and protein (from either lean meat or dairy and sometimes both) in each box. I don’t always include a dessert like a cookie or candy but sometimes I do and I’m okay with it. Again, it’s all about balance. If I miss a food group in the lunchbox, I make sure we make it up at another time of day such as an extra veggie at dinner or whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt at breakfast.
  • Bring in the Kids: In the same way that Sally and other feeding experts recommend, involving your children in lunchbox planning and preparation is key increasing their knowledge and acceptability of food. If it were up to my girls, they would have yogurt, waffles, chicken nuggets, and strawberries for every meal. And if you scroll through my lunchbox pictures, it is likely that we have one that looks like that. Since the girls are still young, I often give them choices to help guide what we pack (i.e. blueberries or apple carrots or cucumber). At other times, they may just help to put everything in its place and close the box (that’s a big job for a 2 year old!).
  • Chill: As a mom, it can get stressful when I see food returned home uneaten. However, I don’t let myself get upset because I believe in the power of repeated exposure to the same foods (something my very smart mommy mentor, Sally, has taught me). If something didn’t work, give it a few days (or even a few weeks) and try it again at another time. Allow yourself time to plan and pack lunches on the weekend or the night before so your mornings are more relaxed.

About the Lunchbox: The lunch boxes we’ve used this year are called Bentgo Kids (my affiliate link). I like them because they offer five individual slots for food, dips, or treats similar to another popular lunchbox brand (and another one of my faves), Planetbox. This allows me to offer lots of options in small portions versus one larger entrée and possibly a side (similar to how adults may eat).

For more tips and lunchbox concepts, check out my most recent lunch box post, 125 Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids.

Holley Grainger, MS, RD is a nationally recognized nutrition and lifestyle expert, who has instructed millions of home cooks on how to make simple, fast and healthy meals through her online videos, media appearances and writing. You can find her blog or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for healthy recipe suggestions, smart diet advice and motivational healthy eating tips.


20 Healthy Lunchbox Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My friend and fellow dietitian Holley Grainger packs lunch throughout the week for her two girls, ages 4 and 2. She also takes photos of the lunches she packs and post them for inspiration (check out #healthylittlelunchbox on Instagram!). I’m always amazed at how well she balances the nutritional needs of her two littles ones with variety and fun–and so many of her lunch box photos make me say, “That’s a good idea!” So I asked her to share some of her preschool and toddler lunch box ideas, plus her best tips, with all of you.

Lunch Box Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My girls, Ellie and Frances, tend to be “choosy” when it comes to what they eat. But I’ve found that lunch is definitely when they eat the most food, as well as the best variety. Maybe it’s from peer pressure–or maybe they’re just hungrier midday. Either way, I take advantage of their undivided attention to provide a wide variety of nutritious foods. In this post, I’ve shared 20 of my favorite lunchbox concepts with you as well as what I call the “ABC’s of Lunchbox Packing”.

The first five lunch boxes have a few concepts that are a bit more like an actual “recipe” than just finger (or favorite) foods. They also reintroduce some foods (specifically vegetables) that the girls have rejected in the past like bell peppers, asparagus, black beans, and tomatoes. The end-of-the-day results from these lunches: one ate almost everything (minus the peppers) and the other didn’t. I’m not telling you this so you’ll wonder why I’m not sharing 100% no-fail lunchbox ideas with you. I’m sharing because I want you to know that as moms we all are faced with many of the same challenges around the table (or in this case, lunchbox) and there just isn’t one perfect meal (or lunchbox) prescription. It is up to us as parents to offer variety, color, and, of course, fun so our little ones learn to grow and cultivate an appreciation for food.

  1. Southwest Quinoa (quinoa tossed with corn, black beans, avocado, and chopped tomato), chicken breast, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ strawberry), steamed broccoli, grapefruit
  1. Apples with sunflower seed butter, mini bell peppers, low-sodium turkey rollups, pickles, dried cranberries
  1. Graham cracker and peanut butter sandwich, “Dippable Salad” (thanks Sally for the idea!) with butter lettuce, rainbow carrots and ranch, Pirate’s Booty, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate square
  1. Mini Veggie Quiche, raspberries, string cheese, low-sodium turkey, pistachios (I swapped pistachios for raisins for my 2yo since nuts are a choking hazard for toddlers.)
  1. “White Out” Lunchbox: Kitchen Sink Couscous (couscous with feta, zucchini, rainbow carrots, and asparagus), apples, grilled chicken, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ vanilla), white chocolate chips

  1. Fruit salad, low-sodium ham rolls, brown rice, brownie, green beans
  1. Breakfast for Lunch: homemade whole grain chocolate chip pancakes, maple syrup, plain Greek yogurt with strawberry yogurt heart, and a happy (stickers)
  1. Hummus and veggie skewers, chicken breast, pears, whole grain O’s, happy (Cinderella sticker)
  1. Honeydew melon, hard-cooked egg, cottage cheese, whole grain pretzels, note from Mommy
  1. Applesauce pouch, graham cracker, low-sodium ham, green beans, noodles

  1. Mini Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins, grapefruit, low-sodium turkey, English cucumber, ranch
  1. Sunflower Seed Butter and Strawberry Wafflewich, hard-cooked egg, grapes (cut in small pieces for toddler), love note from Mommy
  1. Greek yogurt pouch, low-sodium turkey, strawberries, bell peppers and carrots with ranch
  1. Penne noodles with tomato sauce, carrot sticks, grapes, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate chips
  1. Hawaiian roll ham sandwich, cucumbers and bell peppers, homemade marshmallow, graham cracker, hummus

  1. Carrots and hummus, low-sodium turkey rolls, mandarin orange, fig cookie bar, note from Mommy
  1. Sunflower seed quesadillas, English cucumbers, plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate arils, cheddar bunnies, hummus
  1. Yogurt pouch, whole grain pretzels, mandarin orange, noodles, cheddar cheese
  1. Chicken and cheese skewers, watermelon, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Bread Muffins,
  1. Pancakes with maple syrup, cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple ribbons, carrot coins
  • Aim for Balance: While some lunches may miss a food group here and there, I always aim for a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and protein (from either lean meat or dairy and sometimes both) in each box. I don’t always include a dessert like a cookie or candy but sometimes I do and I’m okay with it. Again, it’s all about balance. If I miss a food group in the lunchbox, I make sure we make it up at another time of day such as an extra veggie at dinner or whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt at breakfast.
  • Bring in the Kids: In the same way that Sally and other feeding experts recommend, involving your children in lunchbox planning and preparation is key increasing their knowledge and acceptability of food. If it were up to my girls, they would have yogurt, waffles, chicken nuggets, and strawberries for every meal. And if you scroll through my lunchbox pictures, it is likely that we have one that looks like that. Since the girls are still young, I often give them choices to help guide what we pack (i.e. blueberries or apple carrots or cucumber). At other times, they may just help to put everything in its place and close the box (that’s a big job for a 2 year old!).
  • Chill: As a mom, it can get stressful when I see food returned home uneaten. However, I don’t let myself get upset because I believe in the power of repeated exposure to the same foods (something my very smart mommy mentor, Sally, has taught me). If something didn’t work, give it a few days (or even a few weeks) and try it again at another time. Allow yourself time to plan and pack lunches on the weekend or the night before so your mornings are more relaxed.

About the Lunchbox: The lunch boxes we’ve used this year are called Bentgo Kids (my affiliate link). I like them because they offer five individual slots for food, dips, or treats similar to another popular lunchbox brand (and another one of my faves), Planetbox. This allows me to offer lots of options in small portions versus one larger entrée and possibly a side (similar to how adults may eat).

For more tips and lunchbox concepts, check out my most recent lunch box post, 125 Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids.

Holley Grainger, MS, RD is a nationally recognized nutrition and lifestyle expert, who has instructed millions of home cooks on how to make simple, fast and healthy meals through her online videos, media appearances and writing. You can find her blog or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for healthy recipe suggestions, smart diet advice and motivational healthy eating tips.


20 Healthy Lunchbox Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My friend and fellow dietitian Holley Grainger packs lunch throughout the week for her two girls, ages 4 and 2. She also takes photos of the lunches she packs and post them for inspiration (check out #healthylittlelunchbox on Instagram!). I’m always amazed at how well she balances the nutritional needs of her two littles ones with variety and fun–and so many of her lunch box photos make me say, “That’s a good idea!” So I asked her to share some of her preschool and toddler lunch box ideas, plus her best tips, with all of you.

Lunch Box Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My girls, Ellie and Frances, tend to be “choosy” when it comes to what they eat. But I’ve found that lunch is definitely when they eat the most food, as well as the best variety. Maybe it’s from peer pressure–or maybe they’re just hungrier midday. Either way, I take advantage of their undivided attention to provide a wide variety of nutritious foods. In this post, I’ve shared 20 of my favorite lunchbox concepts with you as well as what I call the “ABC’s of Lunchbox Packing”.

The first five lunch boxes have a few concepts that are a bit more like an actual “recipe” than just finger (or favorite) foods. They also reintroduce some foods (specifically vegetables) that the girls have rejected in the past like bell peppers, asparagus, black beans, and tomatoes. The end-of-the-day results from these lunches: one ate almost everything (minus the peppers) and the other didn’t. I’m not telling you this so you’ll wonder why I’m not sharing 100% no-fail lunchbox ideas with you. I’m sharing because I want you to know that as moms we all are faced with many of the same challenges around the table (or in this case, lunchbox) and there just isn’t one perfect meal (or lunchbox) prescription. It is up to us as parents to offer variety, color, and, of course, fun so our little ones learn to grow and cultivate an appreciation for food.

  1. Southwest Quinoa (quinoa tossed with corn, black beans, avocado, and chopped tomato), chicken breast, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ strawberry), steamed broccoli, grapefruit
  1. Apples with sunflower seed butter, mini bell peppers, low-sodium turkey rollups, pickles, dried cranberries
  1. Graham cracker and peanut butter sandwich, “Dippable Salad” (thanks Sally for the idea!) with butter lettuce, rainbow carrots and ranch, Pirate’s Booty, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate square
  1. Mini Veggie Quiche, raspberries, string cheese, low-sodium turkey, pistachios (I swapped pistachios for raisins for my 2yo since nuts are a choking hazard for toddlers.)
  1. “White Out” Lunchbox: Kitchen Sink Couscous (couscous with feta, zucchini, rainbow carrots, and asparagus), apples, grilled chicken, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ vanilla), white chocolate chips

  1. Fruit salad, low-sodium ham rolls, brown rice, brownie, green beans
  1. Breakfast for Lunch: homemade whole grain chocolate chip pancakes, maple syrup, plain Greek yogurt with strawberry yogurt heart, and a happy (stickers)
  1. Hummus and veggie skewers, chicken breast, pears, whole grain O’s, happy (Cinderella sticker)
  1. Honeydew melon, hard-cooked egg, cottage cheese, whole grain pretzels, note from Mommy
  1. Applesauce pouch, graham cracker, low-sodium ham, green beans, noodles

  1. Mini Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins, grapefruit, low-sodium turkey, English cucumber, ranch
  1. Sunflower Seed Butter and Strawberry Wafflewich, hard-cooked egg, grapes (cut in small pieces for toddler), love note from Mommy
  1. Greek yogurt pouch, low-sodium turkey, strawberries, bell peppers and carrots with ranch
  1. Penne noodles with tomato sauce, carrot sticks, grapes, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate chips
  1. Hawaiian roll ham sandwich, cucumbers and bell peppers, homemade marshmallow, graham cracker, hummus

  1. Carrots and hummus, low-sodium turkey rolls, mandarin orange, fig cookie bar, note from Mommy
  1. Sunflower seed quesadillas, English cucumbers, plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate arils, cheddar bunnies, hummus
  1. Yogurt pouch, whole grain pretzels, mandarin orange, noodles, cheddar cheese
  1. Chicken and cheese skewers, watermelon, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Bread Muffins,
  1. Pancakes with maple syrup, cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple ribbons, carrot coins
  • Aim for Balance: While some lunches may miss a food group here and there, I always aim for a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and protein (from either lean meat or dairy and sometimes both) in each box. I don’t always include a dessert like a cookie or candy but sometimes I do and I’m okay with it. Again, it’s all about balance. If I miss a food group in the lunchbox, I make sure we make it up at another time of day such as an extra veggie at dinner or whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt at breakfast.
  • Bring in the Kids: In the same way that Sally and other feeding experts recommend, involving your children in lunchbox planning and preparation is key increasing their knowledge and acceptability of food. If it were up to my girls, they would have yogurt, waffles, chicken nuggets, and strawberries for every meal. And if you scroll through my lunchbox pictures, it is likely that we have one that looks like that. Since the girls are still young, I often give them choices to help guide what we pack (i.e. blueberries or apple carrots or cucumber). At other times, they may just help to put everything in its place and close the box (that’s a big job for a 2 year old!).
  • Chill: As a mom, it can get stressful when I see food returned home uneaten. However, I don’t let myself get upset because I believe in the power of repeated exposure to the same foods (something my very smart mommy mentor, Sally, has taught me). If something didn’t work, give it a few days (or even a few weeks) and try it again at another time. Allow yourself time to plan and pack lunches on the weekend or the night before so your mornings are more relaxed.

About the Lunchbox: The lunch boxes we’ve used this year are called Bentgo Kids (my affiliate link). I like them because they offer five individual slots for food, dips, or treats similar to another popular lunchbox brand (and another one of my faves), Planetbox. This allows me to offer lots of options in small portions versus one larger entrée and possibly a side (similar to how adults may eat).

For more tips and lunchbox concepts, check out my most recent lunch box post, 125 Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids.

Holley Grainger, MS, RD is a nationally recognized nutrition and lifestyle expert, who has instructed millions of home cooks on how to make simple, fast and healthy meals through her online videos, media appearances and writing. You can find her blog or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for healthy recipe suggestions, smart diet advice and motivational healthy eating tips.


20 Healthy Lunchbox Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My friend and fellow dietitian Holley Grainger packs lunch throughout the week for her two girls, ages 4 and 2. She also takes photos of the lunches she packs and post them for inspiration (check out #healthylittlelunchbox on Instagram!). I’m always amazed at how well she balances the nutritional needs of her two littles ones with variety and fun–and so many of her lunch box photos make me say, “That’s a good idea!” So I asked her to share some of her preschool and toddler lunch box ideas, plus her best tips, with all of you.

Lunch Box Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My girls, Ellie and Frances, tend to be “choosy” when it comes to what they eat. But I’ve found that lunch is definitely when they eat the most food, as well as the best variety. Maybe it’s from peer pressure–or maybe they’re just hungrier midday. Either way, I take advantage of their undivided attention to provide a wide variety of nutritious foods. In this post, I’ve shared 20 of my favorite lunchbox concepts with you as well as what I call the “ABC’s of Lunchbox Packing”.

The first five lunch boxes have a few concepts that are a bit more like an actual “recipe” than just finger (or favorite) foods. They also reintroduce some foods (specifically vegetables) that the girls have rejected in the past like bell peppers, asparagus, black beans, and tomatoes. The end-of-the-day results from these lunches: one ate almost everything (minus the peppers) and the other didn’t. I’m not telling you this so you’ll wonder why I’m not sharing 100% no-fail lunchbox ideas with you. I’m sharing because I want you to know that as moms we all are faced with many of the same challenges around the table (or in this case, lunchbox) and there just isn’t one perfect meal (or lunchbox) prescription. It is up to us as parents to offer variety, color, and, of course, fun so our little ones learn to grow and cultivate an appreciation for food.

  1. Southwest Quinoa (quinoa tossed with corn, black beans, avocado, and chopped tomato), chicken breast, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ strawberry), steamed broccoli, grapefruit
  1. Apples with sunflower seed butter, mini bell peppers, low-sodium turkey rollups, pickles, dried cranberries
  1. Graham cracker and peanut butter sandwich, “Dippable Salad” (thanks Sally for the idea!) with butter lettuce, rainbow carrots and ranch, Pirate’s Booty, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate square
  1. Mini Veggie Quiche, raspberries, string cheese, low-sodium turkey, pistachios (I swapped pistachios for raisins for my 2yo since nuts are a choking hazard for toddlers.)
  1. “White Out” Lunchbox: Kitchen Sink Couscous (couscous with feta, zucchini, rainbow carrots, and asparagus), apples, grilled chicken, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ vanilla), white chocolate chips

  1. Fruit salad, low-sodium ham rolls, brown rice, brownie, green beans
  1. Breakfast for Lunch: homemade whole grain chocolate chip pancakes, maple syrup, plain Greek yogurt with strawberry yogurt heart, and a happy (stickers)
  1. Hummus and veggie skewers, chicken breast, pears, whole grain O’s, happy (Cinderella sticker)
  1. Honeydew melon, hard-cooked egg, cottage cheese, whole grain pretzels, note from Mommy
  1. Applesauce pouch, graham cracker, low-sodium ham, green beans, noodles

  1. Mini Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins, grapefruit, low-sodium turkey, English cucumber, ranch
  1. Sunflower Seed Butter and Strawberry Wafflewich, hard-cooked egg, grapes (cut in small pieces for toddler), love note from Mommy
  1. Greek yogurt pouch, low-sodium turkey, strawberries, bell peppers and carrots with ranch
  1. Penne noodles with tomato sauce, carrot sticks, grapes, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate chips
  1. Hawaiian roll ham sandwich, cucumbers and bell peppers, homemade marshmallow, graham cracker, hummus

  1. Carrots and hummus, low-sodium turkey rolls, mandarin orange, fig cookie bar, note from Mommy
  1. Sunflower seed quesadillas, English cucumbers, plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate arils, cheddar bunnies, hummus
  1. Yogurt pouch, whole grain pretzels, mandarin orange, noodles, cheddar cheese
  1. Chicken and cheese skewers, watermelon, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Bread Muffins,
  1. Pancakes with maple syrup, cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple ribbons, carrot coins
  • Aim for Balance: While some lunches may miss a food group here and there, I always aim for a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and protein (from either lean meat or dairy and sometimes both) in each box. I don’t always include a dessert like a cookie or candy but sometimes I do and I’m okay with it. Again, it’s all about balance. If I miss a food group in the lunchbox, I make sure we make it up at another time of day such as an extra veggie at dinner or whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt at breakfast.
  • Bring in the Kids: In the same way that Sally and other feeding experts recommend, involving your children in lunchbox planning and preparation is key increasing their knowledge and acceptability of food. If it were up to my girls, they would have yogurt, waffles, chicken nuggets, and strawberries for every meal. And if you scroll through my lunchbox pictures, it is likely that we have one that looks like that. Since the girls are still young, I often give them choices to help guide what we pack (i.e. blueberries or apple carrots or cucumber). At other times, they may just help to put everything in its place and close the box (that’s a big job for a 2 year old!).
  • Chill: As a mom, it can get stressful when I see food returned home uneaten. However, I don’t let myself get upset because I believe in the power of repeated exposure to the same foods (something my very smart mommy mentor, Sally, has taught me). If something didn’t work, give it a few days (or even a few weeks) and try it again at another time. Allow yourself time to plan and pack lunches on the weekend or the night before so your mornings are more relaxed.

About the Lunchbox: The lunch boxes we’ve used this year are called Bentgo Kids (my affiliate link). I like them because they offer five individual slots for food, dips, or treats similar to another popular lunchbox brand (and another one of my faves), Planetbox. This allows me to offer lots of options in small portions versus one larger entrée and possibly a side (similar to how adults may eat).

For more tips and lunchbox concepts, check out my most recent lunch box post, 125 Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids.

Holley Grainger, MS, RD is a nationally recognized nutrition and lifestyle expert, who has instructed millions of home cooks on how to make simple, fast and healthy meals through her online videos, media appearances and writing. You can find her blog or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for healthy recipe suggestions, smart diet advice and motivational healthy eating tips.


20 Healthy Lunchbox Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My friend and fellow dietitian Holley Grainger packs lunch throughout the week for her two girls, ages 4 and 2. She also takes photos of the lunches she packs and post them for inspiration (check out #healthylittlelunchbox on Instagram!). I’m always amazed at how well she balances the nutritional needs of her two littles ones with variety and fun–and so many of her lunch box photos make me say, “That’s a good idea!” So I asked her to share some of her preschool and toddler lunch box ideas, plus her best tips, with all of you.

Lunch Box Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My girls, Ellie and Frances, tend to be “choosy” when it comes to what they eat. But I’ve found that lunch is definitely when they eat the most food, as well as the best variety. Maybe it’s from peer pressure–or maybe they’re just hungrier midday. Either way, I take advantage of their undivided attention to provide a wide variety of nutritious foods. In this post, I’ve shared 20 of my favorite lunchbox concepts with you as well as what I call the “ABC’s of Lunchbox Packing”.

The first five lunch boxes have a few concepts that are a bit more like an actual “recipe” than just finger (or favorite) foods. They also reintroduce some foods (specifically vegetables) that the girls have rejected in the past like bell peppers, asparagus, black beans, and tomatoes. The end-of-the-day results from these lunches: one ate almost everything (minus the peppers) and the other didn’t. I’m not telling you this so you’ll wonder why I’m not sharing 100% no-fail lunchbox ideas with you. I’m sharing because I want you to know that as moms we all are faced with many of the same challenges around the table (or in this case, lunchbox) and there just isn’t one perfect meal (or lunchbox) prescription. It is up to us as parents to offer variety, color, and, of course, fun so our little ones learn to grow and cultivate an appreciation for food.

  1. Southwest Quinoa (quinoa tossed with corn, black beans, avocado, and chopped tomato), chicken breast, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ strawberry), steamed broccoli, grapefruit
  1. Apples with sunflower seed butter, mini bell peppers, low-sodium turkey rollups, pickles, dried cranberries
  1. Graham cracker and peanut butter sandwich, “Dippable Salad” (thanks Sally for the idea!) with butter lettuce, rainbow carrots and ranch, Pirate’s Booty, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate square
  1. Mini Veggie Quiche, raspberries, string cheese, low-sodium turkey, pistachios (I swapped pistachios for raisins for my 2yo since nuts are a choking hazard for toddlers.)
  1. “White Out” Lunchbox: Kitchen Sink Couscous (couscous with feta, zucchini, rainbow carrots, and asparagus), apples, grilled chicken, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ vanilla), white chocolate chips

  1. Fruit salad, low-sodium ham rolls, brown rice, brownie, green beans
  1. Breakfast for Lunch: homemade whole grain chocolate chip pancakes, maple syrup, plain Greek yogurt with strawberry yogurt heart, and a happy (stickers)
  1. Hummus and veggie skewers, chicken breast, pears, whole grain O’s, happy (Cinderella sticker)
  1. Honeydew melon, hard-cooked egg, cottage cheese, whole grain pretzels, note from Mommy
  1. Applesauce pouch, graham cracker, low-sodium ham, green beans, noodles

  1. Mini Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins, grapefruit, low-sodium turkey, English cucumber, ranch
  1. Sunflower Seed Butter and Strawberry Wafflewich, hard-cooked egg, grapes (cut in small pieces for toddler), love note from Mommy
  1. Greek yogurt pouch, low-sodium turkey, strawberries, bell peppers and carrots with ranch
  1. Penne noodles with tomato sauce, carrot sticks, grapes, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate chips
  1. Hawaiian roll ham sandwich, cucumbers and bell peppers, homemade marshmallow, graham cracker, hummus

  1. Carrots and hummus, low-sodium turkey rolls, mandarin orange, fig cookie bar, note from Mommy
  1. Sunflower seed quesadillas, English cucumbers, plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate arils, cheddar bunnies, hummus
  1. Yogurt pouch, whole grain pretzels, mandarin orange, noodles, cheddar cheese
  1. Chicken and cheese skewers, watermelon, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Bread Muffins,
  1. Pancakes with maple syrup, cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple ribbons, carrot coins
  • Aim for Balance: While some lunches may miss a food group here and there, I always aim for a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and protein (from either lean meat or dairy and sometimes both) in each box. I don’t always include a dessert like a cookie or candy but sometimes I do and I’m okay with it. Again, it’s all about balance. If I miss a food group in the lunchbox, I make sure we make it up at another time of day such as an extra veggie at dinner or whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt at breakfast.
  • Bring in the Kids: In the same way that Sally and other feeding experts recommend, involving your children in lunchbox planning and preparation is key increasing their knowledge and acceptability of food. If it were up to my girls, they would have yogurt, waffles, chicken nuggets, and strawberries for every meal. And if you scroll through my lunchbox pictures, it is likely that we have one that looks like that. Since the girls are still young, I often give them choices to help guide what we pack (i.e. blueberries or apple carrots or cucumber). At other times, they may just help to put everything in its place and close the box (that’s a big job for a 2 year old!).
  • Chill: As a mom, it can get stressful when I see food returned home uneaten. However, I don’t let myself get upset because I believe in the power of repeated exposure to the same foods (something my very smart mommy mentor, Sally, has taught me). If something didn’t work, give it a few days (or even a few weeks) and try it again at another time. Allow yourself time to plan and pack lunches on the weekend or the night before so your mornings are more relaxed.

About the Lunchbox: The lunch boxes we’ve used this year are called Bentgo Kids (my affiliate link). I like them because they offer five individual slots for food, dips, or treats similar to another popular lunchbox brand (and another one of my faves), Planetbox. This allows me to offer lots of options in small portions versus one larger entrée and possibly a side (similar to how adults may eat).

For more tips and lunchbox concepts, check out my most recent lunch box post, 125 Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids.

Holley Grainger, MS, RD is a nationally recognized nutrition and lifestyle expert, who has instructed millions of home cooks on how to make simple, fast and healthy meals through her online videos, media appearances and writing. You can find her blog or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for healthy recipe suggestions, smart diet advice and motivational healthy eating tips.


20 Healthy Lunchbox Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My friend and fellow dietitian Holley Grainger packs lunch throughout the week for her two girls, ages 4 and 2. She also takes photos of the lunches she packs and post them for inspiration (check out #healthylittlelunchbox on Instagram!). I’m always amazed at how well she balances the nutritional needs of her two littles ones with variety and fun–and so many of her lunch box photos make me say, “That’s a good idea!” So I asked her to share some of her preschool and toddler lunch box ideas, plus her best tips, with all of you.

Lunch Box Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My girls, Ellie and Frances, tend to be “choosy” when it comes to what they eat. But I’ve found that lunch is definitely when they eat the most food, as well as the best variety. Maybe it’s from peer pressure–or maybe they’re just hungrier midday. Either way, I take advantage of their undivided attention to provide a wide variety of nutritious foods. In this post, I’ve shared 20 of my favorite lunchbox concepts with you as well as what I call the “ABC’s of Lunchbox Packing”.

The first five lunch boxes have a few concepts that are a bit more like an actual “recipe” than just finger (or favorite) foods. They also reintroduce some foods (specifically vegetables) that the girls have rejected in the past like bell peppers, asparagus, black beans, and tomatoes. The end-of-the-day results from these lunches: one ate almost everything (minus the peppers) and the other didn’t. I’m not telling you this so you’ll wonder why I’m not sharing 100% no-fail lunchbox ideas with you. I’m sharing because I want you to know that as moms we all are faced with many of the same challenges around the table (or in this case, lunchbox) and there just isn’t one perfect meal (or lunchbox) prescription. It is up to us as parents to offer variety, color, and, of course, fun so our little ones learn to grow and cultivate an appreciation for food.

  1. Southwest Quinoa (quinoa tossed with corn, black beans, avocado, and chopped tomato), chicken breast, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ strawberry), steamed broccoli, grapefruit
  1. Apples with sunflower seed butter, mini bell peppers, low-sodium turkey rollups, pickles, dried cranberries
  1. Graham cracker and peanut butter sandwich, “Dippable Salad” (thanks Sally for the idea!) with butter lettuce, rainbow carrots and ranch, Pirate’s Booty, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate square
  1. Mini Veggie Quiche, raspberries, string cheese, low-sodium turkey, pistachios (I swapped pistachios for raisins for my 2yo since nuts are a choking hazard for toddlers.)
  1. “White Out” Lunchbox: Kitchen Sink Couscous (couscous with feta, zucchini, rainbow carrots, and asparagus), apples, grilled chicken, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ vanilla), white chocolate chips

  1. Fruit salad, low-sodium ham rolls, brown rice, brownie, green beans
  1. Breakfast for Lunch: homemade whole grain chocolate chip pancakes, maple syrup, plain Greek yogurt with strawberry yogurt heart, and a happy (stickers)
  1. Hummus and veggie skewers, chicken breast, pears, whole grain O’s, happy (Cinderella sticker)
  1. Honeydew melon, hard-cooked egg, cottage cheese, whole grain pretzels, note from Mommy
  1. Applesauce pouch, graham cracker, low-sodium ham, green beans, noodles

  1. Mini Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins, grapefruit, low-sodium turkey, English cucumber, ranch
  1. Sunflower Seed Butter and Strawberry Wafflewich, hard-cooked egg, grapes (cut in small pieces for toddler), love note from Mommy
  1. Greek yogurt pouch, low-sodium turkey, strawberries, bell peppers and carrots with ranch
  1. Penne noodles with tomato sauce, carrot sticks, grapes, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate chips
  1. Hawaiian roll ham sandwich, cucumbers and bell peppers, homemade marshmallow, graham cracker, hummus

  1. Carrots and hummus, low-sodium turkey rolls, mandarin orange, fig cookie bar, note from Mommy
  1. Sunflower seed quesadillas, English cucumbers, plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate arils, cheddar bunnies, hummus
  1. Yogurt pouch, whole grain pretzels, mandarin orange, noodles, cheddar cheese
  1. Chicken and cheese skewers, watermelon, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Bread Muffins,
  1. Pancakes with maple syrup, cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple ribbons, carrot coins
  • Aim for Balance: While some lunches may miss a food group here and there, I always aim for a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and protein (from either lean meat or dairy and sometimes both) in each box. I don’t always include a dessert like a cookie or candy but sometimes I do and I’m okay with it. Again, it’s all about balance. If I miss a food group in the lunchbox, I make sure we make it up at another time of day such as an extra veggie at dinner or whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt at breakfast.
  • Bring in the Kids: In the same way that Sally and other feeding experts recommend, involving your children in lunchbox planning and preparation is key increasing their knowledge and acceptability of food. If it were up to my girls, they would have yogurt, waffles, chicken nuggets, and strawberries for every meal. And if you scroll through my lunchbox pictures, it is likely that we have one that looks like that. Since the girls are still young, I often give them choices to help guide what we pack (i.e. blueberries or apple carrots or cucumber). At other times, they may just help to put everything in its place and close the box (that’s a big job for a 2 year old!).
  • Chill: As a mom, it can get stressful when I see food returned home uneaten. However, I don’t let myself get upset because I believe in the power of repeated exposure to the same foods (something my very smart mommy mentor, Sally, has taught me). If something didn’t work, give it a few days (or even a few weeks) and try it again at another time. Allow yourself time to plan and pack lunches on the weekend or the night before so your mornings are more relaxed.

About the Lunchbox: The lunch boxes we’ve used this year are called Bentgo Kids (my affiliate link). I like them because they offer five individual slots for food, dips, or treats similar to another popular lunchbox brand (and another one of my faves), Planetbox. This allows me to offer lots of options in small portions versus one larger entrée and possibly a side (similar to how adults may eat).

For more tips and lunchbox concepts, check out my most recent lunch box post, 125 Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids.

Holley Grainger, MS, RD is a nationally recognized nutrition and lifestyle expert, who has instructed millions of home cooks on how to make simple, fast and healthy meals through her online videos, media appearances and writing. You can find her blog or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for healthy recipe suggestions, smart diet advice and motivational healthy eating tips.


20 Healthy Lunchbox Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My friend and fellow dietitian Holley Grainger packs lunch throughout the week for her two girls, ages 4 and 2. She also takes photos of the lunches she packs and post them for inspiration (check out #healthylittlelunchbox on Instagram!). I’m always amazed at how well she balances the nutritional needs of her two littles ones with variety and fun–and so many of her lunch box photos make me say, “That’s a good idea!” So I asked her to share some of her preschool and toddler lunch box ideas, plus her best tips, with all of you.

Lunch Box Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My girls, Ellie and Frances, tend to be “choosy” when it comes to what they eat. But I’ve found that lunch is definitely when they eat the most food, as well as the best variety. Maybe it’s from peer pressure–or maybe they’re just hungrier midday. Either way, I take advantage of their undivided attention to provide a wide variety of nutritious foods. In this post, I’ve shared 20 of my favorite lunchbox concepts with you as well as what I call the “ABC’s of Lunchbox Packing”.

The first five lunch boxes have a few concepts that are a bit more like an actual “recipe” than just finger (or favorite) foods. They also reintroduce some foods (specifically vegetables) that the girls have rejected in the past like bell peppers, asparagus, black beans, and tomatoes. The end-of-the-day results from these lunches: one ate almost everything (minus the peppers) and the other didn’t. I’m not telling you this so you’ll wonder why I’m not sharing 100% no-fail lunchbox ideas with you. I’m sharing because I want you to know that as moms we all are faced with many of the same challenges around the table (or in this case, lunchbox) and there just isn’t one perfect meal (or lunchbox) prescription. It is up to us as parents to offer variety, color, and, of course, fun so our little ones learn to grow and cultivate an appreciation for food.

  1. Southwest Quinoa (quinoa tossed with corn, black beans, avocado, and chopped tomato), chicken breast, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ strawberry), steamed broccoli, grapefruit
  1. Apples with sunflower seed butter, mini bell peppers, low-sodium turkey rollups, pickles, dried cranberries
  1. Graham cracker and peanut butter sandwich, “Dippable Salad” (thanks Sally for the idea!) with butter lettuce, rainbow carrots and ranch, Pirate’s Booty, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate square
  1. Mini Veggie Quiche, raspberries, string cheese, low-sodium turkey, pistachios (I swapped pistachios for raisins for my 2yo since nuts are a choking hazard for toddlers.)
  1. “White Out” Lunchbox: Kitchen Sink Couscous (couscous with feta, zucchini, rainbow carrots, and asparagus), apples, grilled chicken, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ vanilla), white chocolate chips

  1. Fruit salad, low-sodium ham rolls, brown rice, brownie, green beans
  1. Breakfast for Lunch: homemade whole grain chocolate chip pancakes, maple syrup, plain Greek yogurt with strawberry yogurt heart, and a happy (stickers)
  1. Hummus and veggie skewers, chicken breast, pears, whole grain O’s, happy (Cinderella sticker)
  1. Honeydew melon, hard-cooked egg, cottage cheese, whole grain pretzels, note from Mommy
  1. Applesauce pouch, graham cracker, low-sodium ham, green beans, noodles

  1. Mini Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins, grapefruit, low-sodium turkey, English cucumber, ranch
  1. Sunflower Seed Butter and Strawberry Wafflewich, hard-cooked egg, grapes (cut in small pieces for toddler), love note from Mommy
  1. Greek yogurt pouch, low-sodium turkey, strawberries, bell peppers and carrots with ranch
  1. Penne noodles with tomato sauce, carrot sticks, grapes, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate chips
  1. Hawaiian roll ham sandwich, cucumbers and bell peppers, homemade marshmallow, graham cracker, hummus

  1. Carrots and hummus, low-sodium turkey rolls, mandarin orange, fig cookie bar, note from Mommy
  1. Sunflower seed quesadillas, English cucumbers, plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate arils, cheddar bunnies, hummus
  1. Yogurt pouch, whole grain pretzels, mandarin orange, noodles, cheddar cheese
  1. Chicken and cheese skewers, watermelon, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Bread Muffins,
  1. Pancakes with maple syrup, cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple ribbons, carrot coins
  • Aim for Balance: While some lunches may miss a food group here and there, I always aim for a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and protein (from either lean meat or dairy and sometimes both) in each box. I don’t always include a dessert like a cookie or candy but sometimes I do and I’m okay with it. Again, it’s all about balance. If I miss a food group in the lunchbox, I make sure we make it up at another time of day such as an extra veggie at dinner or whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt at breakfast.
  • Bring in the Kids: In the same way that Sally and other feeding experts recommend, involving your children in lunchbox planning and preparation is key increasing their knowledge and acceptability of food. If it were up to my girls, they would have yogurt, waffles, chicken nuggets, and strawberries for every meal. And if you scroll through my lunchbox pictures, it is likely that we have one that looks like that. Since the girls are still young, I often give them choices to help guide what we pack (i.e. blueberries or apple carrots or cucumber). At other times, they may just help to put everything in its place and close the box (that’s a big job for a 2 year old!).
  • Chill: As a mom, it can get stressful when I see food returned home uneaten. However, I don’t let myself get upset because I believe in the power of repeated exposure to the same foods (something my very smart mommy mentor, Sally, has taught me). If something didn’t work, give it a few days (or even a few weeks) and try it again at another time. Allow yourself time to plan and pack lunches on the weekend or the night before so your mornings are more relaxed.

About the Lunchbox: The lunch boxes we’ve used this year are called Bentgo Kids (my affiliate link). I like them because they offer five individual slots for food, dips, or treats similar to another popular lunchbox brand (and another one of my faves), Planetbox. This allows me to offer lots of options in small portions versus one larger entrée and possibly a side (similar to how adults may eat).

For more tips and lunchbox concepts, check out my most recent lunch box post, 125 Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids.

Holley Grainger, MS, RD is a nationally recognized nutrition and lifestyle expert, who has instructed millions of home cooks on how to make simple, fast and healthy meals through her online videos, media appearances and writing. You can find her blog or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for healthy recipe suggestions, smart diet advice and motivational healthy eating tips.


20 Healthy Lunchbox Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My friend and fellow dietitian Holley Grainger packs lunch throughout the week for her two girls, ages 4 and 2. She also takes photos of the lunches she packs and post them for inspiration (check out #healthylittlelunchbox on Instagram!). I’m always amazed at how well she balances the nutritional needs of her two littles ones with variety and fun–and so many of her lunch box photos make me say, “That’s a good idea!” So I asked her to share some of her preschool and toddler lunch box ideas, plus her best tips, with all of you.

Lunch Box Ideas For Toddlers And Preschoolers

My girls, Ellie and Frances, tend to be “choosy” when it comes to what they eat. But I’ve found that lunch is definitely when they eat the most food, as well as the best variety. Maybe it’s from peer pressure–or maybe they’re just hungrier midday. Either way, I take advantage of their undivided attention to provide a wide variety of nutritious foods. In this post, I’ve shared 20 of my favorite lunchbox concepts with you as well as what I call the “ABC’s of Lunchbox Packing”.

The first five lunch boxes have a few concepts that are a bit more like an actual “recipe” than just finger (or favorite) foods. They also reintroduce some foods (specifically vegetables) that the girls have rejected in the past like bell peppers, asparagus, black beans, and tomatoes. The end-of-the-day results from these lunches: one ate almost everything (minus the peppers) and the other didn’t. I’m not telling you this so you’ll wonder why I’m not sharing 100% no-fail lunchbox ideas with you. I’m sharing because I want you to know that as moms we all are faced with many of the same challenges around the table (or in this case, lunchbox) and there just isn’t one perfect meal (or lunchbox) prescription. It is up to us as parents to offer variety, color, and, of course, fun so our little ones learn to grow and cultivate an appreciation for food.

  1. Southwest Quinoa (quinoa tossed with corn, black beans, avocado, and chopped tomato), chicken breast, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ strawberry), steamed broccoli, grapefruit
  1. Apples with sunflower seed butter, mini bell peppers, low-sodium turkey rollups, pickles, dried cranberries
  1. Graham cracker and peanut butter sandwich, “Dippable Salad” (thanks Sally for the idea!) with butter lettuce, rainbow carrots and ranch, Pirate’s Booty, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate square
  1. Mini Veggie Quiche, raspberries, string cheese, low-sodium turkey, pistachios (I swapped pistachios for raisins for my 2yo since nuts are a choking hazard for toddlers.)
  1. “White Out” Lunchbox: Kitchen Sink Couscous (couscous with feta, zucchini, rainbow carrots, and asparagus), apples, grilled chicken, ½ and ½ Greek yogurt (½ plain and ½ vanilla), white chocolate chips

  1. Fruit salad, low-sodium ham rolls, brown rice, brownie, green beans
  1. Breakfast for Lunch: homemade whole grain chocolate chip pancakes, maple syrup, plain Greek yogurt with strawberry yogurt heart, and a happy (stickers)
  1. Hummus and veggie skewers, chicken breast, pears, whole grain O’s, happy (Cinderella sticker)
  1. Honeydew melon, hard-cooked egg, cottage cheese, whole grain pretzels, note from Mommy
  1. Applesauce pouch, graham cracker, low-sodium ham, green beans, noodles

  1. Mini Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins, grapefruit, low-sodium turkey, English cucumber, ranch
  1. Sunflower Seed Butter and Strawberry Wafflewich, hard-cooked egg, grapes (cut in small pieces for toddler), love note from Mommy
  1. Greek yogurt pouch, low-sodium turkey, strawberries, bell peppers and carrots with ranch
  1. Penne noodles with tomato sauce, carrot sticks, grapes, cheddar cheese, dark chocolate chips
  1. Hawaiian roll ham sandwich, cucumbers and bell peppers, homemade marshmallow, graham cracker, hummus

  1. Carrots and hummus, low-sodium turkey rolls, mandarin orange, fig cookie bar, note from Mommy
  1. Sunflower seed quesadillas, English cucumbers, plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate arils, cheddar bunnies, hummus
  1. Yogurt pouch, whole grain pretzels, mandarin orange, noodles, cheddar cheese
  1. Chicken and cheese skewers, watermelon, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Bread Muffins,
  1. Pancakes with maple syrup, cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple ribbons, carrot coins
  • Aim for Balance: While some lunches may miss a food group here and there, I always aim for a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and protein (from either lean meat or dairy and sometimes both) in each box. I don’t always include a dessert like a cookie or candy but sometimes I do and I’m okay with it. Again, it’s all about balance. If I miss a food group in the lunchbox, I make sure we make it up at another time of day such as an extra veggie at dinner or whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt at breakfast.
  • Bring in the Kids: In the same way that Sally and other feeding experts recommend, involving your children in lunchbox planning and preparation is key increasing their knowledge and acceptability of food. If it were up to my girls, they would have yogurt, waffles, chicken nuggets, and strawberries for every meal. And if you scroll through my lunchbox pictures, it is likely that we have one that looks like that. Since the girls are still young, I often give them choices to help guide what we pack (i.e. blueberries or apple carrots or cucumber). At other times, they may just help to put everything in its place and close the box (that’s a big job for a 2 year old!).
  • Chill: As a mom, it can get stressful when I see food returned home uneaten. However, I don’t let myself get upset because I believe in the power of repeated exposure to the same foods (something my very smart mommy mentor, Sally, has taught me). If something didn’t work, give it a few days (or even a few weeks) and try it again at another time. Allow yourself time to plan and pack lunches on the weekend or the night before so your mornings are more relaxed.

About the Lunchbox: The lunch boxes we’ve used this year are called Bentgo Kids (my affiliate link). I like them because they offer five individual slots for food, dips, or treats similar to another popular lunchbox brand (and another one of my faves), Planetbox. This allows me to offer lots of options in small portions versus one larger entrée and possibly a side (similar to how adults may eat).

For more tips and lunchbox concepts, check out my most recent lunch box post, 125 Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids.

Holley Grainger, MS, RD is a nationally recognized nutrition and lifestyle expert, who has instructed millions of home cooks on how to make simple, fast and healthy meals through her online videos, media appearances and writing. You can find her blog or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for healthy recipe suggestions, smart diet advice and motivational healthy eating tips.



Comments:

  1. Chisisi

    straight to apple

  2. Dougal

    you can neigh!)))

  3. Gabirel

    And what do we do without your wonderful idea



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