How to Get Kids to Enjoy Their Lunch

This post is a partnership between myself and UnitedHealthcare talking about kids’ lunch. All opinions are 100% my own. 


kids lunchIs mealtime a struggle in your house? It is in ours, mainly because we have six different appetites to please. As much as we want to say we don’t, the truth is that we are often making four different meals. There is the adult meal (Keto or Whole30), Arianna’s mostly grownup meal (but considerations need to be made for her expander), Evan’s “scoop of peanut butter and apple slices”, then whatever the twins eat. I’m exhausted typing it, can you imagine the scene while making these? Torture, indeed.

peanut butter sandwich kid
Evan and his Peanut Butter

We’re all about healthy choices, but truth is, we parents do need to give our kids something they’ll eat. Having a meal plan and routine will help avoid our efforts going to waste – studies show “that children are throwing away roughly 25-45 percent of food, with vegetable waste up to 90 percent” (source: United Healthcare). That’s alarming to a mama who pinches pennies and tries to push the veggies!

Arianna working on dinner

How to Get Kids to Enjoy Their Lunch

My tried and true mom tips are to have the kids pick out what they want to eat, and hope for the best; however, that’s lead to plenty of wasted food in our house. I know. It pains me. That’s why I was excited that UnitedHealthcare was willing to share some tips to make fun, healthy lunches without spending too much time or getting stressed out.

Dr. Craig Butler, Medical Director, UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania and Delaware, shares some tips for parents and caregivers on how to make school lunches that are both nutritional and appealing to kids.

  • Pack school lunches with your kids. When kids are engaged in the process, they are more likely to help pack a meal they will eat and it’s a great teaching opportunity for parents.
  • Include at least three food groups: Lunches should include at least three food groups to provide nourishment and energy boosting nutrients to help get your child through the day.
    • Whole grains (popcorn, wraps, bread, rolls, crackers, pitas, cereal, pasta, quinoa, brown rice)
    • Lean- or low-fat protein (low-fat milk, cheese, nuts, cottage cheese, yogurt, hummus, turkey, chicken, roast beef, ham, nut butters, eggs, edamame, beans, tuna fish and salmon)
    • Fruits and veggies (100% fruit juice box, any fresh fruits or veggies, dried fruit, fruit cups in juice, natural applesauce cups)
  • Make it colorful. Adding colorful fruits and vegetables can make a lunch look more appetizing. Spice up vegetables with a little bit of guacamole, hummus, salsa, or low-fat ranch dressing on the side to add flavor and fun.
  • Don’t forget a drink: Hydration is particularly important for children because they have higher water requirements than adults. Besides water, more fun options include smoothies and low-fat milk. Skip sugary juices and sodas.
  • Pick the right sweet treat: It’s okay to add something small to their lunches because it gives them something to look forward to, but aim for less than eight to 10 grams of sugar per serving. Examples include chocolates that are at least 70 percent pure cocoa chocolate and natural fruit smoothies with plain Greek yogurt and almond milk.

Our favorites are to include colors – guacamole is a win in our house, allow for a small sweet treat, and to make it a family activity. Letting Evan loose on the peanut butter has made for some fun looking sandwiches, but when he helps, he eats!

Lunch Ideas

It’s great to have tips, but maybe you don’t know what to serve that is fun and matches the tips above. That’s ok, we get that. These lunch ideas are sure to please:

  • Grilled cheese a’la’ waffle – Use a waffle iron to create a whimsical version of the standard sandwich that can be enjoyed at room temperature. Serve with grapes, carrot sticks and 100% fruit juice.
  • Veggie quesadilla – Use whatever veggies you have on hand layered between a whole grain tortilla with cheese and cook quickly to melt the cheese. Serve with apple slices and lowfat milk.
  • Hard boiled egg-on-a-stick – Pair with popcorn, fruit slices to dip in a container of Greek yogurt along with a few cherry tomatoes and bottle of water.
  • Roll it up! – Roll up string cheese, a slice of lean ham, red bell pepper slices and baby spinach in a whole grain wrap. Serve with 100% fruit juice and a few strawberries.

Arianna’s vote is for the “hard boiled egg-on-a-stick”, but we’ll be working with Evan on breaking out of his “peanut butter only” mood to revolutionize our kids’ lunch. Which one(s) do you think your kids would like best? Tweet it out! 

For more healthy recipe ideas, parents can visit