By Chef Lauren, Closer to Your Food

Getting a decent meal for yourself on a daily basis, let alone for your kids, can seem like a momentous task. School lunch programs are catching up to the times, but unfortunately in most cases, not fast enough. We want the best for our kids because we know good, balanced nutrition leads to better focus, health, performance and just an all-around happier kid. We also know that food sources are becoming less and less reliable for nutrition, so ensuring that food is organic adds another piece to the puzzle. On top of everything, not all of us can afford the best of the best every day. So what is a parent to do? Your best. We have a few tips that will help you navigate through the enigma of supplying affordable and healthy lunches for your kiddos.

Don’t Over-think It:

If you’re like me, you might get lost in Pinterest and think that you can make intricate penguin sandwiches and Bento boxes. But the fact is, when kids are hungry, they will eat. The harder you try to put sprinkles and rainbows on that sandwich to get them to eat it, the more you are setting the expectation for the next sandwich. Instead, try providing a lunch box with smart choices. Focus on whole, raw food that is packed with nutritious content and worry less about how fancy it looks.

Buy Smart:

It’s easy to get caught up in tricky marketing with promises of “All Natural, Diet, Heart Healthy,” etc. We have come up with a plethora of different adjectives to make food sound and look good for you, when in reality it’s just the same processed, nutrient-deficient food as before. When buying snacks and lunchbox ingredients, I encourage you to source foods that are Certified Organic (USDA, Oregon Tilth, etc.) and Non-GMO project certified.

Keep It Simple:

You don’t need the newest and greatest, fancy schmansy packaged snacks. You just need food that tastes good and contains important nutrients. If you’re tired of buying applesauce packets, try putting a really ripe, delicious apple in your child’s lunchbox. Banana pudding? How about a banana or banana slices with honey and cinnamon? The whole, fresh version of the food should be your first choice as it’s higher in nutrients, fiber and enzymes.

Look for Deals and Resources:

When going to conventional grocery stores, they can gouge you on organic prices. Try subscribing to a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for affordable produce options, or visit a farmer’s market for current in-season fruits and vegetables. For snacks, research online. There are many great resources that will help you find which stores offer the best deals and coupons. There are also some great services that offer full meals and recipe plans with shopping lists. Some of my favorites are:



One pitfall for parents is that they get into the habit of preparing separate meals for the kids. This is more time consuming, and it conditions their little palates to choose simple, low-nutrient foods such as hot dogs, mac n’ cheese, chicken nuggets and the like. Instead, try preparing nutritious variations of these dishes for family meals and dinners, and use the left-overs in  lunches so you don’t have to do double duty. The trick to getting the kids to eat it? Make sure the food is super tasty. Don’t worry, we’ll help you out on that part.

The 4 Pillars of a Healthy Lunch:

Sometimes you have to throw a lunch together using what you have in the fridge and pantry, so we created an easy-to-use guide that breaks lunchbox contents into 4 categories. Remember to choose organic, non-GMO options when you are shopping, and to help your kiddos stay hydrated with plenty of fluid options.



Download this Healthy Lunchbox Guide and hang it on your refrigerator! Healthy LunchBox Love Mix-n-Match Guide

Make your monthly lunchbox planning easy by downloading this Healthy LunchBox Planner Printable

Lunchbox Recipes

Set aside the cold cut sandwich and add a little more love to your child’s lunch with these healthy recipes. Store them in a durable plastic container, they can be enjoyed hot or cold!

Download and print these recipes: Healthy LunchBox Love Recipes

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Closer to Your Food is a wellness blog focused on eating and cooking for health and sustainability with recipes
and lifestyle tips formulated around a plant-based diet and home-grown local foods. Chef Lauren Cox holds a B.A. from the le Cordon Bleu in Culinary Management with over 8 years of fine dining experience in private dining, catering and Michelan star restaurants. For more information, please visit and follow Closer to Your Food on Twitter and Facebook @Closer2YourFood. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.