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Packed Lunch Survival Guide: Breaking Bad Habits

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You can avoid Lunchables, I promise. While working at a pre-K through eighth grade school, I noticed that what mattered in getting kids to eat their entire packed lunch was to have plenty of options. Just like adults, kids are curious about what they can taste that’s new and different—especially if parents encourage something from a young age and later include some sort of dipping sauce. Kids love veggies if they can dip them, and yogurt tastes much better when you can throw back your head and suck it from a tube. So packing a healthy lunch—that isn’t chock full of preservatives, sugar, and additives—isn’t impossible.


Parents shouldn’t have to shop more than once every two weeks. With the grocery list below, you can get two weeks of lunch menus, so you can avoid aisle three meltdowns if you know exactly what you want. Just get in, stock your cart, and get out. For the shopping list I have below, it’s a given that the healthier choices are organic. Also try to avoid packaged foods with added sugar. Buy an all-fruit spread in lieu of jelly; it tastes great and is sweetened with pear or grape juice. Make sure string cheese is real cheese, for instance. Below you’ll find a grocery list and two weeks of menus to help make packing lunches less of a hassle.


Week One Grocery List:


  • Tortillas (whole wheat or gluten-free)
  • Bread (whole wheat or gluten-free)
  • Pasta—two kinds
  • Marinara sauce (organic if possible)
  • Pesto
  • Popcorn (buy a big bag of plain kernels that you pop yourself and you’ll save money and a ton of salt and butter and preservatives found in microwave popcorn)
  • Peanut or sunflower butter (They’ll never know the difference. Opt for organic with no added sugar or preservatives.)
  • Jelly (opt for an all-fruit variety without added sugar)
  • Hummus
  • Cream cheese
  • Mayonnaise (low fat if possible.)
  • Mustard
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Red pepper
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Ranch dressing
  • Cinnamon apple sauce
  • Newman Os
  • Barbara’s bakery cheese puff bakes
  • String cheese (try to find real cheese—some have fillers)
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Juice boxes (100 percent juice, preferably organic)
  • Sigg water bottle
  • Milk





Week One Lunches


Monday
Pesto pasta
Carrots with ranch dressing dip
String cheese
Apple slices (trick: dip each slice in orange juice and they won’t turn brown.)
Water


Tuesday
Peanut butter or sunflower butter and jelly sandwich (if your child’s school has a no-nuts policy, opt for jelly and cream cheese sandwich)
Sugar snap peas
Popcorn
Banana
Juice box



Wednesday
Hummus and red pepper tortilla wrap
Celery with peanut or sunflower butter (substitute ranch dressing if there’s a no-nut policy or nut allergy)
Barbara’s bakery cheese puff bakes
Orange slices
Milk


Thursday
Pesto pasta (If pesto wasn’t a hit, use ranch dressing and stir in veggies such as un-cooked sliced carrots, peas, cucumber and cheese squares)
Sugar snap peas
Cinnamon apple sauce
Water


Friday
Cream cheese and cucumber tortilla wrap
Barbara’s bakery cheese puff bakes
Apple slices
Newman Os
Juice box


Week Two Lunches:


Monday
Cream cheese and red pepper tortilla
Barbara’s bakery cheese puff bakes
Celery with peanut or sunflower butter
Milk


Tuesday
Marinara pasta
Carrots with ranch dressing dip
Popcorn
Water 


Wednesday
Cheddar cheese and cucumber sandwich with mayo and mustard
Orange slices
Newman Os
Juice box


Thursday
Marinara pasta
Sugar snap peas
Apple slices
String cheese
Water


Friday
Peanut butter or sunflower butter and jelly sandwich (if your child’s school has a no-nuts policy, opt for jelly and cream cheese sandwich)
Celery with peanut or sunflower butter (use ranch dressing is peanut butter can’t be used)
Barbara’s bakery cheese puff bakes
Cinnamon apple sauce
Juice box


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