As the star of HGTV‘s No Demo Reno, Jenn Todryk is a hard-working parent like many others. And she shared some of her lunchbox ideas for ensuring her three little ones always get the healthy stuff they need, even on those extra busy days.
Read on to learn expert recommendations for packing healthy lunches and some of Todryk’s tips for finding and creating snacks loaded with nutrients that even the pickiest eaters might love.
Harvard’s formula for a healthy back-to-school lunchbox
To start, hydration is vital. The Nutrition Source, part of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, recommends replacing sugary drinks with refillable water bottles to keep children hydrated and healthy.
They also offer a general idea of what to pack in back-to-school lunches and recommend filling half a tray or lunchbox with colorful fruits and vegetables. Thinking about an effective presentation is essential for those kids who might need to be enticed, they note.
Consider each food’s shape, size, and color depending on an individual child’s needs and preferences. Younger kids, for example, might be more likely to eat colorful, bite-sized food in fun shapes.
To summarize The Nutrition Source’s formula for healthy lunches, choose one fresh fruit, two different vegetables, one healthy protein, and one whole grain. Also, add a dairy product or dairy-free option with a similar amount of calcium. Finally, replace between-meal snacks with “super snacks” that pair protein-rich and carb-rich foods, like string cheese and grapes.
As an important note, the Nutrition Source reminds us that these guidelines are not meant as medical advice and don’t make considerations for things like allergies.
What’s best for some doesn’t work for others, and not every little eater will jump for joy to find no potato chips, cookies, or candies in their lunches. Plus, some parents might still be a little lost in the idea of a presentation in a lunchbox. Those are areas where Todryk has some great tips.
Jenn Todryk’s lunchbox ideas are perfect for back-to-school lunches and children with opinions
Whether packing lunches for homeschool kids or students who spend their days in private or public schools, it’s great to have a few go-to snacks that are well-liked — but also sneaky healthy!
Most parents know what it feels like to realize the kids’ lunches still need to be made on an already-bad morning — especially with picky eaters in the house. So, Todryk and Harvard both recommend meal prepping to stay ahead of that panic. That way, options are available during that grab-and-go lunchbox stuffing point in the morning.
Prepping for some families might mean washing, peeling, cutting fruits and vegetables, and measuring portions in advance. In Todryk’s case, it sometimes means using stamps to create bread, meat, and cheese bites for making adorable little sandwiches (per her What’s Packin’?! YouTube series).
Another trick that might work depending on the eater is finding healthy options that taste similar to their favorites. For instance, find something with a low sodium crunch that has more nutritious value than chips. In her What’s Packin’?! segment, Todryk uses organic veggie straws. From a personal perspective, baked pea snacks also work.
As for those kids who love sweets, Todryk advises focusing on offering various fresh fruits. Use as many colorful, sweet options as possible to find something they like in place of sugar-packed desserts.
Lastly, if you’ve got a kid with no taste for vegetables, try adding a little flavor. For example, Todryk says she’ll toss some broccoli florets in olive oil, then lightly sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Or, try spreading some peanut butter on celery.
Jenn Todryk’s lunchbox ideas for appetizing presentation
For one final tip, Todryk uses products like colorful bento boxes and cute food picks. Such products can work for storing most kinds of food, offering ways to keep lunches neat and organized, whatever meals you make.
Fortunately, many different recipes for healthy lunch ideas are available. And what works best for each family will depend on the individual members.