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Kids in the Kitchen: School Lunches

September is National Family Meals month. What better way to celebrate than by encouraging your kids to partake in meal planning and preparation? Perfect timing for this month’s Recipe Redux theme of “Kids in the Kitchen”. Our kids LOVE helping out in the kitchen…

While our littlest helpers mostly like to “play” kitchen, they also like to join in with fun cooking and baking projects. They had a blast testing out Raddish Kids Cooking Kits.  Our older kids enjoyed trying out One Potato Meals, and Hello Fresh.

An easy way to get your kids into the kitchen is to have them play an active role in preparing their school lunches. No parent likes opening up that lunch box at the end of the day and seeing a lot of items uneaten or hearing their kids whine that they never like anything that’s packed for them. Even if you have young toddlers who only attend preschool, you can have them play a role in packing their snacks or deciding what will be served to them when they come home for lunchtime.

Here are a few tips to help get your kids involved:

  1. Go grocery shopping or make the shopping list with your kids. Encourage them to try new foods as you are walking down the grocery aisles. We tend to get into our ruts and keep buying the same things we know our kids like, which can lead to boredom. If you have picky eaters, favorite foods one week are not longer liked the next. Making a list or going shopping together allows your children to have a voice and will more likely result in them being satisfied with their lunch options.
  2. Wash, chop and prep fruits and veggies right when you get home so they are ready go to and grab when it’s time to assemble lunches. This also helps make healthy snack options readily available for after school.
  3. Get the right lunch containers. Ditch environmentally unfriendly plastic bags and single use drink boxes for reusable containers and water bottles. A reusable, insulated lunchbox with an ice-pack keeps food at the proper temp. You can take it a step further by purchasing fun cookie cutters to cut sandwiches and fruit into different shapes. A little creativity can go a long way when it comes to enticing kids to try new foods.
  4. Make as much of the lunch as you can the night before. School mornings are busy and hectic. Minimize stress by making everything that won’t get soggy overnight or anything that might need to be warmed up in a thermos the morning of. This also allows plenty of time the evening before to discuss the lunch for the next day and if they are old enough- have your kids prepare it themselves.

Ever since my daughter requested a bento box book, she has loved preparing creative, healthy lunches for herself.

She was getting bored with sandwiches and would always request:

While I’m fine with the occasional treat, as a dietitian, I could not allow her to regularly eat a lunch that is so processed, high in salt, sugar and artificial colors/preservatives.

Instead, we opted for a homemade lunchable with pita bread cut into circles, small containers of tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese, raspberries/strawberries and baby carrots. She ate it all. Happy kid, happy mom!

Occasionally, she likes having hot food in her lunch. For this, simply purchase a stainless steel thermos to keep food hot until lunchtime. Soups and pastas stay nice and hot in the thermos and are especially great during the winter season. Even warming up dinner leftovers in the morning and popping into the thermos can make for a new and different school lunch. Since it’s still quite hot here in California, another lunch this week was:

Chilled pesto pasta salad with fresh mozzarella and baby tomatoes. Side of strawberries and grapes.

If your kids do like sandwiches, but are getting a little bored with the same old ones, try our Rainbow Wraps.  They are packed with nutrients, flavor and hold up great in lunchboxes… even when prepared the night before.

For hundreds of other healthy school lunch ideas, check out 100 Days of Real Food, who featured us as her Cookbook Ambassadors.

While we typically don’t pack desserts in school lunches, this pumpkin chocolate chip muffin is a sweet treat that is also packed with vitamins and protein.

This is a simple recipe that’s easy and quick for kids to help whip up for school lunches. It also makes a great breakfast or after-school snack. Packed with beta-carotene, fiber and low in calories- pumpkin puree makes a great ingredient for muffins. Not to mention, it’s a perfect fall food.

This kid loved being able to lick the spoon after mixing up this egg-free batter!

Simple Pumpkin Protein Muffins

Packed with fiber, beta-carotene and protein- a simple recipe for kids to help prepare.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 12


  • 1 can (15oz) pumpkin puree
  • 1 18oz spice mix
  • 1/3 c mini dark chocolate chips
  • 2 scoops (20g) collagen protein powder optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Assemble your ingredients. The collagen powder adds extra protein to the muffins without changing the texture or flavor. The muffins will still turn out great if you opt to leave it out. 

  2. Thoroughly mix the pumpkin, cake mix and protein powder. Fold in the chocolate chips at the end

  3. Scoop batter into muffin tin liners

  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes 

Recipe Notes

Store in airtight container for 1 week

We hope this inspires you to get your kids into the kitchen and more involved in their lunch making.  Wishing you a healthy and happy school year!

Check out other Kids in the Kitchen ideas here:



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  • Reply
    September 21, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    Thank you! Desperately needed help with school lunches!

  • Reply
    September 21, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    Very cute ideas to get the whole family involved in eating healthy (and delicious)

  • Reply
    September 21, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    I love pumpkin chocolate chip muffins! 🙂

  • Reply
    September 21, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    This is the best! Thanks for all the great ideas!

  • Reply
    September 23, 2018 at 2:00 am

    I am always looking for school lunch inspiration and these ideas look like ones that my boys would love! Where would we be without snack-y lunch and muffins? Thank you!!

  • Reply
    Brynn at The Domestic Dietitian
    September 25, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Oh my gosh, their little aprons and matching doll aprons are everything! My little girl got a bento box too and loves picking little things to go into each compartment.

  • Reply
    Quinn Wade
    March 3, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    I dugg some of you post as I cerebrated they were very useful very beneficial

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