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Lunch Packing Guide for Kids + Free Lunch Planner


Teach kids how to pack their own healthy balanced lunch as a tried and true technique for getting them to actually eat their lunch! Get my free printable guide and planner to put on your fridge to make it a breeze.

It can seem easier just to pack your kids lunch for them because then you know its balanced, right? I know I packed my kids lunches for years because:

  • I wanted to to make sure they get a healthy meal
  • My mornings were hectic, and I thought I didn’t have time to manage the process
  • I hadn’t even considered that my kids were completely capable of doing this task, and they might even do it better!

But then I learned my lesson when my son traded the ENTIRE lunch I made for him for a single piece of candy! (I believe it was a single candy corn!) ha ha..  At that moment I decided to let them choose what they were going to put in their own lunches, as long as it includes a food from each group in our guide.

Balanced Lunch Guide

If your kids include a food from each group in our guide, they will be getting the nutrition they need from their lunch. This is the formula:

Protein + Carb + Fruit/Veggie + Fun Snack

There are so many options to choose from with each group, but sometimes it is hard to think ‘outside the lunchbox”……ha ha. My printable guide has foods from each group that are great for packing in a lunch.

Planning Packable School Lunch

To help decrease chaos in the mornings and help us plan ahead of time, I also created a printable for planning school lunches for the week. It’s been a GAME CHANGER!  I want my kids to make healthy choices, on their own, and this chart helps to make it happen. They know they have to choose one thing from each food group. We have printed and reprinted this to hang inside our pantry.

I make it super easy for my kids by creating a lunch packing station so that they can easily find foods from each group to add to their lunch.

When my kids are planning their lunches for the week, they refer to the guide for ideas and then fill out the planner. We try to do it the Saturday before the coming week so that I can buy anything we need at the store. I have found that when my kids use this system, we avoid the problem of packing 3 granola bars and nothing else, or forgetting a veggie.

Anything that will get the kids involved in the process of making their own lunch is going to give them kitchen skills they need and ownership over what they choose to bring to school. Kids are much more likely to eat what is in their lunch when they chose it!

Packable School Lunch Ideas

Sometimes all you need is an idea to get going! And sometimes you really need to look at a photo of an idea to help get your kids on board! We have put together 90 Packable Lunch Ideas with photos for you! And if you just want straight up ideas of what to pack, check out this post with 50 Packable School Lunch ideas.

Whatever you choose to have on hand for your kids to pack their lunches with, make sure it’s THEM packing the lunches, and not you!


Natalie Monson

I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.

Learn More about Natalie

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This is wonderful!!! Any chance this could be created in Spanish? I am a teacher and we have some niños who are coming to school with just a fruit or chips or cookies.
: (

I did something similar for my boys, who were required (by me, the meanest mom ever!) to start making their own lunches in kindergarten. In our house you are required to have 4 parts to your lunch:
1. Fruit or Veggie
2. Entree… this could be a sandwich, leftovers, crackers and pepperoni, etc.
3. Snack (typically pretzels, chips, or a granola bar)
4. Beverage – almost always milk, although once in a while we’ll have a juice box around as a treat

Giving them these parameters helped them and now, a few years later, lunch making has become a breeze.

Printables like this, especially with examples, are so incredibly helpful for kids and really enable them to become more independent. Which is better for them and for mom… everybody wins! Love it!

I love the idea of making my kids independent and part of the preparation of their meals! They have the “meanest mom” because we always eat healthy stuff but I’ve made them help in the meal preparation more and more and it seems to be working. I still prepare their school lunch. I love the idea of the checklist and having to pass inspection! Thank you!

If I am allowed, I’d like to share the cooking appliance I bought (Thermomix) which has made it possible to have a 3 and a 6 year old prepare a healthy meal for the family once a week each kid. They choose the recipe, I give them the ingredients, help with the raw meats and They follow the instructions of the thermomix letting them do the rest.