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Lunchbox Ideas as Children Head Back to School

by Elizabeth McMullen

Sept. 22, 2021

by Elizabeth McMullen

School is back in session for many families, but before you fret about what to pack in your little one’s lunch, let us save you time and reduce your stress by sharing ideas about how to jazz up school lunches! 

There are so many school lunch options but in the end it comes down to this, pack food that your children like and that you feel good about!

First, let’s answer common questions about packing school lunches. 

How to keep milk cold in a lunchbox

We recommend keeping your milk, Stringles string cheese, and other perishable treats chilled (ideally, under 40 F) and ready for munching. You can keep cold milk in a thermos for two to six hours without it spoiling, assuming it stays under 40 F.

Keep the thermos in the freezer until you pour the milk into it to ensure the thermos stays as cold as possible. But if you’re afraid of it spoiling, we recommend packing shelf-stable milk. Shelf-stable milk is exactly that—shelf-stable. Combined with ultra-pasteurization and shelf-stable packaging, this milk can be stored unopened for up to 180 days without refrigeration or preservatives. Although many prefer their milk chilled, it is safe to consume if it isn’t sitting in a cooler all day.

Back to school means back to figuring out what to pack in your children's lunches.

How to pack a school lunch 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and FoodSafety.gov suggest using an insulated lunch bag and at least two ice packs to ensure the contents stay cold. Here are tips to help keep everything cold: 

  • Keep the ice packs in the freezer until morning. 

  • Pack the lunch the night before and stick the entire lunch bag in the refrigerator. When packing a lunch in the morning, place the ice packs on the top and bottom of the perishable items. For example, place the ice pack at the bottom of the bag, then the sandwich and veggies, and put the ice pack on top of that. Some whole fruits like unpeeled bananas and apples, and chips, bread, crackers, PB&J, and pickles do not need to be refrigerated and can be put on top of the ice pack. 

  • To keep the bread from getting squished, use a small bento box. Or use a bento box with several compartments so you can seperate food and keep an eye on portion size. There are also a number of eco-friendly lunchboxes on the market. Here are some non-toxic lunchboxes and containers we like. 

  • Freeze the yogurt tubes, juice box, and water bottle the night before. It helps keep the contents cold and they will thaw in time for lunch.

Healthy choices for school lunch

Does your child scoff at veggies? Make easy deli roll-ups with four simple ingredients: Organic Valley Roast Turkey Breast (or deli meat of their liking), Organic Valley Cream Cheese, spinach, and a flour tortilla. Spread the cream cheese on the flour tortilla, add the turkey and spinach, roll it up, and cut it into 1-inch pinwheels. Pack it up with apple slices and Organic Valley Stringles.

Make this easy quesadilla the night before with Organic Valley Thick Cut Shredded Mexican Cheese and a good flour tortilla. Add red peppers if you’re looking to get some more veggies in your little one’s diet (if your kiddo likes them of course!) Cut them into triangles. Baby tomatoes sliced in half and cucumber rounds are also good choices. Pack with dipping sauces like guacamole or salsa.  

Finally, let’s go with a tried and true: A cheese sandwich made with our American Cheese Slices. These new organic cheese slices are made with seven ingredients, including butter from pasture-raised cows (and the buttery flavor will please the pickiest of eaters.) Add lettuce or other organic vegetables and you have a delicious lunchtime favorite. Use a cookie cutter to make fun shapes.

I’ve been told by my source (my 6-year-old goddaughter) that you can’t go wrong with cheese and bread. 

An organic clementine, blueberries, or other organic fruit and Good Health® Organic Baked Puffs are a great addition to any lunch. Organic hard-boiled eggs are another option. Let your children help pack their lunches. Not only is it good together time with Mom or Dad, they will surely let you know their likes and dislikes that particular day (this may keep them from swapping food with their lunchtime companions, too!).

Other tips to make lunch safe and fun:

  • Pack a disposable wipe to clean their hands before lunch. 

  • Pack a crazy straw for their milk (this was another request from my goddaughter). 

  • Pack a little note for them to find when they lift their sandwich. 

  • Draw a face on the string cheese wrapper.

  • Pack chocolate milk instead of white milk (also a request from my goddaughter). 

Now, you should be set to pack your child’s lunch in style and start the school year off right!