Ask the Expert – Packing a Healthy Lunch Your Child Will Love

Ask The Expert is a weekly column on The idea is to have a reader-submitted question answered by a nutrition expert or a pediatrician. Feel free to submit your question in the comments section below.

Peer pressure in school can make your child feel insecure about her healthy lunch from home which may not have the poplar processed foods and snacks. This week, Registered Dietitian Katie Heddleston offers a few ideas to help your child feel good about carrying a healthy lunch from home.

Katie Heddleston, MS, RD, LD
  • B.S. in Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University, OH
  • M.S. in Public Health and Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University, OH
  • Expertise: Maternal/child nutrition, Gluten free recipes, Healthy lifestyle
  • Website: Healthy Heddleston
  • Twitter: @KatieHeddleston
  • Contact via email – HealthyHeddleston [at] gmail [dot] com

Question: According to my 1st grader “everyone” except for her packs a lunchable or other convenience foods. I need some suggestions on how to help my kids feel good about eating their healthy lunches packed from home.


This is a great question and one parents are faced with more and more as convenience foods and busy lifestyles are becoming the norm. To help your kids gain confidence about eating their healthy lunch packed from home, my suggestions come from answering the following questions:

  • What is your child’s relationship with food like at home?
  • How appealing and appetizing is the lunch packed from home?

Let’s tackle the first question: What is your child’s relationship with food like at home? Maybe your child just comes to the table when dinner is ready; maybe your child likes to sit at the counter and watch the whole cooking process. Maybe your family doesn’t cook at home often and your child is used to the convenience of a restaurant or take out. Whatever the situation, the facts are simple: Kids are less likely to reject foods if they help make them. Getting your children involved in meal planning not only helps build confidence, but can lead to your child accepting those packed lunch from home (since they helped make them!) There are other benefits from having kids in the kitchen too; your child will:

  • Try and like more foods
  • Gain confidence, feel important, and proud
  • Learn early math and science concepts
  • Learn new vocabulary
  • Develop small muscle skills
  • Learn responsibility with cleanup

Now for an easier question to tackle: How appealing and appetizing is the lunch packed from home? I’m not here to criticize the way anyone packs their child’s lunch, but I am here to tell you children want to eat appealing and appetizing food (they are just like us adults!) This is why the packaging or uniqueness of a lunchable seems appealing to a child. I am also here to suggest ways to make your child’s school lunch more fun, appealing, and appetizing!Try these ideas:

  • Let your child choose their lunchbox.
  • Pack the lunch with fun, reusable accessories.
  • Make food fun.

Here is an example of how you can make it fun to try new foods as you capture your child’s imagination:

Basically, presentation is key. Try to incorporate your child in the kitchen and these suggestions to see how your child starts to feel good about those healthy packed lunches from home!

Useful Resources:

MyPyramid for Kids

Nutrition for Kid and Teens

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Disclaimer – Information provided in Ask The Expert column on is intended to give you general guidance on a question related to toddler nutrition. It is not meant to be treated as medical advice. You are welcome to contact this expert for a detailed consultation on your specific situation to determine what actions, if any, you should take regarding nutrition and health of your toddlers. We do not recommend you to take any action based solely on the information presented in this column. Experts have agreed to provide their professional opinion on toddler nutrition related questions on a voluntary basis and no compensation is offered to them by


  1. Dish By Trish, RD

    Totally agree that presentation is key. Like the banana monster 🙂 Good post!

  2. What if your child is afraid of bannana centipedes? Just kidding, helpful article. Thanks.

  3. I really like the point about presentation. God knows Ants on a Log worked for me!

    My husband just had an interesting experience. He volunteered for a Young Professionals Day at work where they brought in a bunch of 3rd through 5th graders. As the staff was assigned to help hand out the lunches, he noticed the kids were all taking the pizza, but very few grabbed an apple or the other healthy options. It was like he was having a Jamie Oliver moment of his own. It really stayed with him on how important it is to get kids at the very least trying healthy foods.

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