School has begun, which means it’s time to get back into a school year routine. Part of that routine for most of us is packing school lunches. Packing a school lunch is a great option when your child isn’t too fond of what the school has to offer, your child follows a special diet, or you want your child to eat specific foods. For all that effort, you want to know how to pack school lunches your kids will actually eat.

If your child has dietary restrictions or food allergies, packing lunches is a must. One of our children has a genetic metabolic disorder and follows a highly specialized medical diet. Packing his lunches is a must. For younger kids with allergies, consider the stickers from We also really like their Inchbug rubber labels for sippy cups, which can go right into the dishwasher. (If your child has food allergies or restrictions, this post has excellent ideas for how to manage every day life with a child’s special diet.)

Packing a lunch allows you to include healthy foods your child will actually eat and it doesn’t have to cost any more than what you would be paying for lunch at school.

Check out these 25 Lunch Boxes on Amazon to keep your child’s lunch fresh.

Of course packing a lunch every day doesn’t do any good if your child doesn’t eat it or ends up trading most of it away for junk food.

The key then is to find foods that your child loves and enjoys eating.

The best place to start is to get your child involved in the school lunch process. For older kids, put them in charge of making their own lunches. Not only do you know that they’ll pack something they will eat, but being in charge of packing lunch teaches responsibility. If you are concerned that your child would pack all junk food items, put one box in the fridge and one in the pantry with school lunch options and keep it stocked with healthy foods as well as some treats. Instruct your child to choose only items in the boxes designated for school lunches.

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Talk to your kids about what they want in their lunch box. Make a list of options and then head to the store so you have everything you need for a week or more of school lunches. Get your kids as involved as possible to make sure that they end up with lunches they will eat.

Younger children can help. Even your kindergartner can wash fruits and veggies or pick a snack from several options. Get in the habit of making lunches together the night before. Over time, give the kids more and more responsibility for their lunches. This will help make sure they eat what they’ve packed since it’s the lunch they made. Along the way you’re teaching them important life skills.

Encourage your kids to pack and eat healthy foods, but strictly saying all healthy, organic food options all the time may not be your best strategy.

Strike a balance and make compromises. If your kids pack and eat a healthy wrap or salad for example, let them have some cookies for dessert.

Teach them to make good choices, but don’t freak out if they decide to pack some Cheetos or a pack of Oreo cookies. Your goal is to get them to eat fairly healthy and make smart food choices, not restrict all access to junk food, causing them to trade with friends for forbidden Twinkies.

Following these ideas, you will pack school lunches your kids will actually eat and even enjoy.

What do you pack for your kids school lunches? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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