Real Kids' Lunches: What We Pack (and What Comes Back!)

You pack it, but that doesn't mean they eat it. We asked moms to share their kids' before and after lunch pics to see what gets left uneaten each day!

Putting together a lunch that your kids will eat can be a challenge. And doing it every. single. day? It's a wonder all moms don't give up and give in to school pizza and tater tots. We asked moms whose kids brown-bag it each day to show us what they packed (hello, inspiration!) -- and what came back. No surprise: Kids don't eat half of what we pack. And when they do? It's usually not the sammy!

The Mom: Kerri
The Kid: Jackson, 6
The Lunch: My son eats some version of this lunch almost every day. If we vary it significantly, he pretty much freaks out. He demands a peanut butter and honey sandwich on wheat, cut in triangles. There's a small container of cheese crackers and some kind of fruit (today it was applesauce). The fruit roll-up is "dessert." There's also a juice box for a drink. We try to pack as much as we can in reusable containers instead of disposable bags to reduce waste. I like to throw in a little card to remind him we love him, but I'm goofy like that.

The Mom: Courtney
The Kid: William, 11
The Lunch: This is pretty typical lunch for my 5th grader. He’s a picky eater, so I keep it basic. (He tired of explaining to his buddies what hummus is or why Mom thinks prunes are a good fiber source.) So here's what we agree on: A standard ham and cheese sandwich. Cutting the crust off is for babies, I’m told. I finally gave in and bought the forbidden white bread that he so desired (white-wheat takes a bit of the guilt away). He's a fan of carrots -- of course these are organic. While he won't eat a whole apple in its God-given wrapper, he will eat apple slices. He'll buy a skim milk in the cafeteria. He's an active boy and needs a nutritious fueling at lunchtime to make it through a busy day, so I take the time to peel and slice knowing he'll be better for it.

And wait . . . where did that Rice Krispie Treat wrapper come from?!

The Mom: Kim
The Kids: Jonathan, 8 and Gracie, 5
The Lunch: Ever since my son attended a summer camp where they required a packed lunch with all food groups, I have tried to provide the same thing for school. Lunch changes often depending on what I see coming home. Right now they both seem to like strawberries and cucumbers, though the girl requires ranch for her cucumbers. I only give them a half sandwich each because otherwise they might eat the sandwich and forget the veggies. Plus, they need room for the other things in the box. I also try to provide some kind of "treat" in their lunch so they don't get jealous of their friends' lunches. This day's treat was vanilla wafers and a half of a peanut butter cookie. The only food group left out is milk -- they have a bowlful of yogurt for breakfast, so it evens out!

The Mom: Melinda
The Kids: Ben, 12; Levi, 5 and Abby, 9
The Lunch: I used to pack a really healthy lunch for my kids, but soon learned it was a waste. They eat a good breakfast and always get their veggies for dinner, so I've just given up on the lunch. I pack these items because my kids pick them out -- so I know (for the most part) that they'll eat and be full. Anything that needs a spoon is a no for my oldest, so he gets the drinkable yogurt. The sandwiches are just PB&J since they hate when lunchmeat isn't nice and cold from the fridge. I don't like having to worry about containers, so I like that everything can be thrown away when lunch is over.

The Mom: Tiffany
The Kid: Sam, 8
The Lunch: I packed Stonyfield Organic Strawberry O'Soy yogurt, Whole Foods 365 Organic applesauce, cucumber slices with Cedar's Organic Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, a banana, Whole Foods 365 Organic Classic Popcorn and an Applegate Organics Roast Beef sandwich on Udi's Gluten Free Bread. Water to drink.

The Mom: Lisa
The Kid: Will, 4
The Lunch: Half a plain bagel; two hard-boiled eggs, carrot sticks, green apples, water bottle. Will isn't much of a sandwich guy so I've had to be creative. I'd never have thought to pack hard-boiled eggs for lunch, but my older son once told me that his friend brought "eggs with cheese inside" for lunch. It took me a while to figure out what he was talking about! I bought Japanese egg molds (in a car and fish shape) on Amazon and my kids love them. Will only likes the egg white and doesn't like the apple peel, but my big step forward of late is not spending time peeling apples or cutting out the yolk. And the carrot sticks are kind of hit or miss, but I throw a few in anyway.

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