Healthy Habits (and Meals) Start at Home {DIY Lunchables}

by Cate on September 8, 2014

Healthy habits aren’t something I talk about a lot with my kids. Instead, they’re just in place. Sure, we sometimes have conversations about making better snack choices, or why we should head out for a hike with our dog, Harry, but it’s not something I want to harp on. I would just rather it be a natural thing.

Lemon Garlic Broccoli-001

And so it is with our pantry and refrigerator items. I won’t lie. There are Oreos and packages of Nutella. But like everything else, all things in moderation. Our kitchen is largely stocked with fresh fruit (Nick loves frozen grapes as much as I do), the few vegetables they like (they both would eat roasted broccoli on the daily), and snack items that they can choose from on their own that are healthy (homemade granola bars, yogurt smoothies, carrots and ranch, and pretzels and hummus, for example). Because mostly, they can’t eat junk (nor will they request it) if it’s not there. WPIR - strawberries-001

And it’s much of the same for me as well. I can eat the cleanest of clean diets when crap isn’t in my kitchen. But bring home a bag of Combos and all bets are off. Which pretty much means, I try REALLY HARD not to buy Combos. We all have our temptations, and the easiest way for me (and the kids) to avoid temptation of any sort is to not have it in the house. But in the “all things in moderation” vein, we have Oreos. I bake cookies on the regular. And life happens. The kids are fans of Lunchables. I am not. Mostly because while I used to buy them years ago, I know better. I think they like them mostly because they see their friends bring them in for lunch at school. I will buy them on occasion. And by “on occasion,” I mean, like, twice a year. Instead? We make our own Lunchables. You know, the healthy kind that means zero guilt for me, and tons of good stuff for them. They’re happy. I’m happy. Yesterday, as I mentioned over the weekend, I got together with a friend and we made a weeks’ worth of lunches for the kids. (And also muffins for breakfast and three dinners). With our divide-and-conquer approach, we were able to make 20 lunches (four kids x five days), the dinners, and the muffins in three hours. More details on our afternoon of cooking will follow, but for now, let’s talk homemade Lunchables.


First, there are a ton of fun containers that you can pick up to make cute little lunches for your kids. I’m partial to these divided containers from Ziploc (under $3 for a two-pack from Target!), bento boxes (more for Madeline than Nick because of the cute factor, and also because they’re a bit smaller), and Easy Lunch Boxes (which are similar to the ones from Ziploc in size, but a little pricier and sturdier) that I buy from Amazon.

So we’ve got containers, now what to put in it?

We made two different items for the kids’ “main course.” One was ham and cheese roll-ups (Lay out a slice of ham, top with a slice of cheese, roll up, and cut into spirals). The second item was PB&J sushi (cut crust off two slices of bread, roll out the bread so it’s nice and flat. Spread pb on one piece, jelly on another piece. Layer one slice over the other, roll up, and cut.). Something completely different for the kids, fun, easy to eat, and relatively quick to get together. The PB&J Sushi *does* take a little extra time, so won’t be an all-the-time thing, but it was a quirky little way to give a twist to the usual ho-hum sandwich.

For one of the little compartments, we alternated filling them with grapes and mini carrots with individual ranch dressings. For the other compartment, I made a batch of these brownies, and each container got a small brownie.

All things in moderation.

And with that, a weeks’ worth of lunches was done. I can’t tell you how awesome it was to pull out the containers this morning, amid the early craziness in trying to get everyone out the door, and not have to do anything but put it into the kids’ lunchboxes. Although truth be told, the kids did that part themselves. It felt good to be that organized and ahead of the game, and the kids were thrilled, poking through the selections, choosing which one they wanted to take.

Color this mama happy.

Speaking of “healthy habits,” the Girls Scouts of the USA, in partnership with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, has put together booklets to help us Girl Scout leaders share the importance of living an active, healthy life. The Together Counts program breaks it down really simply … energy in (the calories from the food and drinks you consume), energy out (the calories you burn from physical activities). With kids, driving home this message is easy because, generally speaking, they’re so active as it is. With my own kids, we’re bopping around from cheer and track practice to Girl Scout (Madeline) and Leadership (Nick) meetings. Balance that with the equally important chill time at home doing absolutely nothing, along with making healthy, fun food available … and it mostly takes care of itself. The “healthy habits” just becomes something natural. A part of our every day life.

Which is really the most perfect way to do it. I don’t want to lecture them. Instead, I want these to be natural messages they pick up on their own. If you need easy-to-implement suggestions on tips on keeping your kids (or Girl Scouts) active, check out the Together Counts web site. You can also find great ideas on family activities and recipes on their Pinterest board as well.

And tomorrow night, join the #gno Twitter Party with Mom It forward where we’ll be sharing more healthy habits tips, tricks, and ideas. (Just search for the hash tag #gno or #HealthyHabits tomorrow night to join in the conversation)

*This post was sponsored through my work with Mom It Forward and their partnership with Together Counts. As healthy habits are a cause that is important to me, I was happy to be included to share some of their messaging. As always, all opinions are my own.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne September 9, 2014 at 7:04 am

Love this and I think you do a GREAT job of providing healthy meals for the kids and leading by example!
Joanne recently posted..Tofu, Broccoli, and Kale Teriyaki Tacos


Meg September 9, 2014 at 9:55 am

Love this post! Though I’m not yet a parent, I definitely hope to take a page out of your book someday and simply lead by example, as Joanne also said. No one likes to be lectured about food and eating. And totally agree that you can’t eat what you don’t have, which means my husband and I — with rare exception! — try to keep temptation away. (I do love a good cupcake, though. Sometimes dessert is necessary.)
Meg recently posted..Book review: ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ by Maria Semple


Marye September 9, 2014 at 11:45 am

Great ideas! Lunches can be tricky. Went from homeschooling for a long time to putting the kids in school and lunches can be frustrating. Thanks for this!
Marye recently posted..Honey Oatmeal Bread Recipe


patsy September 9, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Perfect way to keep healthy eating as a natural part of life… and yes, we all need some Nutella and Oreos once in awhile!
patsy recently posted..Soft Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies {recipe}


Sherri Jo September 10, 2014 at 4:48 am

so adorable! I do this kind of thing with my kids too and they still love it… even the 16 yr old! <3
Sherri Jo recently posted..Back To School Lunches with #HillshireNaturals


Shelby September 10, 2014 at 5:18 am

It is refreshing to see a mom who will make their children’s homemade lunchables! Almost makes me want little ones again, however I think I’d be happier with grandchildren at this point in my life. :)
Shelby recently posted..Mexican Black Bean Chili


Katrina September 11, 2014 at 12:33 am

Great post! I totally agree!


Sarah Walker Caron September 15, 2014 at 10:01 pm

That is so awesome.


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