Cooking instructor Amy Fothergill recommends including the following 4 elements in your child’s lunchbox to create a balanced meal: protein, carbohydrate, vegetable, and fruit.  Sample menus are shown below.  Most of the menus can be served cold, but when it’s cold or rainy out, a warm lunch is comforting.  Heat up warm lunches in the morning, and send them in Thermos containers, which keep foods warm for 5 hours. A couple of warm lunches are suggested below, and many more can be found in our cookbook, Cooking with Trader Joe’s: Easy Lunch Boxes which features best bento lunch recipes that can be assembled quickly.

Lunchbox Guide

Use this handy guide to choose one item from each column.
Turkey & cheese slicesWhole grain  tortillaBaby carrotsGrapes
Hummus / falafelPita bread trianglesCherry tomatoes or cucumberPeaches
Edamame beans or tofuSesame noodlesCauliflower floretsPineapple chunks
Boiled egg or egg saladWhole grain crackersAvocadoBerries
Black beans & shredded cheeseBrown riceSteamed broccoliApples
Turkey chiliCornbreadSugar snap peasMango


For healthy snacks, consider these options:

  • Half an avocado (squeeze lemon juice over it to keep it from browning; don’t forget to include a spoon)
  • Yogurt topped with granola or fruit (Pack your own or use Trader Joe’s yogurts that come with granola, honey, or fruit)
  • Cheese sticks and pretzels or crackers
  • Nuts and dried fruit (Trader Joe’s has convenient snack-size grab bags of trail mix, raw or roasted almonds, and other nuts)
  • Peanut butter with carrot sticks, celery sticks, or banana slices
  • Peanut-butter filled pretzels, or yogurt-covered pretzels
  • Granola bars
  • Bran muffins
  • Fresh fruit, freeze-dried fruit, or fruit leather
  • Hummus or edamame hummus with veggie dippers
  • Rice cakes with nut butter
  • Steamed and shelled edamame, sweet snap peas, baby carrots

Packing nutritious snacks is easy once you have a list of good choices to rotate through. The effort you invest in planning nutritious and varied snacks will pay off as you see your child develop healthy and adventurous eating habits that will last them a lifetime.