What Teachers Wish You Knew About Your Kid's Lunch

School is back in full-swing which can only mean one thing – the Pinterest lunch box photos are too! As parents and caregivers, we tend to not only worry about the appearance of our child’s lunch box, but also - and more importantly - about picky kid preferences, nutrition, convenience, or combo of these. This all makes what should be a pretty simple mix-and-match into an overwhelming morning routine!

But there’s another aspect to your kid’s lunchbox that might not have crossed your mind: The Teacher’s Perspective. Teachers play a major role in opening packages and getting kids to eat.  Honestly, I’d never thought about this until I happened to see a former teacher’s social media post where she gave some candid feedback about what worked, what didn’t, and what typically got thrown away. 

Seeing this intrigued me, so I decided to reach out to some elementary school teachers to get their feedback.

What do teachers wish they could tell you about your kid’s lunch?   

I got an overwhelming response from teachers as I sought out advice to give fellow parents. Here are the most popular responses:


Teachers consistently reported that only 2-3 items in a lunch box really get eaten. So when you get an empty lunchbox from a child when they get home, chances are they didn’t really eat all of the food you packed. The items they don’t eat simply go in the trash, probably because they are too worried about disappointing you with food left in their lunchbox. 

Packing too many options – like 4 to 5 different foods - can overwhelm your child. Not to mention, there’s just not TIME for a child to eat that many things in 20 minutes or less. Instead, make 2-3 items really count nutritionally. Worried that you’re missing an important food group? Make up for it a breakfast, snacks or dinner.


Most teachers loved the use of Bento boxes (or other sealed containers that requires only one flip to access lunch) especially for preschool and early elementary grades. However, one seasoned teacher advised against elaborately designed bento box creations that you might find on Pinterest. The reason? Kids don’t eat them often because they don’t want to mess up your masterpiece!! Though this is definitely a compliment to your creativity, it doesn’t do much for your child nutritionally. This particular teacher says kids want simple foods they recognize and like. 


This might seem like a no brainer, but I know we’ve all been in a bind and reached for a pull top can or carton of mandarin oranges! Don’t let the teacher get HANGRY by having to open your child’s lunch items for them. Try only sending what your child can open independently. Don’t pack a food or container if your child needs help opening it. Lunch goes way too quickly, and teachers have to eat too! As one of my child’s previous teachers said, “Parents forget that lunch time is when I eat as well – but only AFTER I’ve served, opened, cleaned up and monitored.”  


A consistent comment from all teachers was that parents send WAY too much food, and the result is it goes to waste. Try packing three items (see Tip #1) and age-appropriate serving sizes.  Kids’ stomachs are a lot smaller than adults. Afraid they will get hungry throughout the day? Send them nutrition packed snacks for snack time.


Heating foods up for all the kids in a class - or even a fourth of those kids – leaves teachers with only a few minutes to eat. From a parent perspective, I know rotation of cold lunch items gets monotonous, so try containers designed to keep food hot and heat them with hot water before packing food. This way, your child can just twist the top off of the container of their already heated food. Remember, cold lunched might seem monotonous to YOU, but your child is most likely perfectly happy with them.


Fruit cups were the TOP food item that teachers wished parents would NOT send.  Not only do most kids need help opening them, but the juice ALWAYS spills – regardless of who is opening them (see Tip #3). Cut up fruit or send dried fruit, but skip the fruit cups in juice. 

What are some tips you like to keep in mind when packing lunch?