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Real moms share what they pack their kids for lunch

Whitney Coy is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes frequently for SheKnows, as well as several other websites. She writes on topics including parenting, pets...

Take a look inside our lunchboxes

Before I had a kid in school, I had no idea what a struggle moms face every morning when it's time to pack lunchboxes.

It's not easy to pack something nutritious that they'll actually enjoy. We try to include good-for-you treats like their favorite fruit or chocolate milk that they'll eat without balking. Not to mention, you have to come up with more than one slam-dunk lunchbox, because no one wants to eat the same thing day after day, right?

With all the new mommy lunch rules – including whole grains, avoiding high fructose corn syrup and watching sugar intake, it's sometimes tough to balance our choices.Forget about the super moms who spend hours carving movie scenes out of rye bread and carrots. We've asked our writers to share what they pack in their kids' lunchboxes. Here's a look at what real moms pack.

Kim Grundy

Take a look inside our lunchboxesPhoto credit: Kim Grundy

I try to include something from every food group in my kids' lunches. I let them pick out a few of their favorites to include each day. A sandwich is a staple (today it is peanut butter and jelly, but we also do turkey), along with a mixture of raspberries and strawberries. A baggie of dried apple chips usually hits the spot, along with a container of green olives. (Yes, my boys are crazy about olives!) I also included a peeled clementine orange (I like to draw a face on the baggie), along with a granola bar and TruMoo chocolate low-fat milk to drink.

Carolina Moore

Take a look inside our lunchboxes
Photo credit: Carolina Moore

My first grader is a picky eater. To get him to eat any of his lunch before racing off to post-lunch recess, his lunch needs to be just so. In this lunch is a mandarin orange, which I've already peeled and removed all of the bitter white stringy bits; turkey and crackers for him to assemble into mini sandwiches at school; and a Jell-O cup with a spoon. After losing several insulated bottles (and finding them days later with floating bits inside), I've given up on sending him to school with a thermos. Instead, I send a water bottle. This one is filled with half water, half apple juice.

Mary McCoy

Take a look inside our lunchboxesPhoto credit: Mary McCoy

What we have here is leftover pot roast, made with sweet potatoes and onions. It lacks in presentation, but I like to think that it makes up for it in nutrition and functionality. I love that I can just put leftovers in my girl's lunchbox as I'm cleaning up dishes — it's what I do every night, and it helps me rest assured knowing that my kid can enjoy my mediocre cooking for the second day in a row. I include the apple and yogurt in case the leftovers are a bust. The yogurt is a delightful dessert and/or a protein source. The apple is an easy way to squeeze in some fruit. All of the options make me feel like I'm not losing at parenting, which is what packing a lunch is all about.

Brandi Bidot

Take a look inside our lunchboxes
Photo credit: Brandi Bidot

Having a preschooler not only keeps me busy but active. Rather than sending my son off to school with lunch money I opt to pack his lunch so I know exactly what he is eating. I really try to stay away from processed foods. Instead, I stick to organic lean meats, cheese sticks, organic juice or milk and fruit. This gives my son the energy he needs to complete his school day and keeps me happy knowing he is eating a healthy meal.

Whitney Coy

Take a look inside our lunchboxesPhoto credit: Whitney Coy

My kindergartner still eats like a toddler, so my choices are pretty limited if I don't want her to bring the lunchbox home from school just as full as it was when she left. She doesn't do sandwiches, so I send a bit of lunchmeat (this is ham) with a side of plain pasta to make it a little more filling. I like to use prepackaged apple slices and grapes — it saves time and the apples don't turn brown and gross. On this day, she also got a pickle, a cheese stick and a snack cake for dessert. It's more than she'll usually eat, but I like to make sure she has some variety. Also, she and her friends tend to share their lunches, so I try to make sure there's enough to go around. Last but not least, she gets a juice box to drink.

Elaina Verhoff

Take a look inside our lunchboxesPhoto credit: Elaina Verhoff

I like to include lots of color and crunch in my kids' packed lunches. This lunch includes sourdough pretzel nuggets, black seedless grapes, a cheese stick and an assortment of raw veggies and hummus for dipping. I included a few M&M's for a little sweet treat.

Take a look inside our lunchboxes
Photo credit: Elaina Verhoff

Want to make sure they get enough protein? My kids love it when I pack yogurt in their lunches. I mix fruit yogurt with plain to cut the sugar. These no-bake oat and peanut butter protein balls are always a hit too. This lunch also includes some apple slices, a mini bagel and cream cheese and part of a kid's protein bar.

This post is sponsored by TruMoo.

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