The Secrets to Making Healthy Lunches for Kids, According to One Dietitian Mom

Get top tips for making healthy lunches for kids from blogger and dietitian Holley Grainger. Bonus: she's a mom, too.

Holley Grainger cooking with daughters in her kitchenCourtesy Holley Grainger

As Holley Grainger completed her degree, she discovered the best way to share important nutrition information was through food. This registered-dietitian-turned-entrepreneur now empowers parents to prepare wholesome meals for their kids with accessible recipes and advice on her website, holleygrainger.com.

Taste of Home: What inspired you to share your recipes with other parents who want healthy dinners for kids that are also tasty?

Holley Grainger: I began blogging in 2013 and launched my brand, Cleverful Living, in 2018. I have always loved bringing joy and fun to life as well as helping people make life interesting—especially in the kitchen. As a mom, I saw a need for parents wanting to feed their families simple, healthy meals.

By using my skills as a registered dietitian, I teach parents how to make memorable meals at home using the most nutritious, readily-available ingredients while providing tips, tricks and permission to take shortcuts. I also encourage parents to bring their children into the kitchen to help cook. This not only teaches healthy habits but creates family memories.

TOH: How do your kids help out in the kitchen?

HG: My children love to join me in the kitchen. In fact, you can see them cooking with me in dozens of videos on my blog and throughout my social media platforms. This past March when schools were canceled and everyone was encouraged to stay home, we began a weekly series of live videos on the site called Virtual Snack Dates. Each afternoon during our snack date, we would demonstrate how to make a new snack while chatting with viewers from around the world. Our “dot com’s” as my youngest, Frances, calls them, were one small way our family could give back and bring joy to others.

(We love getting kids in the kitchen, too, Holley! Here’s a roundup of our favorite cooking kits for kids.)

Courtesy Holley Grainger

TOH: Lunchbox meals 
are your specialty. What’s in your 
ideal pack? 


HG: On a good day (because, hey, we may not hit the mark every time), I pack a fruit, vegetable, whole grain and some type of protein—either from lean meat, dairy or beans—in each box. And, 
of course, you can’t forget 
a “happy,” like a sticker or 
note from Mom or Dad.

TOH: What advice would 
you give to new cooks looking to balance health and comfort 
in their recipes?

HG: 
Don’t overthink it or feel 
like you have to re-create the wheel! There are thousands of delicious, healthy comfort food recipes online that are made with nutritious ingredients. Start small, start simple—and 
just have fun!

TOH: What is an ingredient you keep on hand?


HG: Dark chocolate has so many health benefits! How could there really be anything wrong with an indulgent food that I can recommend someone eat 
a little bit of each day? I love the complexity of dark chocolate’s flavor and its variety of culinary uses—from sweet desserts to savory chilis. Plus, who doesn’t want to pinch off the corner of 
a dark chocolate bar as a little snack when preparing a meal?

TOH: What’s your favorite aspect of cooking?


HG: Now more than ever, I have come to realize just how much 
I cherish the time I spend with my family around the table. Cooking for and with them brings joy, love and peace 
to my heart and to our table.

Cheesy pinwheels bento box lunchCourtesy Holley Grainger

Cheesy Roast Beef Pinwheels

Try one of Holley’s fam’s 
favorite recipes.

Ingredients

  • 1 tube (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 2 tablespoons honey mustard or Dijon mustard
  • 8 slices provolone cheese (try Swiss 
or pepper jack for an adult version)
  • 8 slices deli roast beef
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper

Directions

Step 1: Prep the crescent roll dough

Preheat oven to 375°F. Unroll crescent dough and separate into 2 rectangles; press perforations to seal. Spread rectangles with mustard.

Step 2: Layer on the fillings

Top with provolone and
 roast beef, overlapping if needed. Sprinkle evenly with red pepper.

Step 3: Create pinwheels

Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a short side; pinch seams to seal. Cut each roll crosswise into 4 slices; place on parchment-lined baking sheets, 
cut side down.

Step 4: Bake

Bake until golden brown and cheese is melted, 15-18 minutes. Serve warm.

More Lunch Box Ideas
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Laurie Dixon, Taste of Home Assistant Editor, contributed to this article.

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Peggy Woodward, RDN
Peggy is a Senior Food Editor for Taste of Home. In addition to curating recipes, she writes articles, develops recipes and is our in-house nutrition expert. She studied dietetics at the University of Illinois and completed post-graduate studies at the Medical University of South Carolina to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Peggy has nearly 20 years of experience in the industry. She’s a mom, a foodie and enjoys being active in her rural Wisconsin community.